Saturday, December 31, 2011

All of the Above

As I mentioned in the last post, I have been having trouble deciding which project to work on next. So I threw caution to the winds and went for all of them.

I found some gauge notes, which although unlabeled, I think are for the sweater swatch. I've cast on a sweater back (which is only ribbing at the moment so I'll save a photo for when it starts to look more interesting), and we'll see how it goes. Note to self: Label what project your gauge notes are for. Maintaining suspense isn't required.

Then I pulled out the mittens I started before Christmas (inspired by the Yarn Harlot's mitten factory post), and finished them. I don't think I'm doing exactly what she did- slip stitch mosaic is another one of those techniques I've never tried before, and I think I'm going to have to pull out an actual pattern and learn the technique before I can duplicate it. These are rather more stranded than slip-stitch. Also I am reminded that I really prefer ribbing on mitten cuffs for keeping out the cold. I think these are prettier, though, so I expect I may give it another try at some point.
stranded-cuff mittens

I've made a bunch of afghan squares- I haven't bought any additional yarn yet. I figure I'll get as far as I can with what I have, then I'll have a better idea how much I'll need to finish. The dark green I need will be on the outsides of the squares (so I can do squares without borders for now), and I may run out of the white I'm using as well, so it's to my advantage to wait.

Then I cast on an item from my Christmas B-list- the stuff I was going to try to do if I had time. (The part where I always want to knit way more stuff than it would be humanly possible to knit in the allotted time is a good explanation for why I never seem to finish. I was actually so deluded this year, that I bought the yarn for this project approximately half an hour before I was abruptly forced to face reality in the person of a small child. Apparently I thought it was not only possible that I'd finish the socks, but also have time for a hat.)

Anyway, this is a simple black watch cap, knit in Berroco Vintage, which I hadn't used before. Half wool, half nylon and acrylic, machine washable, very nice to the touch. Hopefully it will wear well.
black watch cap

Then today, the weather was so wet and raw and miserable, that I lost all will to knit anything that wasn't cheerfully colored. So I pulled out that skein of bright orange (the one I banished from any and all afghans), picked out a couple of friends for it, to try and tone it down a bit, and started a crocheted hat. I was inspired by having recently gotten some good tips on proportions in crocheted hats on the Crochet Me blog, and had been wanting to try them out.
candy corn hat

My husband thinks it looks like candy corn. At any rate, that's a pair of mittens and a hat for the charity bag, to get 2012 off to a strong start!

Happy New Year, and may your holiday be warm and filled with yarn!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Christmas Post

I grafted the toes of the socks this morning. Which is not to say they couldn't have been done on Christmas day, but. I decided on mature reflection that making myself crazy knitting all hours of the day and night, leaving other things to the last minute and or doing them poorly would generally not add to anyone's enjoyment of the season, least of all mine. Which is not to say that I didn't work quite steadily on them, I did. I just didn't go nuts. Sock number one was done just after dinner Friday, and I cast on sock number two. Sock number two got a lot of attention Saturday, as I knit in between methodically working down the list of things I wanted to happen. By bedtime I had turned the heel and was starting down the gusset. Sunday morning, I knit the foot. But on Sunday afternoon I was still 4 pattern repeats short of the toe, and out of time. So I set the sock down and had a lovely afternoon with my family. (And took the evening off from knitting after, as my hands were really due for a rest by then.)

It was a lovely afternoon. We ate my Christmas cookies. My husband cooked an excellent Christmas dinner, followed by a lovely dessert my mother brought. My mother expressed warm approval of the socks, even if late. Thoughtfully chosen gifts were given and received happily. My other family members received their various knit gifts with gratifying enthusiasm. And the socks? Here they are:

Lombard St Socks
Lombard St. Socks by Susan Lawrence in colorway Gothic by Deep Water Dye Works.

And what of these other knit gifts, you ask? Well- secret project A can now be revealed as...yet more red socks! Okay, not so exciting, but my brother-in-law likes them. He got three pairs- two of these and the pair of red-with-black-toes-and-heels I blogged some months back.

And for my sister, there was secret project B, which now can be shown as, a pair of sporty cabled mitts!
sporty cabled mitts
These were surprisingly vexatious. First there was the yarn, which had been badly treated at some point and had a lot of breaks and thin spots, leading to an intarsia-like profusion of ends to weave in. Then there was the part where I failed to read my own pattern and knit the first mitt with a totally wrong gusset (really quite embarrassing). Then I ran out of yarn. Something I should have foreseen but didn't. I waffled for a bit on what to use as a contrast color, let my knitting group talk me out of using the yarn I had on hand (they were right, it wouldn't have looked nearly as good as the black) and then went out and got the black . I like the final look, but oy, what a pesky little knit!

