Saturday, July 16, 2016

It's In the Bag

I'm pretty sure I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I had subscribed to Jimmy Beans Wool's Big Beanie Bag.  It's a once per month bag of goodies that includes a pattern along with yarn to make it, and some nice little notions like Heel foot cream, Clover darning needles, Lo Lo Cuticle Intensive and others.  It's like a happy little surprise that shows up once a month at my door and it currently serves two purposes - 1) I tend to forget to include accessories in my regular knitting which is the main staple of the bags, and 2) it keeps me from binge spending (so far) on massive amounts of yarn to feed the stash (The Husband should rejoice - I'm trying to knit my stash down).  I've gotten two of them to date and have finished projects to show from both.  You can choose warm colors, cool colors, or neutral colors.  I chose neutral.

The first bag, which is the one I previously posted a picture of, included four shades of Rowan SoftYak DK and a pattern for wrist warmers.  



I modified the pattern a bit because it called for the thumb increases right after the beginning of the round and I thought it would be best to offset them so that I could hide the round on the underside of the warmers.  I used the little trick to hide the offset stitch for the color change that I found online, but a knitter can still tell where the rounds begin.  Plus, seeing as how I hate weaving in ends, I managed to carry the yarns up the "seam" of the warmers by alternating which color I "caught" at the beginning of every two rounds or so.  Yay me!  I'm pretty happy with how they turned out and the yarn is an absolute dream.  Soft and beautiful.  I need something else out of this stuff.  Um...that is, after I've knitted down my stash a bit.  

The second bag contained another four colors of different yarns* and a pattern for a cowl.  The pattern seemed to have issues from the posts I read on the Big Beanie Bag discussion group on Ravelry and I really wasn't very keen on it anyway, so I searched through my Barbara Walker Treasury of Knitting Patterns and found a four-color pattern that I liked that fit with the original pattern's 95 stitch cast on.  I'm pretty keen on the result:


Four-Color Fancy Pattern, page 59


The only thing I'd do differently is that I'd increase the cast on by a few stitches.  It's a snug fit over the head (although I do have a rather large beaner).  But it does fit and if and when the weather gets cool here in South Mississippi I'll be wearing it proudly.

Never mind that it was 90+ degrees when I put this on.
And whose old lady chin is that??

Speaking of South Mississippi weather, while I love that I never have to shovel snow or drive on ice-covered roads down here, there are moments when I really want to move back to the north in order to take advantage of the cold weather and knit all things wooly.  Is that weird, do you think?

Lisa
xoxo


PS - Will post pictures of my granddaughter in the dress I knit from my last post soon!

*Yarns used were:  Juniper Moon Farm Moonshine, HiKoo Kenzie, Berroco Maya, and Plymouth Mushishi.  Liked them all.

Monday, July 4, 2016

How to Knit a Birthday Gift with Finesse and Style - In 45 Easy Steps

In celebration of my granddaughter’s first birthday, I decided to share with you today the highly technical and skilled steps required to make the birthday goodies I sent up for her party:

