Thursday, February 24, 2011

I can't help it.

I finished my Umaro blanket this week and it looks awesome! I'm so happy with it. It's been blocked, and everything. Here's a pic:
Isn't it pretty? It's squishy and soft and heavy and warm. The last few nights I was knitting it, it was keeping my legs and toes warm as I worked. It felt really light, not heavy like the acrylic blanket on the back of the sofa. I just can't say enough good things about it. Here's one more photo, while I'm at it:
I ended up using 12.5 balls of the Cascade Lana Grande, so I still have 7.5 balls left. I've been thinking about knitting up some pillows with it, but varying the stitch pattern or maybe overdyeing it if I decide to do Umaro pattern again.

In sock knitting news, I've just cast on for Lotus, which is a gorgeous lacy pattern. Not nearly as hard to do as it looks, I've been able to complete a full chart repeat since Tuesday evening. That's two days, though I don't really pay attention. Sometimes it feels like the socks just knit themselves and this is just one of those times. The Milo socks felt like they'd never end, but roughly three weeks after I started, they were finished. Bill's wearing them tonight, now that I think about it.
I took this picture this afternoon, while the rain had slowed down a little and there was a little light. This is a little more than half of the first chart repeat and I love how they're coming along. The yarn is Kollage Luscious, which is mostly cotton with a little nylon thrown in for strength. I've worked with this yarn before and I was really pleased with the results. It feels lovely in my hands, creates a nice fabric and has beautifully saturated color.

Here's a close-up of the leafy-looking bit:
Well, I think that's all I've got for now. I've knit up a swatch for a potential pullover sweater, now that the blanket is done. It's getting a soak right now, and if I get gauge with this first swatch, I'll be casting on right away. If it works out, I'll be able to write about it next week sometime. We're painting our living room on Monday, so I may or may not have made much progress on my new projects. We'll just have to cross our fingers. Until next time, then.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ghost of Projects Past

So yesterday was another craft day with the girls. I didn't take any pictures, because I was too busy drinking wine and finding more chairs. There were a lot more people over than last time: 9 or ten of us, I think. It was nice to have our house so full! Thanks Whitney, Molly, Kristin, Heather, Cindy, T, Amy, Jan & Suzanne for making it so much fun!

The night before Bill & I were cleaning up the house, getting the place ready for everyone. While he did the kitchen, I did the craft room, as Cindy & Kristin were planning on doing a little sewing. As I was putting away the random ball of yarn & unused knitting needles, I came across some needlepoint projects that were close to finished.
It must've been 2007 when I had a work-related conference in New Orleans. Somehow, I managed to get a single room, so Bill came along. During the days, I went to my workshops & Bill explored the French Quarter (his travelogue is here). At the end of the day, he took me to the most interesting places, one of which was little yarn & needlepoint shop (the Quarter Stitch, which seems not to have a website). For reasons that are now lost to time, I didn't get sucked in by all the knitting yarn. I think it was something to do with all the needlepoint canvases covering the walls. After a lap or two around the shop, I decided to get this canvas, which very simply expressed all there was to say about New Orleans post-Katrina. I don't know if my purchasing this canvas & the yarn to stitch it up with made any difference, buy I hope it helped the shop a little. I remember wishing I had more money to spend while we were there, because the city needed it so. From bellhops to cabdrivers to bartenders, everyone we met expressed their appreciation that we had come and to invite our friends. I want to go back.

I also found a couple of other needlepoint projects, in differing degrees of completion. It seems like ages ago when Bill & I began dating, though it was only 13 years. I'm not sure when we started taking our summer vacations at his family's lake cottage, but one year I found a little needlepoint shop in Traverse City, which has been gone for some time now. They had some cute little canvases of old-school swimwear, two of which I bought.
I'm pretty pleased with this little swimsuit. I like the sparkly thread I used for the suit, the variegated yarn for the background and the novelty stitches I used for the flowers on the suit. I even like the little border around the stitching. It still needs to be blocked and mounted for framing, but I'm definitely happy with it.
It's a different story with this cap. I like the hat itself, and the flowers I did. What I'm unhappy about is the background. I ran out of thread for the background and only just got around to buying some more. Sadly, it's not quite right, so I'll have to pull it out (which will be tedious) and re-stitch it (which won't be so bad). It will also need a border, and I haven't confirmed if I have enough floss in the original colors to complete it. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

So, there it is, a few zombie projects that need some attention. I would like to finish them. Maybe my trip to Atlanta next month will be just about right for some stitching - depends on how tightly we're packed into that van. I'm sure I'll have plenty of time on the road to get a few things done, especially as others are doing the driving. Whee!

