Friday, December 31, 2010

The Home Stretch

It's been a pretty busy year, trying to keep up with Toni and her crazy hundred projects goal. It's possible I should have remembered that I mostly knit, and knitting is a slow craft...but you're wondering if I made it or not, aren't you? Well, as of my last post, I had completed project 94. Here's project 95, another pair of mammoth woolly house socks:
mammoth woolly house socks

And since I was flying through the bulky weight, I cast on right after that for a pair of heavy men's mittens:
men's mittens

But I was starting to run seriously short of time, and after carefully looking at all my WIPs, I concluded that none of them were close enough to done to finish without giving up on the hundred project goal. Since I've got just a teensy competitive streak, I abandoned them all with scarcely a second thought and started casting on small mittens just as fast as my little fingers would fly. That brings me to 97 and 98, a pair of 4-year-old mittens and a pair of infant mittens. I was particularly pleased when I realized that if I knit the infant mittens in the round, I could do a three-needle bind-off at end and not have any sewing at all!
more mittens

Number 99 needs a bit of explanation. My sister Kate very kindly made new curtains for my husband's office and my sewing room for Christmas. Not knowing how we'd want them to hang, she included a bunch of coordinating ribbon to make curtain ties. I loved the lace curtains in the sewing room just as they were--see:
Kate's awesome lace curtains.

But my husband wanted his tied back- they're a very handsome blue, but thick enough to block a lot of the light. So I trekked over to Jo-ann's today for some rings for the ends, and then sewed ends and rings for the ties:
curtain ties

And then hung them all up. Cookie inspected them closely and has pronounced them good. (Actually he just sniffed them a lot, but it was an approving sniff.)
Cookie inspects the new curtain ties

And last but not least...I couldn't possibly come so close and then miss by just one project! So despite having woven in ends on No. 97 this morning, and completely knit No. 98 and done the sewing for 99...well. What's one more pair of mittens?
yet more mittens
(See, they're waving Happy New Year!)

So. Whew. That's a lot of craft projects. I couldn't resist crunching a few numbers. The breakdown by crafts:
Knitting: 90 (!)
Crochet: 4
Carpentry: 2
Sewing: 4

Types of projects:
Mittens: 40
Fingerless mitts: 7
Gloves: 1
Socks: 19
Sweaters: 6
Hats: 18
Headband: 1
Scarves: 1
Cowls: 1

None of these numbers especially surprise me except for the socks...I hadn't realized there were so many. And five pair were in worsted or bulkie weight yarn...but all the rest were fingering weight. I'm starting to see why the last four pairs I have in the queue didn't make it for the year.

I've had a lot of fun with this, and it's certainly true that having a goal has pushed me to do more. However I don't think I'll be doing it again in 2011. I have some non-craft projects that haven't really moved this year, in part because of the craft focus. And the goal pushes me to do more small projects--which would be fine, except that I have two sweaters in process and six more in queue that I'm anxious to knit. Which is not to say that if I find I'm still in the running at the end of the summer, I might not decide to play again. I do tend to have small portable projects on the needles even if I'm working on a sweater at home. But right now it's not looking very likely.

Happy New Year and happy crafting in 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Decision Time

So Thursday when I realized that my socks-in-progress were an annoying commute away, I had to decide what to cast on next. I'd recently seen a photo of French Press Knit's Breckenridge Cowl, and thought it was a nifty idea for a small project. But I didn't have the recommended size needle and decided I'd just cast on for something vaguely similar, play around with it, and see what happened. So Christmas Day I finished this:
cabled cowl

Even waiting for natural light, this yarn does not photograph well. But I'm rather pleased with the cowl- it's loose enough to tuck your chin into, doesn't bind around the throat, and quite soft. And unlike a scarf, doesn't hang down, get in the way, or fall off.

And so now I'm right back where I was Thursday plus one--94 FOs and I need 6 more before the end of the year to finish the hundred projects challenge. And the tulip scarf isn't going to make the cut, I'm afraid. I've been knitting on it off and on for two days and it's less than half done. I could likely finish it this week...but not along with five other projects. Time to haul out the yarn and cast on something new. Something quick. Something in super-bulky yarn! Excuse me, gotta knit now.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Family gathered, food eaten, gifts opened, and for an extra special gift, our new kitty Biscuit came out from under the bed and let me pat him. And tomorrow we have nowhere we need to be and nothing we need to do--and a weather prediction for 6-10 inches of snow. A perfect Christmas weekend! Hope yours is being just as lovely.

Cookie got lots of presents- we're doling them out over time to avoid toy overload. He has given his new catnip mouse a test drive and pronounced it excellent:
Cookie checks out new toy mouse

And my 'secret' projects have gone to their recipients...both pairs of socks (it's been a big year in socks). Here are socks for my mom, in yet another self-patterning sock yarn. My mom admired them at an early stage of production and so I saved them aside for her:
beige isle socks (They were project #65, so it was a while ago.)

And here are the mammoth woolly house socks I made for my sister. She was hoping for toasty warm socks and lost no time in putting these on. Super-bulkie yarn, so they're extra thick and cushy.
Mammoth Woolly House Socks

And I did cast on a new project Friday and finished it on the drive home, but I need better light to photograph it, so that's a post for another day.

Merry Christmas, all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Knittus Interruptus

So, we've had a few interruptions to the knitting marathon. In the 'foreseeable' department, there have been Christmas cookies:
cookie baking

Quality control testing is currently underway. I'm confident that the cookies will eventually meet with the panelists' approval. I'm just not sure that there will be any left by then. Fortunately, I've made lots.

In the 'known possibility but not confirmed until this week' department, we have had a another happy event. Well, at the moment it's more like an unhappy event, hiding under the bed. However we have hopes that the newest feline member of our family will eventually be convinced that this strange new place is not filled with horrible cat-eating monsters and come out to be photographed for the reading public.