  1. Cast on for dress pattern, then realize the cute picot edging was done by seaming. 
  2. In a fit of rebellion, rip out the cast on and choose a provisional cast on for the picot edging instead. 
  3. Feel really smart about getting out of seaming the hems.
  4. Blast through knitting all pieces of the dress - back, front, two sleeves.
  5. Block pieces.
  6. Realize pattern does not include any real information on how to create the smocking effect on the bodice.
  7. Google “smocking hand knits” and find only one semi-useful article
  8. Attempt smocking, then realize that something is terribly wrong because your bodice doesn’t look anything like the pictures on the pattern page.
  9. Read over notes from other Ravelry users who made this pattern.
  10. Feel like an idiot as it slowly dawns on you that there is an error in the pattern which would have been very clear and avoided if you’d glanced over these project pages before beginning.
  11. Curse yourself and the pattern writer until you realize the pattern was free.  Then curse just yourself.
  12. Make yourself feel better by casting on and finishing a hat.
  13. Rip back entire bodice and reknit correctly.
  14. Re-block front.
  15. Stare blankly at above mentioned article, then at dress bodice, then back at article. 
  16. Try and pinpoint the moment when you lost the ability to understand English and make sense out of a perfectly logical diagram.
  17. Appeal to your knitting friends on Facebook, revealing to them your newfound inability to see the obvious.
  18. Be thankful they don’t judge.
  19. Make a trip to your LYS for moral support.
  20. Do a happy dance when the lightbulb finally kicks on.
  21. Finish smocking and steam block bodice.
  22. Remember that you hate seaming, especially sleeves.  Procrastinate using the excuse, “I have to make sure it is really dry before I try to seam it.” 
  23. Feel a little bad for lying to yourself, noting the birthday party date is rapidly approaching.
  24. Calculate time to ship using 2 to 3 day Priority Mail.  Lie to yourself again about when you’ll be finished and ready to ship.
  25. Seam dress and knit on neckline - garter stitch rounds - piece of cake (no pun intended).
  26. Realize you cast off too tightly on neckline. 
  27. Lie to yourself again by planning to pull out just the cast off and reknit using a stretchier method.
  28. Admit to self halfway through using the stretchier method, you don’t have enough yarn because you’ve already cut it.
  29. Decide to pull back entire neckline and reknit.  Need to be careful because some stitches were picked up and some were live stitches, but again…garter stitch rounds - piece of cake.
  30. Get back to last row of picked up and live stitches and DROP a live stitch on the bodice.
  31. In less than 30 seconds:
    - allow dropped stitch to ripple down three rows
    - realize what happened
    - spend a moment in disbelief
    - grasp for a stitch holder as your eyes well up
    - gasp for air as if someone punched you in the gut
    - hate yourself
  32. Throw a huge fit that the neighbors can probably hear while your husband wonders why you enjoy knitting and says something completely inappropriate which makes things worse.
  33. Throw a flip flop at your husband.
  34. After five minutes of your hissy, sink down into the sofa as a sobbing mess.
  35. Be grateful your husband didn’t call the men in white coats.
  36. Sit down with the now ruined dress, sure that you cannot fix it.
  37. Fix the dress.
  38. Cast off appropriately.
  39. Steam block one last time.
  40. Take some aspirin.
  41. Go to bed and wonder when exactly you lost your mind and if it’s hereditary.  Worry about passing it on to your granddaughter.
  42. Package up dress and hat and realize you’ll have to overnight it.
  43. Drop package at post office after work, paying just slightly less for shipping than all of the materials combined cost you.
  44. Go home and lie down.
  45. Wonder what you’ll knit next. 

Pictures to come.

Lisa
xoxo


Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Sweater - Just in Time for Summer...

The Husband’s sweater is complete! 

I think he likes it.  He may, however, have had a mild heart attack when he figured out how much the yarn for it cost.  I was working through our financials yesterday when he saw it listed in our expenses.  I should have told him that the labor was a lot more expensive than the yarn. :o)


By the way, that picture on the wall behind him is a photo TH actually took himself at New Orleans' Audubon Zoo when we were there last year.  He got several really good shots that day, but this was a particular favorite so we had it printed on canvas and hung it.  

I found a great shortcut for blocking this thing.  Just so happened that our weather was fabulous over the weekend after I’d finished it and while it normally takes days, sometimes a week, for wet woolens to dry in the house, the Mississippi sun does the job in a fraction of the time.  


Of course, then it took better than a week to get TH to try it on and pose for pictures.  Whatever…

I also finished a baby blanket for a friend who’s expecting, but will keep that under wraps until it’s gifted, and I started a sweet little bit of something for my granddaughter who will be a year old next month.  Time flies.

This past week, I was thrilled to receive my first Jimmy Beans Wool Big Beanie Bag (not a paid endorsement).  I signed up for the neutral palette last month.  


Every knitter loves getting yarn in the mail and this is an affordable way to try out some yarns, make some cool accessories, and feed my yarn craving enough to keep me from buying huge piles of yarn when someone has a sale (a particular weakness of mine).  You get a pattern, yarn to make it, and some other goodies.  

Lisa
xoxo


PS - The cauliflower pizza crust I mentioned last time?  Yeah…not remotely close to the real thing.  O.o  I’ve decided when I need a pizza fix, I’ll eat celery all day until pizza time.  Real pizza is totally worth it.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Various Stages of Incomplete

That’s where my knitting is right now.  Most of it is because I’ve had less time to knit (and less time to blog) due to my commitment to eating healthy and working out that I mentioned in my last couple of posts.  You remember those.  From a couple of MONTHS ago?  Uh…yeah.  Working out takes more time than you'd think.  Somehow my recommended 30 minutes takes me nearly an hour.  After working all day and then coming home to cook and clean up before I even begin to exercise, the night is over before I know it.  