So now I'm contemplating my stash with the speculative look of a knitter without a deadline, and happily weighing my options. I've already cast on a hat, and I'll probably start that third afghan, and then there's the sweater I swatched for back in October (though I'm going to be mildly vexed if I can't find my notes and have to re-swatch...). So many choices! But hey, I'm taking my last two vacation days for the year this week, so who knows what might happen?!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

Two cats. One castle. One squirrel.
cats watching birdfeeder

Peace on earth, goodwill to all creatures under the sun.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

So there I was, feeling all productive because the shopping is done and I have made a hillion jillion cookies and the tree is up and intermittantly decorated (depending on how recently the cats have been by). And I am working on the last Christmas item of the year which is a pair of socks. (I don't think it's really giving anything away at this point to suggest that someone I know might be getting handknit socks for Christmas. I mean, these people do know me.)

And I was working on this sock before my karate practice, while waiting for the previous class, a kids' group, to wrap up. And, as there usually is, there were a gaggle of parents and kids running around while waiting for their offspring/siblings to get out.

So as I sat there, plying my needles and string, a pair of precious moppets about four and six immediately gravitated to the lady with the sharp pointy things and asked, "Hey, what are you doing?"

So I explained knitting, socks, Christmas.

They asked why I was doing it.

It's fun, the socks are warm, comfortable and look nice.

Then the older of the two fixed her bright eyes intently on the needles, opened her mouth, and struck right to the heart of the matter with devastating insight. "Only one sock?"

And thus forced me to confront the fact that yes, it's three days until Christmas, sock number one isn't quite done yet, and a rational person would have to say the second one isn't likely to be done by Sunday. And yes, they may turn out to be New Year socks and not Christmas socks, and they will be no less nice.

But why be rational? I'll keep knitting. Christmas is a time for magic, you know. Besides. I like knitting.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

With Help Like This

It occurs to me that there haven't been a lot of cat photos lately. For a week or so, it's because the cats were preoccupied with their new catnip bag:
Biscuit hits the nip

They took turns with it until it got throughly saturated with cat spit (yuck!) which eventually reduced the potency so they weren't lying around on the floor all afternoon with twitching paws, rubbing the bag on their noses.

But that was then. Lately, they've been taking an active role (also roll) in the holiday preparations. For example:

Biscuit keeps the tree from escaping
Biscuit kept the Christmas tree branches from getting away while I put the tree up.

Cookie and Biscuit, decorating consultants
There was constant interested supervision while I hung the tree with lights, garland and cat toys ornaments.

I didn't get any pictures of the garland being dragged off the tree and attacked viciously because I was too busy yelling, 'no, stop it, don't eat that!' and removing it from paws and mouths. I did advise my husband to keep an eye out for 'sparkle poo' in the litterbox. He gave me a husband look, and asked (fairly enough), "And then do what?" I'm not entirely sure what the garland's offense was, but the cats tell me, 'it was asking for it'.

There was also a certain amount of removing Biscuit from the tree's lower branches. Several of them are distinctly bent toward the floor now. And the tree decorations stop a foot or so above the bottom of the tree. (After the first few low-hanging ornaments were removed by my decorating consultants, I got the message.) Mom, I'm afraid those glass balls you gave me are not going on the tree this year. I'm sure you understand.

The lovely quilted tree skirt my mother made for me got two paws up, however.
Two paws up for the quilted tree skirt
Two paws up for the quilted tree skirt

We appear to have achieved a sort of equilibrium, wherein all the ornaments are staying on the tree and the thoroughly cowed garland has withdrawn from floor level. The cats still love to sit under it (which I quite approve of), and JT is busy getting the train set running around the base which should prove entertaining--for someone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Introducing Intarsia: The Boston Bruins Hat

Although I finish a goodly number of projects in the course of a year, the bulk of them fall solidly into the category of 'things I've done before and can knock out with a minimum of grief'.  The challenge lies in tailoring the project to suit the taste of the recipient, trying new patterns using known techniques, or figuring out useful and attractive ways to use up materials on hand. But from time to time, I want to try out something new and see if I can add another useful trick to my repertoire. 

Thus, when one of my coworkers was describing his ideal sports-fan winter hat, I thought, 'huh, sounds like a good beginner intarsia piece'. 