And in the 'completely unpredicted but all too possible' department, the socks have fallen completely off the knitting schedule due to me leaving them at work. Clearly, they are intended to be post-Christmas socks. C'est la vie.

So my Christmas to-do list has suddenly dwindled to wrapping the last few packages, doing one or two other things in the kitchen and enjoying my day off tomorrow. I think I can handle it. So I've been knitting the tulip scarf and looking at the yarn stash thinking...well, I've got a whole day...I could cast on for something quick....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seven Ways to Know You Haven't Had Enough Coffee

1. You get to the coffeepot for the third time...and realize you've forgotten to bring your mug for the third time.

2. The fire alarm maintenance guy tests the alarm and your first thought is to say, "Go 'way and lemme sleep."

3. Knit 2, purl 2 seems challenging and complex.

4. You get an email proposing the family get-together be held on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day and immediately start wondering if you should pull an all-nighter to finish holiday knitting. (Then you get a grip, remember that everything on the A-list (stuff it is reasonable to finish) is done and you're working on the B-list (stuff that is ludicrous to think will be done but I'm trying anyway. Note that my family doesn't expect's my very own brand of crazed goal-orientation at work.)

5. You put coffee in the filter to brew a new pot, put the empty pot on the burner and forget to press 'brew'. (Fortunately this was not me, but one of my co-workers. I was the one who came along in time to rescue the empty pot before it broke.)

6. You finally remember to actually pour the coffee, and then set your mug down somewhere and have to ransack the building to find it again.

7. You start thinking this list ought to be called "Seven Reasons to Think You May Be Drinking Too Much Coffee".

8. You find yourself staring into the computer monitor and can't remember what you were about to do.

9. You discover that you have forgotten how to count to seven.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tulips in December

I tried to see if there was anything I could say about the just-finished Top Secret project, but the Christmas Censor (tm) software left me only with words like "knit" and "FO". You can assume that was yarn was involved and come back on the 26th for the medium-sized reveal. (A big reveal would involve something like a 747-cozy, and fortunately I don't know anyone who owns a 747, let alone have this hypothetical person on my Christmas list.)

So. The next project. Back in June when I was in London, I made a point of stopping by iKnit, a charming yarn shop a short walk from Waterloo station. I went in search of souvenir yarn, and specifically wanted a UK yarn, something I didn't necessarily see everywhere at home. After lengthy consideration and fondling of skeins, I settled on a yarn--Rennie Handknits lambswool, made in Scotland, in a nice cheery yellow. Just the thing for a scarf to brighten the depths of winter and remind you that spring is coming, don't you think?
Tulip scarf

Continuing with the spring theme, I'm using a lace pattern called Tulip Time, which I unearthed from an ancient folder of patterns. I'd gone in search of this pattern specifically, but had not recalled that it's a top down pattern..I'd always planned to knit the two halves of the scarf separately (so the tulips will all hang right-side-up), but with the top-down design, it's even easier--I've just done a provisional cast-on in waste yarn, and can knit half the scarf down, and when the first half is done, take out the waste yarn and knit the other half. Much easier than grafting!

It's moving a bit slowly, so it's hard to say when this will be done. It's for someone I won't being seeing before the holidays, so I may bump some faster-moving projects ahead of it. Speaking of which, knitter cannot live by lace alone (there are times when the constant counting to make sure you haven't added or subtracted a stitch aren't practical), so I am also working on more socks:
garter rib socks

A simple garter rib, and I'm nearly to the heel, so these are moving along. I'm done speculating on what will or will not be done when, however. We'll just have to see how far I get.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things I Know

...and yet feel compelled to relearn anyway.

1. I should never say about a project, 'I'll be done tomorrow' because that's a surefire way to guarantee that I'll spend the evening wrapping and packing things and not knitting.

2. Knitting, if wrapped in paper without boxes, makes dandy packaging for cushioning more fragile gifts in shipment.

3. There's something very satisfying about filling a box right up to the tippy-top with stuff and not having to pay to ship packaging material.

4. One thing I didn't know before but should have: My brilliant plan for printing postage online and shipping my package from work? Has been foiled by the post office's failure to include parcel post in their shipping options. So I can ship conveniently but more expensively. Or I can go to an actual post office and reap the benefits of having made a point of having things done early enough to ship parcel post.

5. I'm really cheap, so I'm going to the post office.

6. Being nearly done with shopping over a week before Christmas? Feels really good.

7. Having the gifts already wrapped feels even better.

8. Still having a lot of things to knit...keeps the pressure on!

9. If you go around the house dredging out all the gifts you have so far to get them wrapped, you're bound to miss one. Or three. (Fortunately nothing that needed to go into the completely full box already taped up for shipment, however.)

10. Surprisingly, not all cats are irresistably attracted to wrapping paper. I had a lot less help wrapping than I expected.

11. Curling ribbon, however, is another story.

12. When you're trying to tie curling ribbon around a package before the cat's butt-wiggle and pounce gets beyond the point of no return, it's impossible to also take a picture. Sorry. (It was really cute!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another One Down

There are times when it pays to have a dash of obsessiveness in your nature, and when faced with a ridiculous amount of Christmas knitting is definitely one of those times:
feather and fan socks

Feather and Fan socks, done. Sock number 2 was cast on late on Friday night, turned the heel Saturday night, knit the last row Sunday night, and cast it off and wove in ends Monday morning. (Okay, okay. Maybe it's a little more than a dash of obsessiveness.)

And now I'm on to the next project on my list, which must I fear be wreathed in mists of secrecy for the time being. Not even Cookie is allowed to peek:
No peeking!

But it's okay- it's a quick one. I'm past the halfway point already, and should be able to cast on something I can show you tomorrow!