Until next time, then.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The deep end of the pool

I really like variegated yarns. They're so beautiful, all twisty in their hanks. They even look good wound into a center-pull ball. Lovely. I keep buying these gorgeous yarns, even though there's a probability that they'll pool. For example, this pretty skein of Classic Elite Alpaca Sox

became this terribly pooled pair of Elfine's Socks:

And these two irresistible skeins of Shibuiknits Staccato

Became this pair of slightly-less-badly-pooled-but-not-as-stripey-as-I-wanted Sunshine socks:

 So, you can imagine my disappointment when, after turning the heel of the Milo socks, I got this on the foot:

It's not terrible, but certainly not as nice as the random bits of color that make the leg of this sock look so attractive. Don't get me wrong, I still love these socks. It's just one of those things. I am very happy at how well they fit the husbeast: just short enough that there's a little bit of stretch and that the heel fits snugly. The leg looks great, and I love the little X's & O's going up the back.

I'm also glad to have finished these socks, as I'm ready to go on to the next ones. I haven't decided on a pattern - I have a few in my Ravelry queue, but Lotus & It's Tea Time are the current favorites.

Progress continues on the Umaro blanket, although I don't have any updated project pics. I've gotten 4 chart repeats completed, with two and a half remaining. I still like the scale of the pattern and I love how the edge stitches are looking - I'm slipping the first stitch of every row. I'll probably have a few balls of the Lana Grande leftover once the project's complete, so I'll be looking for a little project that wants big yarn. What fun! Even though it can be a time-suck sifting through all the pattern pages on Ravelry, it's a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

That's all I've got for now. I have a busy weekend to prepare for, with a bunch of Knit Nookers coming over for craft day. Until next time, then.

Monday, February 14, 2011

So much to love!

So, it's Valentine's Day and I have lots of love in my life: my dear, sweet Husbeast, my Mom, my friends & family all over the place. A cat who loves snuggles & chin skritches. I have a fulfilling career and  hobbies to nurture. I am grateful. I hope for everyone today that they're with someone they love or doing something they love.  My love and I have been married nearly 7 years now, and every day I love him more. Cynic that I am, I'm glad I get to be a cynic with him. Here we are, the night before our wedding. We had a duckpin bowling party, instead of a rehearsal dinner, so that's why the matching shirts. 'Cause we're a team! Yay, team!

My plans for today involve taking the cat to the vet for his annual shots. I meant to do it last week, but, really, when you get right down to it, what's a better way to show your pet you love it than to ensure its vaccinations are up-to-date? (Louie would say tuna in gravy would be a better way to say it, but he doesn't speak English, so he'll just have to suck it up. He's going to be in a sulk for the rest of the day, anyway.)

I also plan to do a little knitting today, in between loads of laundry & grocery shopping. Yesterday, Husbeast & I went to Indianapolis to meet up with a friend of his from high school. On the way, we stopped at the outlet mall in Edinburgh, where I bought some jeans and running pants. Then we went on a trek to check out the local yarn shops. I already knew that Broad Ripple Knits wasn't open on Sundays, but I didn't check the store hours for Knit Stop. We found out when we got there that they don't have Sunday hours. We eventually ended up at Mass Avenue Knits, in the Fountain Square neighborhood, about half an hour before they closed.

It was a really big space, with a lot of yarn all over the place. I couldn't really figure out the organizing principle for the shop, but it seemed that woolly-type yarns were along one side, that there was a little section for baby-type things, another for sock-related things and areas for non-wool things, bags, buttons. There was a longish table where a few people were knitting, strewn with ephemera, completely chaotic. I think if I were a regular at that shop, I might have gotten used to it, but my rigid little brain, which likes organizing & categorizing things, really had difficulty focusing on the yarn. I wanted to straighten & clean the place from top to bottom! I think I saw a lot of Malabrigo, Cascade & Plymouth yarns. There was a lot of everything. I ended up with just one little skein of Classic Elite Alpaca Sox, which will eventually become a well-loved pair of socks for me.

We still had some time to kill before we had to be in Greenwood for dinner, so we went to Broad Ripple to see if there was anything interesting there. It's been more than 15 years since I lived there and while many things about the neighborhood have changed, there wasn't anything I was willing to get out of the car for. Husbeast found a record store to investigate, so he went in while I stayed in the car, knitting away on the Milo socks. With all the driving we did yesterday, I must have completed about 3 inches of it! I got through the gusset shaping and now I just have to get enough length on the foot to fit the Husbeast.

Before dinner, we found a bookstore, where I got Wild Color, a book about natural dyes & dyeing techniques. I have been thinking about trying to dye my own fiber, so this book will be a good start. It appears to be comprehensive and authoritative, so I'm looking forward to it. Maybe a little indigo will end up in our garden this year.

After dinner in Greenwood, we headed for home, arriving well after dark to a hungry, lonely cat. It was nice day. The Husbeast was a great sport for doing all that driving. What a great valentine!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Swaps are fun!