The good news is, I’ve actually lost 8 pounds and am only 2 away from my target weight!  Woot!  I’m fitting back into clothing that I never thought I’d wear again and I’m actually not starving (most days).  Having given up a lot of foods that were not good for me, I’ve come to realize which food I wish had zero calories and was so healthy for me that I could eat it every day.  Can you guess?  Chocolate?  No.  Ice cream?  Nope.  Fried chicken?  Close, but not that either.  The one food I miss the most --> PIZZA.  Not even kidding.  I didn’t even eat pizza that much before, but now that I’m counting calories and carbs, I want it almost more than I want to feed my yarn stash.  So, armed with a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust, I hope to satisfy my craving in a way I don’t have to feel guilty about.  We shall see.

What?  Knitting?  Oh yes, that’s what this blog is about.  Or should I say, it’s about my lack thereof.  

The Husband’s sweater now has one sleeve.  After I quit procrastinating, it was just a matter of figuring out what type of sleeve would look best.  If you remember, I seamed the front and back and decided to knit the sleeves on from the top down because I HATE sewing in sleeves (mostly because I’m terrible at it).  The pattern called for a straight knit set-in sleeve with no sleeve cap shaping.  I thought that might look a little weird, so I decided to start one sleeve using short-row shaping for a sleeve cap to see how it looked.  I found how-to instructions here, and went to work using exactly that method, but I had weirdness around the armhole where I did the short rows.  There were just gaps.  Witness:

It looks...weird. So does the color in this picture.

Thought I must be doing something wrong, as they were worse on one side, so I tinked back and tightened up that side.  No matter - still gaps.    Then I decided I would take a step back from the short row sleeve and start the other sleeve by just picking up stitches and knitting with regular decreases (the in-the-round version of what the pattern called for).  Once I got down to about elbow length on that sleeve, I had TH try it on to see if it was bulky under the arm.  He said it wasn’t and it looked good on him, so I finished the sleeve last night.


"No!  It wasn't me!  It was the one-armed man!"

Totally tubular, man




I used a tubular cast off for the first time.  Hadn’t thought about that when I decided to knit the sleeves top down, but my handy little “Cast On, Bind Off” book got me through it.  So I pulled out the short rows on the other sleeve and started one to match the other.  After that’s done, just the neckline to do and finally something finished.





I still haven’t done any seaming on my little jumper (tunic) that I had to knit twice.  If I’m faced with limited time and a choice between seaming or knitting, I’ll go for knitting every time while my pieces sit in a neat little pile on my dining room table.  

Anything that needs that many stitch markers is evil...
Another unfinished project that is starting to complain really loudly is the Midsummer Aran pattern that I’ve been ignoring for at least a year.  In fact, I had to look back at Ravelry page to see when I actually started this beast.  It was TWO flipping years ago.  Sad thing is, the only part that still needs to be done is the yoke and neckline.  But here’s the thing:  that’s exactly where all of the different lace charts converge to make one big pile of “I can’t figure out which stinking chart I’m supposed to be on”.  Word.  But the beast is getting whiney enough on a shelf in my craft room that I can’t ignore it much longer  Besides, I really would like to wear it someday.  Once I muster the courage to begin again, I’ll just have to figure out where in the heck I left off.

Oh, I forgot, I did manage to finished my made up mosaic pattern socks.  Behold:


The only things I didn’t execute very well on these were the sides where I went from one needle to the other (used magic loop method).  The tension was too tight and you can tell the socks have less stretch on each side and a kind-of “line” where there shouldn’t be one.  This is also the first sock I’ve knit using an afterthought heel.  I’ll be honest, I don’t care for it, but I understand the need for the technique so, there you go.

I'm out.

Lisa
xoxo


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sleeveless in South Mississippi

It's not that I don't want to finish The Husband's sweater.  Really, it isn't.  I have the front and back done.  All I have left to do are the sleeves.  Easy peasy.  But here's the thing:  I really hate sewing in sleeves.  Really, really hate it.  So I got the idea that I would seam up the front and back of the sweater and then pick up and knit the sleeves in the round, top down.  I've been assured by a trusted advisor from my knitting group that this is indeed possible.  And yet...no sleeves.