Friday, December 10, 2010


I made three attempts to get gauge for the Monkey socks. My conclusion is...the designer used No. 1.5 needles and so should I. Unfortunately I don't own any and there were no yarn stores open Sunday evening when I bowed to the inevitable (I've since been to several yarn stores and not found any. So I'm glad I wasn't counting on finding them.) I frogged and cast on for a basic toe up sock, knit a toe, and increased until it was the right size...and found that I had 68 stitches, which, since 68 factors to 2 x 2 x 17, isn't the most useful stitch count. I considered things like ribbing, and various 4-stitch patterns, without finding anything I really liked and finally started the foot with the lacy rib pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks. (It's a 5-stitch pattern, but I figured I could do five repetitions centered across the instep and pick up two more stitches at the top of the heel to get to 70 stitches for the leg.)

Unfortunately, I hated it. I'm sure it's charming in some yarns, but not in this one. This stripes just enough horizontally that vertical patterns just don't look good...something I remembered from an early attempt to do Diamond Lace from the same book in this same yarn, but should have taken more seriously.

I contemplated the yarn. Considered changing yarn...but I really wanted to use this yarn for these's beautifully soft and quite pretty all by itself. Then I ripped out all the ribbing (I really hadn't gotten that far) and just knit the foot plain. When I got to the leg, I added four stitches (getting me to a total of 72, a nicely factorable number) and changed over to an old standby for self-striping yarns, feather and fan. It's looking quite charming.
Feather and Fan socks

The sock and I have now reached a truce, wherein it shall be knit, in a size that fits the recipient and a pattern that suits the yarn and it is giving me no more trouble. And so long as that continues to be true, no one will have to do anything hasty involving...scissors.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Style Points

Well, Toni has definitely beat me to the finish line on the 100 project challenge, thanks to my sudden detour onto the Christmas knitting list, but I figure that I should get some credit for artistic impression.

Everything takes longer than I think it will, and I'd hoped to have this done sooner, but still- eight days for a sweater- even a small one- isn't too bad. (I actually cast this on Thanksgiving day but didn't really do anything more than that until the following Saturday-- a week ago today-- since I was still finishing the other sweater.) So here's the sweater for my older nephew:
Jack's sweater

It's another pattern from the pattern book of Aran sweaters that I inherited from my grandmother (the same one I'm making my own Aran from). The pattern is really a rather elaborate ribbing, so it's not as long and skinny as it looks- it will stretch when worn.

And now I'm on the next item on my list, another pair of Monkey Socks. I am wondering if there's something goofy with the gauge on this. The first time I did this pattern I used 00 needles because I liked the way the fabric looked. This is the first time I've tried to get gauge. According to the pattern, I should be making the large size...and yet I know that this yarn on these needles makes a sock that's on the large size for me with 80 stitches- and this sock is supposed to be three sizes smaller. And the lace pattern for this is stretchy. So I'm dropping back to the medium even though I'm getting 10 stitches to the inch and the pattern says I should have 8 for a medium. I'm going to kick myself if I wind up having to go up a needle size on this...but I'm still going to knit a couple of inches and see what size the sock comes out. Because I'm stubborn like that. (Note to self: Robin, why are you knitting this pattern when you're on a deadline again? Me: Because. Robin: *sigh*)

I'll let you know how it goes....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Knitting, or How To Tell When A Knitter Has Lost It

First off, I have to say to Lisa- I'm sorry. I totally lied about how far along I was with the holiday knitting. If it's any consolation, I was lying to myself too.

See, this week I've been making Christmas lists, searching out things I've made or found earlier in the year, and noting down the things I plan to shop for. And then I figured that I really should add in all the knitted things on the list, which I totally didn't think I really needed to do, because hey, I've had Christmas knitting on the brain for ages, all except the oh, one or two..ah, eight or ten, ideas I had in September and October and thought would be cool to add to the list. You know, since I was so far ahead and had all this extra time.

And then I started jotting things down and noticed...oops, I have the yarn for that but haven't actually cast it on yet, and wait a minute...surely I was going to knit something for this friend at work? and the next thing you know... well, take a look:
total planned: 18
complete: 8
can be let slip post holiday: 3
must complete by 12/25: 7

In my own defense, there were a few things I *knew* wouldn't be Christmas knitting- the sweater I'm making from all of that blue sport-weight yarn that I dyed being the best example. But still... once again, my ambition appears to be getting the best of me!

It's also perfectly clear that while I will easily be able to make my 100 projects for the year, I really need to abandon all those quick hats and mittens (unless I can somehow sub them in for more time consuming ideas that were on the list...) and work exclusively on holiday projects if I'm going to have a hope of completing (most of) what I have planned.

To that end, I have put nose to knitting needles and completed a sweater, destined for one of my small nephews:
brown and tan colorwork kid sweater

However, my newfound resolution did not stop me from going down to hang out with some of the folks from my local knitting group who were having a charity knit-a-thon.
I finished another hat from the new yarn I got last week, and unloaded on them some of my accumulated charity knitting. Lynne has posted some photos of us knitting away.

After cleverly bringing my camera along so I could take an FO shot of the new beret, I discovered that the camera's memory card was still in my computer. So Cindy kindly loaned me her camera and modeled the hat for me:
Cindy models my beret

Now I'm working on the next thing. Hampered somewhat by having misplaced the notebook where I cleverly wrote down some vital information about people's sizes. On the plus side the search turned up a knitting book I misplaced a couple of months ago, and have been looking for on and off for weeks. Of course now that I've found it, I don't recall exactly why I was looking for it. I did find the sweater pattern I intended to use for the other nephew...after reflecting long and hard about the pattern booklet, and how much I liked it, and how many sweaters I've knit from it, and how it should be a cinch to find because I had just....knit the green Aran out of the same book, and that's why it's not on the shelf, the Aran's still not done. Oh.