After poking around, I couldn't find any patterns that suited the weight of yarn I had available, so I took an image of the Boston Bruins team logo, spent an eternity fiddling with it in Paint, and generated a pattern that would fit into the number of stitches I estimated would be available on the front of the hat.  I found that having prior experience with stranded colorwork was a help.  After approximately 10 milliseconds of messing with bobbins, I went with the online tip about just cutting a yard or two of yarn and letting the ends hang free.  They tangled, but it was easy enough to free them up periodically, and much less annoying.
Boston Bruins hat

Results- acceptable.  The hat surface was reasonably free of puckers, the back was messy but not completely chaotic, the ends were numerous but not overwheming.   My coworker is delighted with it.  And I'm filing intarsia under, 'useful but not worth seeking out unless a project I really want to do absolutely demands it'.

And that makes two of the three projects I wanted to have done this week complete.  Yay!  (The first one was Secret, so I won't be showing it off until next week.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Busting Stash

Despite the Christmas deadline rushing at me like a herd of stampeding rhinos, I was helpless to make any progress at home on the Christmas knits until I finished this:
Extraordinarily pink afghan
The Extraordinarily Pink Afghan

Now I know why there are so many crocheted afghans in the world. They are utterly compulsive. First the squares, so quick and satisfying. The sewing goes fairly quickly. And then the process crafter's dream- long hypnotic borders. I even like the way it came out- pink, to be sure, but with enough variety and other colors to break it up into a pleasing wildflower bed of color.

pink, pink, pink

The finished size is 74 x 56 inches making it the largest fiber project I have done to date. Yes- that includes quilts (I've never made a bed-sized quilt). And I have wiped out my supply of pink yarn, along with most of the pale yellow, cream, lavender, and similar colors. Between the two afghans and my hat binge; I've essentially used as much yarn as I've received this fall. (I'm still working on the yarn I got during the preceding two years, though I've put a pretty good dent in that too.) The few skeins remaining from the bags of pastels my mom gave me have been consolidated into the acrylic stash without crowding.

And, as for the rest? I have a plan. The dominant color in the rest of the pastel yarn is pale green. There's some yellow and purple and variegated odds and ends that would go reasonably well with it. So, pick up a couple of the big super-saver skeins of dark green...and yes, there is going to be another afghan. After the insightful advice I received in comments, I've ripped out the garish orange agfhan square--the bright orange will make nice mittens, and the muted pastel variegated can go into the afghan.

But I refuse to start on it until the Christmas knits are done. Though I keep thinking, I would like to try a different square pattern and I've found this one that might work. I could do just one square, you know, to test it...but there's no such thing as just one square. Christmas knits!  I must remain strong.  Not one single...oops.
Accidental square

...not one single trip to the craft store to get the dark green I'd need to actually finish any squares.  Yup.  I'm in control, here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Dark Knitter Rises

So there I was, lounging on the couch at Stately Holly-Turner Manor, reading a thriller, when an email blipped into my inbox. I glanced over and leapt into action, "It's the Knit Signal, Biscuit!" I announced. "Somewhere in this city, a knitter needs help."

Biscuit yawned and closed his eyes. It's one of the downsides of having a cat as a sidekick.

The knitting emergency was in my neighborhood, so I didn't have to break out the Knitmobile (cleverly disguised as a 12-year-old Saturn). I just snatched up my current project and jogged across the street.

"It's this hat," my neighbor explained mournfully. "I think it's kind of large." She is a beginning knitter of great promise, with two FOs under her belt already, and she's starting her first hat.

We extricated the hat from its circular needles and laid it down to take careful measurements. "Twenty-six inches," I confirmed. "Unless your daughter has a very, very large head, this will be too big."

"I was trying to avoid doing a gauge swatch," my neighbor admitted. "I see now why they are important."

"Yes, yes, they are," I told her. "But never fear- you may need to frog this, but at least you can measure your gauge on this hat-swatch."

We walked through the gauge calculations together, and she bravely frogged and cast on again, while I kept her company, drinking tea and working on a project of my own.

At last I returned home, confident in the knowledge that she had two rounds of the new hat done and everything under control.

"The city is once again safe for yarn," I reported to my sidekick as I returned home.

Biscuit meowed for cat food. Such is the life of a knitter.

Until the next time the knit signal lights up the skies over New Hampshire....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Think the Hats Are Winning

As the binge has gone on, hats have started to dominate the FO list. That's about to stop, however, for the very simple reason that I've been knitting the hats out of bulky weight, and I'm now completely out. Not even a yard left. How did this happen? Well:
hats and mittens

It can be hard to tell with these things, but the knitting binge seems to be passing. I did three loads of laundry and cleaned the kitchen yesterday, and I'm starting to feel the urge to get back to Christmas knitting without reaching for needles to cast on something else. (This is not to say I don't like the things I'm knitting for Christmas, not at all. I love them too. I'm just...easily distracted, that's all.)

