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!