So, I'm not completely whacked (yet) because I still realize that the remaining list is still on the ambitious side, and I've earmarked some things that if they're late (which I hate but never mind) won't be a crisis. But still. Wouldn't it be nice if they were all done in time? Just imagine. I'll be over here knitting obsessively....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Do Cats Like Catnip?

This afternoon was the local weekly knitting group, and we had a new attendee. She had emailed our list earlier in the week saying 'I'm moving and need to get rid of some yarn, would anyone be interested?'. Interested? Do bears live in the woods? Do southerners drink sweet tea? Heck, sure!

So today she showed up with a large bin of yarn, and there was something that resembled a very polite shark feeding frenzy. But efficient...we emptied that bin in nothing flat, divvied it up in an entirely amicable fashion, amidst profuse thanks.

It was all bulkie weight and mostly in colors suitable for unisex hats and mittens. (Yay!) Here's my haul.
new yarn!

I was so excited at the though of knitting a hat that was neither pink nor yellow, I had to cast on right away:
blue ribbed hat.

This may have set a new record for 'shortest time between a skein of yarn entering my house and being turned into an FO'. Clearly, this new influx of yarn is going to be a great help in inflating my project count.

And in other news, I finished the second pair of kid socks yesterday:
more teeny socks

Progress is being made!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Small Progress

While it got off to a slow start, my plans to do small fast projects are proceeding apace.

Exhibit A:
kid socks

Socks for my nephew, the first pair made from the yarn left from the socks for their dad. They are so darned cute, I can hardly contain myself. However I'm not going overboard with itty bitty socks, at least until I know whether the boys will actually wear them. You never know with kids. But I don't regret doing a couple of pairs, if only for the entertainment value.

Exhibit B:

Mittens for the charity bag. The mittens need to be turned in at the end of the month to be distributed with holiday baskets in December, so I need to finish as many more pairs as I can before then. What makes it awkward is that this will be the same time I need to mail packages to be sure they get there for the holidays. We'll see how that goes.

There was supposed to be an exhibit C, but I'm still looking for that round tuit...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Great and Terrible

The ground trembles with the impact, as the hideous monster leaps into the center of Kingsport. Buildings are pushed off their foundations, cars thrown aside and freight cars overturned.

He stalks the streets of the city, towering above the tallest buildings, looking for prey. His mouth opens, gleaming white fangs sharp and glistening. He lets out a mighty--
Cookie stalks the streets

"Cookie! No!"

--high-pitched squeak as giant hands lift him off the model train set.

"No prowling on the train layout."

Mighty Catzilla slinks off into the shadows, thwarted for now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Caught in a Sock

It's late June. The sun soaks into my shoulders with an almost physical pressure. The air is hot and still, even the sky a little faded with the brightness. An intermittent gentle breeze stirs the leaves. The hum of crickets blends with the hum of high tension power lines, and little puffs of dust come up under my sneakers as I climb out of the car.

We each take a plastic bucket from the pile, at once worrying that we haven't brought enough and laughing at our own ambition. Even from here we can see the clusters of blueberries on the higher bushes. Across the road, a thick tangle of blackberry bramble shows a mixture of ripe and unripe berries, clustered on branches surrounded with wicked thorns.

My mother heads for the nearest bush and starts picking right away. My sister wanders off with her own bucket, and I climb the rough track, looking for the thickest clumps of berries. I pause under a pine tree near the tumbledown stone wall, enjoying the shade and the smell of sun-warmed pine needles. But berries don't grow in the shade, so I pick a wild wintergreen leaf and move on, crumpling it between my fingers to smell the fresh scent, then chewing it a couple of times for the flavor, and spitting it out before the underlying bitterness overwhelms the mint.

Back in the sun, I find a thick clump of blueberries and start picking- setting the bucket between my feet and crouching down to harvest berries from the ground-hugging bushes. Even picking as fast as I can, the two-quart bucket fills agonizingly slowly. I take it back to the car and trade it for an empty, and go after blackberries. Others have tramped paths into the heart of the thicket, and I follow in their steps, carefully moving branches aside. This is why I wore long pants despite the heat. The vicious thorns still draw blood as I pass, but the scratches are minor. Down by the little trickle of water that flows through the heart of the brambles, the berries are biggest, as large as the end of my finger. The bucket fills quickly.

I return to picking blueberries- by now feeling overheated and tired. Before I've quite filled the bucket, my sister is sitting down in the shade looking flushed, and my mother is putting covers on buckets. She's picked more than my sister and I put together. I finally sample a few blueberries and wish I could have picked faster. The sweet fresh taste fills my mouth. Once home, we'll make muffins and cake and pie, and put berries in the freezer, so in the middle of the snowy Maine winter, we can enjoy pancakes filled with summer.

Maybe it's because they also live in Maine, but when I took a close look at this skein of Frolicking Feet Sock Yarn from Done Roving Farm, I knew they'd captured a cherished little piece of my childhood in yarn.
close-up of yarn

The colorway is Wildberries, and it's extremely apt- they've got the dusty blue of low-bush blueberries, the darker navy of the high-bush variety, the deep purply-black of blackberries and the deep red of the not-quite ripe, glowing together in a perfectly luscious sock yarn. (None of the photos really do it justice.) I know I'm pretty easygoing in the yarn department, but this stuff is just beautiful--lovely brilliant colors and incredibly soft to the touch. And it comes in 480 yard skeins, which is marvelous when you consider how many large-footed people I knit for.