But this afternoon I'm seeing a friend who's collecting for the knit-a-thon, so it does make a useful stopping point. Unless I see a hat pattern I can't resist trying, of course!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


...these knitting binges tend to burn themselves out after a few days. I'm starting to wonder about this one.
hats and mittens

Chores? What chores?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Isn't It Amazing...

..just how many other things one can find to do when one has a long list of chores?

For example, instead of diving into that cleaning Saturday, I was suddenly consumed with the need to start ironing the quilt fabric my mom gave me, which I've been gradually washing over the last few weeks. Here's a small portion of it,as I start to sort it into color families:
quilt fabric

Biscuit helped- he pounced on the iron cord, knocked things off the sewing machine, sat on the fabric, and finally settled back to supervise. The little cat snores are the sign of a supervisor hard at work, I'm told.

Moderate amounts of cleaning did eventually get done, just in time for my parents to come by. Biscuit was very brave, and actually came out to see them. My mom even got to pat him- a first, as he's usually too skittish. They also picked up a bagful of charity knits to take to the collection point for me.

And later that afternoon, I headed down to a charity knit-a-thon sponsored by a couple of local knitters. Last year was their first year, and it was very last-minute, but they still managed to collect a bunch of knitwear. This year, the local knitters knew it was coming and were all ready. They had a long folding table and it was absolutely heaped with knitwear. Lots of kids are going to have warm hats and mittens this winter!

I dropped off the rest of my bag full of charity knits, leaving me lighter by a goodly amount of yarn. I think the sudden absence of knits made me a little giddy. I'd brought yarn and cast on some mittens to work on during the knit-a-thon, but when I finished them (later that day), I just had to cast on another pair. And another. And another. And a hat.
charity knits

Of course part of the reason for the sudden spate of FOs is that I took Wednesday off, and have been having a pretty much perfectly lazy holiday what with sleeping late, reading, and playing with yarn. I've actually had enough rest that I was starting to get ambitious about that list of chores again...and then Cookie settled in for a nice long comfy snooze on my lap. Fortunately I've got the book I'm currently reading and lots of yarn within reach. Because after all, how can I do chores if it would mean disturbing the cat? Like I said. Amazing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Day So Far

Double trouble
3:30 AM: Biscuit submits request for early breakfast to management. Management staggers out of bed cursing and feeds him.
5:30 AM: Biscuit and Cookie remind management it is breakfast time. Which is true enough on weekdays. Management staggers out of bed cursing and feeds them.
6:30 AM: Biscuit thinks he's got room for just a little something more. Submits request to management. Management heartlessly banishes him to the sun porch where he can tell his problems to the birds.
9:00 AM: Cookie suggests a snack might be in order, and husband suggests curling up on the bed for a nice nap instead. Suggestion is accepted. However Biscuit is let back in at this time.
9:30 AM: Biscuit reminds us he is still hungry. I arise for the day and provide another round of breakfast.

Now at this point you're likely thinking we're gullible and indulgent cat-parents, and we should simply stop spoiling the little beasts. Which point of view has a certain justice. However there is an issue- Cookie is a proper little glutton. Biscuit has a modest and restrained appetite and likes to have frequent small meals as the urge takes him. If we leave food out for Biscuit, Cookie just eats it all. No, really, ALL of it. And then Biscuit is forced to request more food from management anyway. And Cookie gets even plumper (we're having quite a chore keeping him only plump, I can tell you).

So at the moment we're struggling with the plan where we feed both cats at regular mealtimes, but Biscuit gets more food when he wants it, as he doesn't really eat enough otherwise. (And if he's hungry and we don't feed him, we get a long vocal explanation of why this is Completely Wrong.) Unless we can come up with a practical way of separating them at night, I don't quite see what else we can do.

Anyway- I'm awake now, and my plans for the day involve a vat of coffee and, in the immortal words of Allie Brosh at Hyperbole and a Half, "Clean all the things!"

But there will certainly be some knitting as well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Running in All Directions at Once

I feel like I've gotten nothing done, which in one sense is the truth, but there has been progress made on many fronts.