A while back, I posted about a swap package I was sending to Germany. Well, yesterday (or the day before) I received my package from my swapbuddy, Corinnesknits! It was full of all kinds of goodies: two skeins of sock yarn (with a little project bag), a box of magical German tea that smells like caramel (but tastes like tea), a ceramic mug, an artisan soap, a bag of lollipops, a sudoku puzzle book, stitch markers & candy bars. It. Was. Awesome! Here's a picture of all the loot:

And some close-ups of the yarn. First the Regia:

And then the Fortissima:

It's always exciting to see a package waiting for me on the porch when I get home from work. Kinda like Christmas! I love all the goodies that Corinne sent. And what's cool about her is that in addition to being a knitter, she also crochets and has recently had some socks (that she designed!) published in a major magazine. It's impressive.

In my own knitting, I'm continuing on Milo, though I've only competed a couple more rounds. I've also nearly completed another chart repeat on Umaro, which gets better & better as I go along. No pics tonight, but I'm sure I'll have made enough progress by the time the weekend's over to be able to post them.

Looks like that's it for tonight! Until next time, then.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Turning the Corner

Since the last time I posted, I've been able to get the heels turned on the Milo socks I'm knitting for my husband. For some reason it feels like it's taken ages to get to this point, but after looking at my Ravelry project page I've come to realize that I've only been working on these socks for 10 days. So, really, pretty remarkable progress for such detail on the legs.

I've also gotten through the second chart repeat on Umaro. It's not much progress there, mostly because I wasn't knitting on it that much. I can't remember what I did with all my time last week.

Sunday was my LYS' Super Bowl Sunday sale, which brings everyone out in droves. It keeps me away until well after lunchtime, because I really dislike crowds. The shop is small enough already: I'm not interested in having to sharpen my elbows to get to the yarn. I got there around 1pm and was pleasantly surprised to see that the bamboo/silk blend yarn (Great Adirondack Bamboo Silk Sport that I can't find a link to) that I'd been eyeing for a month was 50% off. I bought two skeins, though I haven't decided what those 750 yards of sportweight will become. Maybe Damask, maybe something else. I'll have to keep a lookout for a shawlette pattern that will look good in a variegated yarn.

Of note at the sale: they announced they're going out of business. It breaks my heart. I'm not sure what I'll do with all that time I spent there loitering, coveting and sometimes knitting. I might start going to the gym again. At least I've still got a couple months to build up my stash before I have to start looking for a new way to satisfy my habit. There are two other locally-owned shops in the area, but one is way out in the suburbs and the other is on the other side of the Ohio River. Neither feels like home. Maybe one of them could? I can't even begin to think about it until after my shop closes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Our Basement is Cold.

How cold is it? It's so cold, my husband wears his fleece jacket & hat when he's there. It's so cold, we switched to powdered laundry detergent, because the liquid stuff barely poured. It's so cold, the Wii Fit shivers. Okay, so I made up that last one, but, seriously, it's really freaking cold down there. It might have something to do with the perimeter of the house being uninsulated (it's an old house). Or that the basement windows are drafty as all get out. Whatever. It's cold.

Since it's so cold down there, I decided that we needed a really warm afghan to snuggle under. You see, the basement is where the big TV is, and if I want to be able to read the subtitles when I'm watching The First 48 (don't you judge me), that's where I need to be.

Enter Jared Flood. (And, Jared, if you ever see this, you're totally welcome to come visit. If you happen to be in town, let me know. We have a guest room & a sleeper sofa. And bourbon.) As soon as I saw his Umaro pattern, I knew I had to make it. Nevermind that it calls for size 15 needles or 13 skeins of super bulky yarn. This blankie had to be mine. Thanks to my friends at The Knit Nook, I was able to special-order the yarn and I cast on a few days ago.

Since Monday, those three balls of yarn have become this:

This pattern is beautifully written and charted. I was able to get into a groove very quickly, and it seems like the stitches just about make themselves. Even after just this little bit, it's keeping my lap nice & cozy as I progress. The yarn, Cascade Lana Grande, is soft & squishy - and apparently irresistable to cats. Here's my cat, Louie, diving into my knitting bag:

I don't what it is about this yarn, but I think he is compelled to rub his face all over it. So enthusiastically that there was actual cat drool on it. I even began to worry that he would somehow felt the blanket and the yarn in the ball. It's nuts. In the past his taste has been for alpaca & cashmere. I'm pretty surprised at how ape-y he went for the 100% Peruvian Highland Wool. I don't think I'll ever understand the feline mind.

Aside from the new blankie, I've made modest progress on the Milo socks. No pictures, since it's only about an inch since the last photo I published. I'm also about to start some charity knitting, for Save The Children's Caps for Good program. It looks like they're looking for 12" diameter caps for newborn health programs in Africa, Asia & South America. The deadline is February 28, so there isn't much time. I'll knit up as many as I can and send them off. I couldn't find out whether that deadline is for shipping or arrival, but I'll do my best to get them there in time. I have lots of superwash merino that would love to warm the head of a newborn!

Well, I guess that's all for now. Stay warm, y'all.