Except that I'm going to have to find a nearby shop that carries it and get more before I'll be able to use it to knit socks for anyone else. Because these socks are mine. In the middle of winter, I'll wear my berry-picking socks, feel the sun on my shoulders, smell wintergreen and pine needles, and know that summer is coming.
Berry-picking socks
The sock pattern is Stansfield #10 from Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


One of the nice things about the 100-projects challenge is that it's motivating me to tackle some things I've been meaning to do for ages and haven't gotten around to. Take curtains. Way back in the mists of antiquity, I graduated from college, found a job and moved into my first apartment. It was in a converted Victorian house and it had enormous tall windows. This was just as well, since the windows faced north and the yard was very shady. As it was, I didn't see a lot of daylight. Nevertheless, modesty demanded that I either hang curtains, embrace exhibitionism or figure out how to change in the closet. I opted for curtains.

Following longstanding family tradition, I made the curtains from sheets. (Buying sheets on sale is one of the cheapest ways to get large durable pieces of fabric, if you aren't overly fussy. And they often come in a wide range of prints these days. And have many options for recycling...I still own a couple of pairs of pajamas and a robe made from the sheets/curtains that hung in the house I grew up in. (Mom, you didn't read that.)

Why are we visiting the mists of antiquity, you ask? Well. Those self-same curtains I made for my first apartment, I also used in my second. And then shortened them for my third. And then retrimmed some of them with a blue ribbon for my fourth. Along the way, several of them were rendered redundant (by fewer windows in the later apartments) and recycled into petticoats for a long dress, an undershirt for laced costume tunic, and various other odds and ends. The last few of these venerable articles continued hanging in my house until this week, over two decades later, still valiantly protecting passers-by from being flashed by my middle-aged flab. Specifically- in the bathroom and dining room. See:

However, the time has come to retire them. I also targeted for disposal with extreme prejudice, the dingy torn ruffled curtains in the kitchen, that came with the house. They weren't really my style to begin with, and their condition has deteriorated from pathetic to downright embarrassing.

So, whilst meandering through my mother's fabric stash last week, admiring her latest quilts, she pointed out some fabric she had no use for, and asked if I'd like some. I looked. I saw curtains. Free curtains, my favorite sort. Curtains that would not look out of place in the dining room. See:

However the bathroom was a little more problematical, thanks to a long-departed builder who chose country pink fixturing and tile. I don't actually like pink that much, but since I'm stuck with it, I want the curtains to not clash horribly. Do you know how many colors clash horribly with country pink? Lots and lots and lots... but my mom miraculously had some fabric (more sheets) which she'd used for her own bathroom curtains. With enough pink in it to look reasonable, but some other colors to tone down the overwhelming pink-ness of the room. And so:

And for the kitchen which has kind of off-white and beige counter tile and darker floor tile, the same fabric as the dining room was a good match. (The flash washes it out a bit- the color is kind of a warm brown.)

Cookie helped sew, by which I mean he walked on the fabric, attacked it when I moved it, and dove underneath it to ensure there was nothing hiding under there. Then sat down on it to have a good wash.

I don't know how I ever managed to sew without his help!

And, lest you think I've forsaken knitting this week, I assure you that I have not. Of course it's not the numerous mittens I'd planned, largely due to wanting something ultra-portable for various activities and then never quite getting a round tuit when I was home, but they are indisputably an FO- more plain socks in one of the self-patterning Trekking yarns.
blue-gray socks in Trekking

Notice that I have for not the first time-- and completely by accident!--managed to break the yarn in the right place to get a matched pair. I swear I have no idea how I keep doing this. I was four inches into the second sock before I realized.

And that was actually the second pair of socks finished in the last week or so- I'll show you the first pair presently, but they need better light to photograph them.

All in all, a good start for November on the FO front. Now I just need to keep up my momentum!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

100 Projects or Bust

So, after reading Toni's latest post, wherein she does the unforgiving math on just how many knitting days there are left in the year, and further points out that some of those days are holidays, which tend to take up a lot of time that can't be devoted to craft projects, I stared in the mirror and asked, 'why did I sign on for this again?'. And, because I'm silly that way, I answered myself.

Me: Why did I sign on for this 100 projects-in-a-year challenge?

Robin: You thought it would be fun.

Me, weakly: Really?

Robin: Sure. And besides, last year you only made what, around 35 FOs? This year, you're already over 70. If you stopped right now, you'd be twice as productive as last year. Doesn't that mean anything?

Me: It would mean I'm a loser. The challenge was 100 projects.

Robin: You made ten FOs in January, and you have over two months left. It's still doable.

Me: But six of them were fingerless mitts. And some of those were for children! And my first FO, the sweater, was three-quarters done!

Robin: Picky. There's nothing to stop you from knitting 27 pairs of fingerless mitts for the win.

Me: That would be dumb.

Robin: Your mother is already over a hundred projects for the year. And her list included 24 quilts!

Me: She's retired! Besides, I have a bunch of stuff I want to knit that I have materials for.

Robin: Then why are you talking to me? Knit, already.

Don't you just hate it when you argue with yourself and lose?

So, I took inventory of my planned projects. While I'm not abandoning any of them, it's clear that I'm going to have to work in some more mitten and smaller projects if this is going to work. So with that in mind, I stopped by Joann's the other night and got some more mitten yarn. A lot of the miscellaneous worsted I'm given tends to be light colors, which is not ideal for mittens (hence the attack of pink and yellow hats you've been seeing on the blog). Anyway I picked up a couple of darker (and not incidently more colorful) yarn to liven up the mitten knitting experience. Hence:
Note: the color on these is not true. These are so bright I think the camera sensor was dazzled.

Yet more mittens. I may wind up knitting until the giant apple falls on New York, but at least I'll go down fighting crafting!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Houston, We Have Mittens!