1. The new bookcases are installed and books have been arranged on them.
new bookcases

I know, you're thinking, "Bookcases? What bookcases?" Strictly speaking, this has been my husband's project- while I've been doing deck and pool things this fall, he's been carpenting. (Okay it's not a real word, but what do you call making things out of wood?) My few contributions involved putting the final coat of polyurethane on, and helping to hoist them into position to be installed.

This has allowed us to spread out the SF and fantasy section of our library, which had books stacked horizontally on the shelves for lack of space. However, when spread out, SF and fantasy has taken up all the new space, so history is still jammed to overflowing. We're going to need to finish two more bookcases (and do some rearranging) before we've got that finally sorted out. Not that I'm complaining. It's lovely being able to shelve books properly upright in order. (If you're new around here, you might be thinking, 'how the devil many books do they have, anyway?' The answer is that there are currently 4640 books in the permanent collection, and several hundred more in the To Be Read pile. When Jonathan and I got married, we built a second story so we'd have room for a large library. We love to sit in the library and read, surrounded by books. It gives us a warm happy feeling.  Here's my favorite reading spot:)  

a sunny day in the library

2. All of the deadfall brought down by the storm has been turned into a modest woodpile. Augmented by donations from my neighbors, it's quite a respectable woodpile- easily enough for a year, at the rate we burn it. I've actually resolved to try and burn more wood this winter, because we had rather a surplus even before the storm.

3. The pool closing is almost complete. Thankfully, I had the cover on before the leaves started coming down in earnest. Most of the stuff is put away- I just need to empty and store the filter.

4. I've managed to whack a few of the routine chores every day this week, so I'm starting the weekend with just the endless house project list.

But, what of crafting, you're wondering?

5. I've finished the Charlemont scarf, but need to block it.

6. I finished the mittens I cast on for simple knitting during the power outage.
navy mittens

7. I'm past the halfway point on one of the secret projects.

8. I'm past the halfway point on the red cabled scarf.

9. The pink afghan has gained a couple more rows of squares.

10. The intarsia hat is still in time-out, contemplating its sins.

I do have a lot of crafting time planned for this weekend, however, so hopefully I'll be in a position to show off some FOs next week. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's the Little Things

Today was a day for appreciating the little things. A long hot shower. Hot coffee. Electric lights. Yes, lights...amazing how much easier it is to knit when you have them. We got power back yesterday (Monday) afternoon, after losing it Saturday evening during the snowstorm. Not that it was much of a storm, by NH standards, but it was very early, very wet and very heavy. How heavy? This heavy:
tree swimming

No damage to the pool or (newly stained) deck as far as we can tell.
The leaves are still on the trees, which is mostly why the snow pulled down so many branches. I've never seen the bushes in my yard flattened like this. They're normally over eight feet tall!
forsythia having a lie down

And the neighborhood got hammered- this was what I saw in nearly every yard along my street when I ventured out.
downed trees
downed wire
(It's hard to see in the photo, but there's a wire down across the street there.)

As far as losing power, it really wasn't that much of a hardship for us. We lit the oil lamp and a few candles, hauled in some wood, and built a nice toasty fire in the wood stove. Sunday morning we still had hot water for showers in the water tank, and even Monday it was pleasantly warm. Today was the morning I wasn't looking forward to washing in cold water, but I was spared even that minor hardship. We're pretty close to the center of town, so we're often near the top of the list for repairs. This is the first time in the nine years I've lived here that we've had an outage lasting more than a day.

And while I appreciate room lighting for knitting, I certainly didn't let a little thing like that stop me! Several different projects got some attention.

But, I should introduce the WIPs:
1. My lace scarf (the Foreign Correspondent scarf, which I fell in love with after seeing the two that Toni knit) and it's coming along. I plan to just keep knitting until I finish the skein of yarn, but I'm at that stage where I knit, the scarf gets longer, and ball doesn't seem to change size at all. Maybe it's a feature of the yarn? (Valley Yarns Charlemont Kettle Dyed, in Evergreen- it's a lovely silk and merino blend.)
Foreign Correspondent Scarf

2. The Which Way is Up reversible cabled scarf, which I hauled out of the pile and did a bunch of work on this weekend. I've actually taken a few stitches out of the pattern because I'm knitting it in bulky weight instead of the worsted the pattern calls for, but I already know I'm going to make this one again. It's a very charming pattern, and I love it that the scarf has no wrong side.
Which Way is Up Scarf

3. An intarsia hat, in time out after I messed up the chart six rows back. That one really ought to go to the head of the list, since I wanted it done before Christmas. But you can meet it when we're back on speaking terms.

4. A mitten- I started that one just so I'd have something simple for dim light. Also my local knitting group is doing a charity knitathon this month, for which I'd like to have some more hats and mittens done.