Something's missing here

The Husband is trying to be patient.  After all, this is South Mississippi and spring is in full gear which means daytime highs of around 80 degrees.  There's no way he'll wear this thing before next winter and he knows it.  But still, the yarn is beautiful, the pattern is nice...his anticipation is understandable.   I can't say I'm afraid, exactly.  I just want to make sure I get them right.  The difficulty comes in with short rows.  I'm getting better at them.  But I've never done shorts rows for a sleeve before and I'm a little unsure of myself.  And I might be lazy.  

Speaking of spring, things are greening up around here, largely due to the rain we've had.  This past weekend was very rainy.  

They're aliiiiiiive!
The two pots you see at the bottom right are two of my Japanese maples trees we planted last year in the yard that I thought we'd lost.  With our yard made up of 99.9% hard clay and with us being novice tree-planters and all, we thought we'd killed them last summer.  I decided to dig them up and plant the pathetic little sticks in some potting soil in pots and hope for a resurrection.  To make a long story short, both little saplings are budding now even though we were sure they were dead.  My willow tree has leafed out as well and I'm hoping the Eastern Redbud comes back too (but I'm not holding my breath on that one).


Indoors, one of my orchids is blooming again:


I've also decided to try a little horticultural experiment.  This past weekend I put up some avocado in the freezer (for how to do this neat little trick, click here - it actually works), and I wondered if I could grow an avocado tree from the seed of an avocado you purchase in the grocery.  Turns out, according to Google it is possible, and so I set up four seeds to see if I could at least get one or more started.  

Number 4 is by a different window

I know, strange, right?  I find myself amazed by the miracle of growing anything from a seed - although my previous experiments have not been all that successful - and so I figured, what have I got to lose?  I'm sure you'll be on pins and needles too (or not), so I'll keep you updated.

In other knitting news, I've just completed my Trapeze Tunic for the second time and just need to seam it.  If it doesn't fit well this time, I'm going to take it out to the street and run over the thing a few times with my car.  It will fix nothing, but I may feel better for a moment or two.  

I'm still on track with the healthy eating and daily exercise routine.  I managed to lose a couple of pounds, so that has been motivation to keep going.  I can honestly say I feel better.  Unfortunately, the workout time has cut into my "sitting in front of the TV and knitting" time each evening.  If only knitting burned more calories than aerobics.  I'd be golden...


Casting off, (cute, right?)

Lisa

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Certain Level of Maturity

It pains me to admit it, but I seem to be dealing with the real effects of...ahem...maturing. There have been several clues in my everyday living that are pointing in this direction, not the least of which was when last week, after looking back over my last few blog posts, I realized I had titled two blog posts exactly the same.  Within two months' time.  Um...yeah.  




There have been other signs as well, but most have been subtle enough that I just pretend they don't exist. Like the fact that I've progressed from forgetting why I walked into a particular room to forgetting why I just got up from my seat.  My train of thought derails that quickly.  I'm sure it's because The Husband distracted me with something ridiculous, you know, like breathing.  






And there's the "Grandma Naming Syndrome".  I call it that because my maternal grandmother manifested this from time to time, scrolling through several family names as she called for me before she landed on my actual name:  "Hey Linda...um, Lori...er...LISA!"  I am officially a grandma now, so I suppose it was inevitable.  But since I only have one grand baby so far and she lives in another part of the country, my syndrome affects the 5 dachshunds in the house that I keep in an almost perpetual state of confusion, as they are all aging too.


The absolute worst part of this process, however, has been the putting on of weight around my middle.  Aside from the obvious problem this creates - no longer fitting into my existing clothing - this has put a serious kabosh on certain quantities of yarn I purchased prior to the weight gain.  I no longer have enough for that sweater I was going to make (eventually) out of that yummy merino or that lovely summer top out of the gorgeous cotton-linen blend that I found at the bottom of a sale bin and will never find any more of again EVER.  I suppose it serves me right for procrastinating on those projects.  Then again, if I'd knit them then, they wouldn't fit now anyway.  