Okay, that's hardly a shocker around here. But after the part where I got partway into the mitten, redesigned it, knit my own pattern wrong, ripped it, reknit it again, screwed up the tip shaping, ripped it and an inch short of mitten one started having that uneasy feeling that I was running out of yarn... well. This particular pair of mittens feels like an accomplishment!
gray stranded mittens

(Thanks, Mom, for the save on the yarn!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nothing But Sky Blue

I had a draft of a post written last week, but I wound up never finishing it because it lacked a snappy title. I'm a sucker for a snappy title. Fortunately I was rescued this week by my weekend activities. Sunday afternoon, my mom and I dyed that lot of cream-colored yarn. In the end I opted to dye it all, I've a plan that involves something vaguely Jerseyish in style, though I haven't yet decided on a pattern. Anyway that light ketchup-magnet cream is now all a rather nice blue:
newly dyed yarn

The color in the photo is pretty close to the actual color of the yarn- the dye color was called sky blue- I think this came out more the true color of the sky than the Crayola color. I learned a few things in the process.

1. I should probably have tied the skein in more places. These skeins came out looking kind of messy, but I slipped one onto the yarn swift and wound a bit from the beginning and it's not bad at all- it's not much tangled, it winds off smoothly enough. A few more ties and I think it would have stayed even neater.

2. My other big concern was not to felt it-- this is profoundly not machine washable yarn. But I handled it more or less the same way I do knitted garments in feltable wool, and it seemed to work fine.

3. If you take elaborate precautions, you might actually be able to dye yarn without covering the kitchen, your clothes and yourself with dye. In fact, my mom and I somehow managed not to splash ourselves at all that I can tell. Unless I dyed the back of my hair blue and everyone has been too polite to mention it.

Other than that, I've been working on a bunch of things, but not finishing that much. I'm on the second gray and white stranded mitten, and my mom gave me the rest of her skein of gray so I can be sure I'll have enough to finish. I'm still working on a pair of socks. I'm giving the green Aran some time to think about its sins before tackling it again.

There are a few things that have gotten done in the last couple of weeks--I finally shoveled out the pool filter and stored it, which was the last pool-closing task for the year. I keep trying different methods, and this year's wasn't too bad. The pool filter has over 200 lbs of wet sand in it, but I cleverly half emptied it before manhandling it out from under the deck. Though I still think that last year's method was the best- getting someone else to do it!

I finished another pink hat- this one child-sized. I had started it as a headband, but ran out of that particular pink when it was child sized. So I used a different shade for the body of the hat. One evening when I had been knitting on the hat for much of the evening, my husband suddenly frowned at it and said, "Wasn't that a headband the last time I saw it?"

"I ran out of yarn," I told him.

"And it got bigger?!" he replied. (He's getting more observant. I once knitted a whole sweater for him for Christmas without him noticing anything.)

"And I decided that a child of the age the headband would fit would be dressed by her parents. And parents would prefer that a young child wears a hat," I explained. "It's teens and adults like me who dislike hats that mainly wear headbands."

"Ah," mystery solved, Jonathan went back to his book.

So, here's the mutant pink hat:
pink child's hat

Not a huge difference in shade, but enough to be noticeable without being separated by the design, I thought. The I-cord edging proved to be nearly as easy to pick up and knit from as the one-stitch garter edging.

And I did finally take a picture of the two latest pairs of children's mittens:

So. I feel like not much is getting done right now, but I do have a bunch of things in partially finished states- I'm hoping that will add up to a bunch more FOs before long.

Friday, October 15, 2010


1. Happiness is a purring cat on one's lap. Even if said purring cat is on one's lap because we haven't turned up the heat yet. (We aren't participating in any macho contests involving leaving the heat off until you can see your breath in the morning, because the furnace is also what heats the hot water. Hot showers are non-negotiable, no matter what temperature the house is.)

2. A hat and mittens, which I finally got around to photographing. They sort of match, but not really, since the mittens are child sized and the hat is adult.
Unoriginal Hat and mittens

3. It turns out my burst of cleaning and carpentering industry last week has completely sapped my will to do anything but lie around and read.

4. I went to work and worked anyway.

5. The cold weather makes me dead keen on finishing the green Aran. Unfortunately I've concluded after about five attempts that the only way to get the patterns on top of the two fronts where I'm decreasing at different rates on two edges (you know, the absolutely most visible part of the whole sweater) is to rip them both back to the point where they start not matching and then reknit them both at the same time so I can make them match. This has not yet happened (see note 3).

6. Despite note 3, after a long heart-to-heart with the bathroom scale, I have resumed riding my exercise bike in the mornings. Cookie finds this exceedingly puzzling. So do I, if I think about it.

7. Seven items on a list are traditional. I don't know why.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Thursday was the day of the house concert and I had what I thought was a Pretty Good Plan. It involved going in to work early, getting out early and swiftly executing the remaining house concert preparations. It notably did *not* involve having my car die on the highway, having it towed, having some throttle work done and getting a new battery and arriving at work *late*. It could have been worse, of course. I had coffee, I had knitting, I had my work computer (and actually logged some work time via the car dealership's exceedingly handy wi-fi). And hey. At the rate I'm going, I'm going to have a new-ish car soon. Kind of like the old country song about the guy who worked in a car factory, and smuggled out a part a day in in his lunch pail, and after several years had a whole car. Funny song..but I always wondered what kind of lunch pail would conceal the chassis and axles....

Anyway. My day continued along those lines, with multiplying meetings, andn various minor customer crises. I left later than I wanted but still got home at a reasonable hour, dove into baking, schlepping chairs and arranging lighting and table space for the concert. It actually went very well- my husband made it home early and we had a couple of friends come over to help, which always makes things easier. We had twenty people, plenty of refreshments and didn't run out of chairs. And the music was excellent- here are Heather and Ben, in concert in my library:

We had been initially a bit concerned that Cookie would be weirded out by the invasion of company. He's only been with us two weeks, after all, and in that time he hasn't had to deal with any visitors at all. We took care to leave the bedroom and cellar doors open, so he'd have places to retreat to, and then left the decision to him. But to our delight, he was completely unbothered by the company, came out and greeted all the new people, accepting pats and neck-scritches with gracious aplomb and was generally charming to everyone. At one point in the evening, he went streaking across the floor and went belly down in front of a bookcase, peering with concentration underneath it. We didn't understand what was going on until one of our guests reported that they'd seen a mouse run under there. He kept the place staked out for the rest of the evening.