5 and 6. Are secrets.

7 and 8. The mitred square blanket and the multi-pink afghan. These will get some intermittent work- probably the pink afghan mostly, as it is very bulky and I'd like get it finished and donated before the holidays.

9. The bamboo summer top which is definitely my oldest WIP. I probably won't pick this up again until after the Christmas knitting is done, but I would definitely like to get it out of my queue this winter.

Oh, yes and the FO. Before the power went out I finished the second afghan (second one started but first one finished). Very Easter-y, but I'm pleased to have used up all the yarn- about 14 skeins-worth, but several of them were huge 8 oz skeins, so it's a lot of yarn. The finished size came out 46" x 70". Strangely, the afghan seems way heavier than the yarn was before it was crocheted!
Easter diamond afghan

And somewhere in there, I really ought to knit myself some more mittens. I can only find one pair of the four I ought to have, and they're in terrible shape. Although I strongly suspect that some of the missing ones are going to turn up before I get around to knitting more!

PS. Cookie wanted me to say that he's happy the heat is on too. The sitting around the wood stove thing was interesting, but the couch is more comfortable.
Cookie at rest

Friday, October 28, 2011

Not Quite Time to Panic

Thanks to Toni in FL (who pointed out there are less 60 days until Christmas) and Valerie at Wandering Cat Studio (who not only pointed this out to Toni, but came up with the downright scary number of only eight weekends until Christmas), I have been catapulted from my dream of finishing afghans directly into holiday planning mode.

Actually, when I tore my gaze away from the calendar and started contemplating what I actually have planned, it wasn't that bad. I've already got a bunch of gift knitting complete and several others in process. The bad part- none of them are actually actively being worked on at this time. Oops. This weekend I will have to pull out the WIPs, take a serious look at my list and come up with a Plan. My initial thought is that I'd like a sane plan...but what fun would that be? Caution: insane crafting ahead!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Afghan Logistics

(I'm afraid this is going to be a really trivial post on sewing together afghans. Please feel free to skip down to the cute cat pictures.)

So one of the things that has occupied my mind as I have been sewing afghan blocks is how to do it.

My first thought was that I wanted to minimize the number of ends to weave in. So I started thinking in terms of working with pieces of yarn as long as I could sew with. My first thought was to sew the squares in zig-zag pattern:

But after joining only a few that way, I could see that I was going to have trouble keeping them lined up. But I was reluctant to sew them in rows because joining all the squares together in a row would mean a lot of short pieces of yarn between the blocks all in a row. Which of course has led me to wonder how other people do it...most of the internet information I've seen is on the mechanics of sewing, not the order of assembly.

Then I had a brainwave. Who says I have to weave in the ends of the yarn joining the blocks? If I left a long tail, I could sew all the second row of blocks to the first (with one edge attached, they looked like a giant fringe); then I could use those dangling tails to sew the blocks together.

And that's what I did. The main downside is that the cats loved the dangling tails. I actually wound up finishing the second afghan first...oh, yes, I haven't shown you the second afghan yet, have I?
It kind of looks like the lining for an Easter basket. It's all the pastels.
Biscuit w/afghan

It's all sewn together and I'm on the border, so I'll get a better FO shot shortly. Where were we? Ah, dangling tails. Biscuit of course loved them:
Biscuit helps with the afghan

And Cookie couldn't resist joining in the fun, though his primary interest in afghans is sleeping on them (the one underneath him is one my grandmother made me).
Cookie helps with the afghan

So, what, you may be wondering, happened to the first afghan? The trouble with the first afghan is that I wanted to sew the squares such that no two identical squares were adjacent. Which meant laying them out on the floor for Biscuit to roll around on them. But once I'd done that, I needed to keep them in order. I considered pinning (too laborious), just stacking them (Biscuit would have had them spread randomly across the floor again in a trice) and then I finally hit on it. I stacked each row of blocks in the order they'll go on the afghan, ran a length of yarn through them, and put a tag with a row number on it.
afghan rows in waiting

They stay in order, and as long as I use the rows in sequence, I'll get everything in the order I had it laid out on the floor. All is well.

So, the first afghan is only about a third sewn, but at least it's off the floor, and the second one is being bordered. I was trying to figure out how much yarn I've used the other day and realized I should have counted the skeins at the start--it's a lot. I'm already through all the yarn I had in my own stash and two of the three bags my mom gave me. The orange is still in time out--I haven't decided what to do about it yet. Except that if there is an afghan number 3, I think it's going to wait a bit. I expect once these two afghans are done, I'm going to be afghaned out for a while.