"I will always buy extra yarn. I will not try to tempt fate."
- Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much

And so, after over 6 months of ignoring the weight and waiting for it to drop off on its own proved futile, I decided to do something productive.  I have begun a new exercise regimen and have started tracking what I eat and choosing healthy foods, watching my portions, and cutting down on snacking.  I've been at it a week and I've lost a whopping ZERO pounds (not that I'm impatient or anything). Every muscle in my body is sore and I now hate my virtual workout instructor and tell her so on a regular basis.  But...MERINO.

Some things are worth the pain...

Lisa
xoxo

Sunday, February 14, 2016

In Which I May Not Have Been Paying Attention


Sometimes you just need to knit something simple.  No fancy lace patterns, no counting knits and purls in a crazy texture - just mindless row after row of stockinette with a little ribbing thrown in to keep you from going to sleep.  That was the idea behind my choice to knit the Trapeze Tunic/Dress.  It was a free pattern from Tahki Stacy Charles and I wanted something to wear with my first ever pair of leggings.  The actual choice to purchase a pair of leggings was edgy enough at my age*, so the companion piece needed to be something easy and quick.  And it was.  Maybe too easy because it seems that there were possibly a few moments when I wasn't paying attention.


I could fit four arms in there
Like not noticing how incredibly deep the armholes had gotten.  And maybe that they were made even deeper when I blocked the thing (I SWEAR I measured).  Or that the number of rows of ribbing below the armholes on the back piece didn't match the number of rows of ribbing under the armholes I'd knit on the front.  The ribbing was already weird because apparently in order to spice up the relative ease of the construction of the dress, the pattern writer inserted random stitch counts for the size I was making that actual planning and logic played no part in.  So rather than steady k2, p2 ribbing, I found myself forced into p2, k2 with a random p3 slipped in on either side which I decided in a fit of complete denial that neither I nor anyone else would notice at all.  This proved untrue.

The good news is, I DID eventually notice all of these imperfections and, once they came to light (read: once I realized I was not going to be able to pretend they weren't there), I commenced to reworking the problem areas, starting with UN-SEAMING THE ENTIRE DRESS.  That's right friends, my denial had remained strong clear through actually putting the project together.  It wasn't until I was wearing this mess for which I have no good excuse in front of a mirror that I got the first painfully clear picture that things did not work out as I had planned.  

Trapeze Tunic - Deconstructed

I plan to pay more attention to v2.0.  Yarn used and a few notes are on my Ravelry project page.

On a happier note, it is Valentine's Day and while I think the holiday is a tad overrated, I always welcome the chocolate The Husband gets for me each year.  In return, I cooked him breakfast (which is rare) and have supper in the crock pot for this evening.  The REAL proof of my love is still in the works.  Behold, it's even in a lovely shade of red:

Chocolate and yarn - Yay!

This is definitely real proof of my affection because after the last sweater I made for TH - the one HE picked out that was done completely in moss stitch in a sport weight yarn (which, incidentally, grew with use) - I wasn't sure that either my love for him or for knitting could convince me to attempt another one.  Love for both won out.

Tubular and gnarly, man...


I made a significant yarn investment for him, choosing Madelinetosh Pasmina Worsted.  Okay, it wasn't just for him - I mentioned before this stuff is dreamy.  I gave him a few pattern choices (none of them in a weight lighter than worsted, thank you) and he chose Jon's Sweater by Sarah Wilson.  I am going all out for this project, even using a lovely tubular cast on for the bottom ribbing and sleeves which looks so much nicer than a regular cast on.  




True love


The back is complete and I was halfway through the front piece when I decided I need to make more of an adjustment for my dear hubby's manly girth (read: his over-40 gut).  I haven't quite decided how to adjust the mid-section.  I'm considering either short rows in the front, or simply knitting the next size in the pattern for the front, keeping the row count the same as the back.  Do you have any advice?  Anyone?



Happy Valentine's Day!
Lisa

*The Husband keeps telling me I'm not old.  He may be right, but I am not a young woman either.  I'm old enough to have realized that while young women choose leggings because they look adorable in them, women my age choose leggings hoping they'll look adorable, but we really just care that they're comfortable.  I mean, have you tried these things?  Super stretchy + One Size Fits All = they're brilliant!  I may never wear anything else.  Now, I'm off to eat some chocolate...