Now, mice are not really a problem we generally have, but it is October and with the weather turning chillier, the mice do sometimes try to get in. However Cookie takes his role as defender of the household very seriously...or at least he takes the potential for tasty mouse snacks seriously! When I originally wrote this post I said that if the problem persisted, I'd have to put out some traps. As it turns out, that probably won't be necessary. On my return home from work Friday, I discovered that the Cookie's persistence had paid off. Yep, one stiff little mousy corpse, laid out for my approval. Cookie was rewarded with cat food--apparently cat food tastes better than mice, since he'd made no attempt to eat it.

In other news, I have skeined up all that cream yarn ready for dying. I haven't quite mastered the knack of twisting my skeins neatly, but I'm getting better. I started by pushing on the pegs to turn the skein, which worked fine, but on the last skein, I realized that I could twirl the swift much more quickly without getting in the way of the yarn by pushing on the armature. The swift is really and truly seriously fast. I love it!

I finished knitting the latest hat during the concert and wove in the ends Friday- haven't taken a photo yet. It struck me when I was doing the last hat, that the yarn would go well with my raincoat, which I wear as a top layer most of the time in the winter. And I don't really like hats, but often wear a headband to keep my ears warm. The headband I've been wearing is polar fleece, and it's so old all the fleecy bits have worn off. High time to knit myself a new one. So for my next trick, I cast on a headband, using the same sort of circumferential band I've used for hats, only with an i-cord edging on both sides:

That got finished yesterday on a drive out to western Mass. to visit my in-laws. Annoyingly, I've misplaced my book light so I didn't have any light to knit on the drive back. Which might actually have been a blessing in disguise since I was so sleepy by the time we got home I pretty much fell into bed. Today has been a fairly lazy day- sleeping late and reading, for the most part. At least there weren't any commitments that required us to drive anywhere!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

House Concerts and Other Diversions

Another whirlwind week at Chez Holly-Turner. The big news of the week is that we're hosting a house concert on Thursday, again with Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps who played here last year. If you're in the area and like Celtic music, it's at 8 pm on Thursday October 7. Drop me an email and I'll reserve you a seat.

In other news, you might be thinking that building the yarn swift was my weekend project, but it was only one of them. We also closed the pool. It was rather challenging, since the rain of leaves and acorns came down almost as fast as we could scoop them out. Also, acorns plummeting thirty or forty feet? Really sting if they hit you.

And then, embarrassed by the industry of my neighbors across the street, I spent a couple of hours tidying up the yard. I refuse to start raking until more leaves come down, but there are lots and lots of thorny and or woody vines that are trying to take over. I went around ripping them up by the roots and stuffing them into a yard waste bag (composting only encourages them). I'd like to say I put the fear of Robin into them, but a) I'm way too haphazard with the yard work to really sustain a culture of intimidation and b) plants aren't very bright.

*And* I knit a pair of mittens, and started a hat. Really, it was so far from a lazy weekend, I'm not quite sure what came over me. And it isn't over yet, since the threat of impending company has us scurrying around, attempting to render the house fit for company day after tomorrow. No doubt I'll sleep all of next weekend.

Back later...!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Winding Swiftly

I know that carpentry isn't a craft I share with a lot of my blog friends. But here's the kind of carpentry project a knitter can get behind:
DIY yarn swift

Yes, I have just built myself a yarn swift. It's something I haven't really minded not having. I wind occasional balls by hand without any fuss, and I don't get all that much yarn in skeins. But going from balls to skeins- that's a different story. See, one of the lots of free yarn I got a while back was a whole bagful- probably around 2400 yards of lovely cream sport-weight wool. And I thought 'Hmm. I don't really want to knit an all-cream sweater, but if I dyed some or all of it....'

And I poked around and looked at some dyes but I have enough other projects on my plate that dying the cream wool wasn't something I put any priority on. Enter my mother. My mother is an avid and marvelously skilled quilter, dyes some of her own fabric, and occasionally does workshops on dying. She's planning to have a dye-your-own day at her house and invited me to come and dye all that cream wool. And I said, 'Huzzah! Expert dying instruction.' And then I said, 'Oh, poot. Now I have to skein all that yarn.'

So I priced yarn swifts, and decided they were a little more than I wanted to spend for something that--however useful it would be on an ongoing basis--was really intended to facilitate one project. I considered a niddy noddy, which would have been even easier to build- but that's only really good for skeining, and if I'm going to have something like that lying around, I'd rather be able to wind from it too.

I looked online for people who had built their own, and found several very clever ideas, including people who had built swifts out of Lego and Tinker Toys. But alas, my Tinker Toys have been gone for 30 years. The most applicable plan I found was this one, done by a guy who has a heck of a lot more tools than I do. It's gorgeous. I figured that I could probably do something similar but simplify it a little- maybe substitute a square base for his elegantly crossed legs. But looking it over carefully, there was one aspect of the design I didn't care for--the way the armature is tensioned. It seemed to me that there could be some wobble in the arms. The arms basically turn on a single central bolt, which is tensioned using a washer, nut and wing-nut combination. What I really wanted was in that position was a bearing, the kind with top and bottom races, like a lazy susan. I have a little lazy susan for the kitchen, which I mainly use for frosting layer cakes, and I briefly contemplated sacrificing it for the cause. But it's plastic and I'd have had a better-than-even chance of ruining it and not getting a usable swift.