The only problem...I'm going to have almost as much pastel yarn left as I had when I decided I had to make an afghan to use it up...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Everything Takes Longer Than You Think It Will

aka:  The Afghan Report.   Sewing together is happening rather slowly, because I've had such persistent help.  
Biscuit helping with the afghan

You think this isn't so bad?  That's only because I didn't get any photos of Biscuit a) rolling around in the squares, b) digging under the squares, c) attacking the yarn threaded through the needle as I sew the squares together or d) sitting on the squares I was trying to sew.    I'll try and get more pictures as there is still rather a lot of afghan to sew together...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Things I Have Discovered Today

1.  You really can stain a large deck in one afternoon if you're willing to smother your inner perfectionist with a pillow and concentrate on completely covering the decking, and not worrying about what else is getting stained.

2.  A 12" stain spreader does not fit easily into a 9" wide paint tray.  You have to dip it one side at a time.

3.  Extra-large paint trays are ridiculously expensive- 10 times what a disposable 9" paint tray costs.

4.  No matter how carefully you swept beforehand, you will still find leaves and acorns on the deck while staining. 

5.  Watching humans stain decks is wonderful cat entertainment.

6.  A highly motivated cat can pry open a sliding screen door so as as to inspect your staining more closely.

7.  When you turn around and spot the more timid of the two (indoor) cats, curiously exploring the deck, catch him, and pitch his fluffy butt unceremoniously back inside, you should also check on the whereabouts of the bolder cat. 

8. When a handsome black and white gentleman cat is having a Big Adventure in the vicinity of deck staining, he will not be spotted until after he has paced over a section of freshly stained deck.

9.  Cleaning deck stain off a cat's paws with alcohol is not fun for either the cat or the human.

10.  When a gentleman cat is thwarted in the pursuit of a Big Adventure, and then subjected to Terrible Indignities (having his paws cleaned with alcohol) he will naturally feel that he deserves a restorative snack in compensation.  And be rather miffed when instead his human departs to continue staining the deck.

11.  No matter how carefully you calculated, you will run out of stain because an extremely weathered deck will soak up more stain than you think it will. 

12.  As much as you may dislike ugly big box stores, having a hardware superstore three blocks from your house is darned useful at times.

13.  As grateful as a person may be to finish staining a deck;  it does not make the prospect of starting the pool closing tomorrow any more appealing...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Don't Know, What Do You Think?

Another busy week at Chez Robin...I've been alternating turning a bushel of apples from my sister's trees into applesauce, crocheting afghan squares, killing maurauding wildlife (these ghastly little worms that I think I inadvertantly brought in with the apples, though no one else seems to have been similarly afflicted), and confusing the cats, not that this is difficult.  In order:

1.  The applesauce is delicious, but I've had to stop making it until I can clear out some more freezer space to store it.  (I know lots of people can applesauce, but I hate the way the flavor changes.  Whereas applesauce that has been frozen tastes exactly the same as fresh to me.)

2.  I have completed 108 afghan squares, which I calculate will make a slightly larger than 45 x 60 afghan and still leave some of the anchor yarn for a border.  I'm currently weaving in ends on those blocks that still need it.  (Since I'm eager to get it sewn together, I'm forcing myself to do the ends first.  I know better than to leave them all for the end.  So to speak.)

3.  Robin 673, Worms 0  (I hope.  I'm almost sure.  *looks furtively around with a crawly sensation on the back of the neck*  Really, I'm postitive.)

4.  As for how I broke Biscuit's fuzzy little brain...well.  When a cat sees a bowl coming out of the kitchen in the morning, extensive prior experience suggests that it will contain cereal.  With milk.  When the bowl comes out full of peach cobbler...well, he was quite non-plussed.  Especially after he declined to believe the evidence of his nose and insisted on tasting it.  (After I was done, I hasten to add- he gets to lick the bowl only after I'm done.)  But I restored his faith in the goodness of the universe this morning with a return to cereal.   But only because the cobbler was gone.

5.  In addition, I am amused by the link Biscuit's Aunt Cheri sent me...a retrospective of bra styles.    I'm just as happy to not be wearing these myself!

6.  I'm checking the weather reports approximately seventeen times a day, since after a whole month with either rain on or immediately before the weekend, I'm getting increasingly anxious about finishing my deck project- it has to be dry so I can stain.   Also, I have to get the staining done so I can close the pool before it fills with oak leaves and acorns.  It's long past time- there's a frost warning tonight.   Think dry thoughts for me.