So I went back to the internet, and lo and behold, I found that you can get a four-inch lazy susan bearing at the hardware store (they stock it with cabinet hardware). Well. That simplified the whole design considerably. In fact, I think I could have made it even simpler by just mounting the top bearing plate to the arms and letting the whole thing spin on the bottom plate, but I wanted more stability, and something just a bit better looking. So I yanked some scrap out of the scrap lumber bin in the workshop and put this together in a couple of evenings. If I say so myself, it works extremely well. It spins quietly and easily on the bearing. For the speeds and loads this will see, it doesn't even need oil (the bearing is rated for something like 300 lbs). The price was right- less than $6 for the bearing and everything else I had on hand. Here's a photo of the pieces unassembled (you can click on either photo to enlarge them):
pieces of yarn swift

Components list:
wood base- 9" square by 3/4" thick
wood top - 4 1/4" square by 3/4" thick
1 4" four-inch lazy susan bearing
2 arms 26" long by 1 1/4 wide by 3/4" thick (1x2 or 1x1 would work fine)
4 pegs 5/8" diameter by 6" long
3 wood screws 1 1/2" long
8 wood screws 1/2" long

drill guide (optional- I found it useful for keeping the peg holes straight)
router (for notching the arms together, this could also be done with a wood chisel)

Thursday, September 30, 2010


So, last night as I was headed to karate practice, I had a call from my husband. "I can't find Cookie," he said. "I'm afraid he's gotten out."

Well, that was a matter for considerable concern- he's an indoor cat and inclined to be nervous about new things. If he'd managed to go rushing through an open door before he registered it was new and strange, he'd probably panic. So I turned around and headed home. But before I started an outdoor search, I wanted to do a thorough check inside first, even though my husband had already turned the place upside down a couple of times. Because Cookie is good at hiding. He has been getting into places you'd swear were impossible. And he has this tendency to wander around staring penetratingly at places he finds interesting until he figures out how to get there.

For example, yesterday morning, he found his way to the top of one of the tall bookcases in the living room:
The big bookcase, now with cat

Doesn't he look pleased with himself?
Happy with our accomplishment

So, after an exhaustive search, we finally located him in one of these places...atop the other tall bookcase in the living room. The one we would have sworn he couldn't get into, because there is a rim that goes around the edge with only a few inches gap between it and the ceiling. The rim which, it turns out, conceals the top of the bookcase from the ground, making it a perfect hiding place for a cat.

I know how he did it- he launched himself from the top of the other bookcase above, and threaded the gap at the side, which is a bit wider than the one in front. Of course, once he'd done that, he had no idea how to get himself down. Straight down to the floor is nearly seven feet- that's enough to make even a cat as athletic as Cookie think twice, or three times or four. We stood there and watched him get one paw over the edge, look down and then retreat, several times.

It finally took a chair, a step stool, one human pushing and the other pulling to extricate him from his predicament. Once he was down, though, he didn't seem at all discommoded. Just rather dusty and in need of a thorough wash.

In other news, I wrote out a plan for the decreases on the colorwork mittens yesterday. I'd actually stopped knitting on them for a day because I was starting to have the sinking feeling I was going to run out of yarn. Fortunately, I remembered that my mother had some of the same gray, and I've asked her to hang onto it for a few days, in case I need it to finish these. So these are moving again.
mitten front
mitten back

And last but not least, having found myself home early last night, I turned to thinking about various projects in process, and decided to knock one off the list. Last year, I started to build a kayak cart. After trying it out, I found that it needed cross-bracing (which I'd known, but hadn't taken the time to do), and also that it needed to be reduced in height, as the center of gravity was too high, and it wasn't very stable. So last night I went down into the wood shop, took it apart, lowered the height and added cross-bracing.

So here it is, that rare creature- a carpentry FO!
kayak cart

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where the Time Goes

It is frequently unclear to me where time goes (last weekend is mostly a blur) but it's clear that things have been happening. Last- but most important- we have a new member of the family!

Meet Cookie! He's two, and very affectionate, though quite unnerved by the whole moving to a new place experience. He's decided that Jonathan and I are welcome allies in the exploration of new territory, which has led to him getting us up in the middle of the night so he'll have company to explore the living room, or go out on the sun porch. Our strategy this afternoon has involved the liberal application of cat toys, in the hope of wearing him out so we can get some sleep for work in the morning.

Let's just say that providing cat moral support has completely derailed any intentions we may have had to get useful things done this weekend. Or provided us with a good excuse, anyway, take your pick!

So, in other news, I finally caught up with my sister for purposes of wrapping her in fluffy yellow sweater-ness. She seems pleased with it:

I'm actually pretty pleased with it myself. The fit is excellent, and it really did come out just the way I wanted when I originally conceived the design. (Ordinarily the design mutates in the course of execution, but not this time!)

But, I haven't been resting on my laurels:

Rather, I've been doggedly working my way through the last of the gray yarn. In fact this was actually what I originally intended to try when I saw it...I thought that it might work well in a Norwegian-inspired design, and so it does. I was also pleased with my improvised decrease pattern.

It could be smoother, but considering the lack of advance planning, I was pretty happy.

There are also various other projects-in-process that I haven't photographed yet--some gray and white mittens (since there's more gray left), a pair of socks (which need to be photographed in daylight to do the yarn justice). The green Aran, which is progressing but not complete (it's too big to carry around). And the advent of cool fall weather is filling my brain with knitty ideas...and filling my pool with acorns and leaves (closing the pool was the major project derailed by cat reassurance this weekend).

So. I'm off to flutter a cat toy. It's too soon yet to tell if Cookie is going to be enthusiastic about knitting, but it's for sure he needs lots of healthful exercise before bedtime!