7.  And last but not least, in between weaving in ends on the pink afghan squares, I tried out some of the other yarn in a slightly larger square for the 'green' afghan.  I have six skeins of the pastel green, which makes it basically the only choice for the anchor color of the second afghan.   And, it's well...take a look. 
new afghan square

What I had vaguely recalled as being a bright yellow turns out to be a practically iridescent glowing orange.   Which would be fine if my anchor color were say, beige.  But with the green....I'm trying to decide whether this is the most hideous color combination ever to desecrate an afghan, or if it's cheery in a manic harlequin-sherbet sort of way.   I could boot the orange and matching variegated yarn out of the afghan I suppose, but I was kind of hoping to use all this yarn up. 

I don't know.  What do you think?

Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Fate

There was no way I could not have been a crafter, not with family enablers like I have.  First, my mom rescues the afghan project (and supplies enough yarn for a second one).  Then I see my sister and out of the blue she presents me with this absolutely delicious merino sock yarn from Deep Water Dye Works, dyed by one of her craft show friends.   I'm so lucky!  (And then they combined to supply boxes of quilting fabric, but that's a story for another post.)
lovely yarn
(Yes, that's Biscuit contributing fluff along the top of the photo.  I got several photos of a blurry cat head before his attention was drawn to something outside and I managed to photograph the yarn.)  

Now the urge to instantly cast on a new lace sock pattern, possibly with beads, has seized my brain.  Fortunately (or not) the week is proving too insanely busy to spend time surfing Ravelry for patterns, so I'm still crocheting afghan squares. (I'm over 70 as of this first stopping point is 108, my second 144.)

Stay tuned for the next gripping episode!  Will she succumb to the lure of the sumptuous sock yarn?  Will she remain faithful to her cheery afghan?  Will Biscuit cover everything with so much fluff you can't see the colors?  (Well, yes, that one's a gimme.)   Not even the knitter knows!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Compulsively Square

I now completely understand why there are so many crocheted afghans in the world.
Hopelessly square

I can't stop.  Okay, I don't really want to stop, because I'm only on square 42 and I need at least 108 to make a small afghan.    But for a while it looked like I was going to have to, because I blew through my whole backlog of light colors (the ones I wanted to use up) in under a week. 

But my mother came to the rescue, agreeing to give up some of her stash to support the cause.  Actually she said, "Hallalujah!  There is a patron saint of pastel yarn!"  because she knits kid mittens for charity and light colored mittens attract dirt approximately 0.1 seconds after being handed over to the child recipient.    And boy did she come through....this is either going to be a large afghan--or else at least two smaller ones.    Take a look:
Biscuit checks out the new yarn

As you can see, it didn't even make it home before it started getting turned into squares.  And Biscuit is very interested.  I have a feeling I'm going to be grateful for my large zippered yarn storage bags, because the yarn wasn't in the house ten minutes before its cat toy potential was being explored.

Biscuit thinks yarn is a cat toy

I barely had taken my eyes off it and Biscuit had started scooping the smaller balls out of the bag and batting them experimentally across the floor.  I had to wrestle them away from him.    I'm so mean that way.

Now I need to excuse myself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Out With the Old, In With the New

So, one more FO to start- over the weekend I finished the socks I started in San Francisco.   Don't tell me you're surprised--of course I brought sock yarn!  I knew, or at least hoped,  I'd finish the sweater on the trip, and I didn't want to be caught knitless!   So here they are:
blue striped socks
Just plain socks, made from a skein of Lana Grossa cotton/wool blend I picked up when my LYS sadly went out of business this summer.

As for the new project--well, it's like this.  When you use a lot of donated yarn, you find yourself trying to pick projects to go with the yarn. Which I kind of enjoy, because sometimes, as now, I wind up going out of my way to learn something new I might not have done if I'd been choosing the project first.    This is how this weekend I found myself finally learning how to crochet an afghan square.    My grandmother did a lot of crochet, but my mom never really got into it, and so I didn't have the handy instruction that I did for knitting.  I've picked up some odds and ends over the years, but am still pretty much a rank beginner.  And yet, for some things, like bags and blankets, where you don't really want a lot of stretchiness, it's a great technique.

I would be quite embarrassed to tell you just how many misshapen wads of yarn I frogged en route, but I persevered until I got this:
afghan squares

Success!  Amusingly, I'm going to need more of the pastel colors that I started this project to use up, as I'm blowing through them at such a rate that I already know I'm going to run out, or as they say, be a few squares short of an afghan.