Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Xmas might happen after all

I'm actually remarkably calm.

My parents gifts are done (just need to be wrapped and mailed).  The gift for my brother and his wife should arrive tomorrow, ready for wrapping.  Mailing will be tomorrow or Friday (since they are relatively nearby, arrival before Xmas is probable).

I have eight houseguests staying with us beginning Sunday for eight days.  I bought stockings for all at Target, labelled them, have been busy wrapping for all the stockings (guests plus our family of five), and have a nice present ready for wrapping for each guest (one hat needs binding off and a pompom, but otherwise I'm done).  I promise to post a photo of the entire pile of gifts before wrapping.

House is relatively clean, and food and supplies are here (or ordered) for the guests plus Xmas dinner for 36.

I have presents for my husband, both sons, and brother-in-law ready for wrapping.  None are handknit.


I haven't started my daughter's gift, my sister-in-law's gift, or birthday gifts for my niece and nephew (both born January 11, but a year apart).  I may need to repurpose a not-quite-perfect knitted accessory or two from my just-in-case gift stash.

Oops, I just remembered that I forget about oldest kids' significant others.  More presents, less time.

Youngest son has an out of town soccer game on Friday, right after finals are done.  Then he needs to finish college applications before the relatives arrive, which means I get to supervise (and get less other work done).  His room will be given to guests, so despite cleaning the house thoroughly yesterday, I have more cleaning work ahead.

My husband and I shared a bottle of Argentinian Malbec at dinner tonight.  Finishing the bottle off just seemed to make sense.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Knitting ALREADY???!!!

For years I have stocked a small shelf in my linen closet with "just in case" gifts: scarves, cowls, hats, mitts, some unisex, some clearly for women.  This has come in handy at times, like the year my brother showed up at noon on Christmas Day with his MIL in tow (he had forgotten to mention he was bringing her).  Items purchased or made with specific recipients in mind also go here.

I just peeked in the closet.  There are more items than I  feared, but less than I hoped.

This year we are cutting back on Xmas, sort of.  We are hosting a big family reunion gathering (at least 35 for dinner on the 25th) and have announced no (white elephant) gift exchange at the party this year, because it will be too crazy.  Our house will be bulging at the seams with 8 (!) house guests for Xmas week, and we will be toning down our normal gift-a-palooza for the immediate family so our guests don't feel overwhelmed.


I promised hubby that all of our house guests would awaken to stuffed stockings.  He promised to exchange gifts with his sister and her family as we usually do (I found out after the fact).  They appreciate hand knit gifts and have come to expect them.  I also promised Joe I'd get each guest a present for under the tree (they range in age from 4-78; none of them are on our usual gift exchange list).

Oh, and did I mention that I am gift purchaser/maker-in-chief?

At least I'm almost done with gifts for my side of the family.

Mom is getting this cowl:

She and Dad will also get a few non-knit gifts (one remains to be purchased, but I have it picked out).  I also know what to get for my brother and his wife (bought, not knit; they don't seem to appreciate the effort much).  I still need to knit a scarf for my fashionista nephew, but at least I have the yarn and a pattern in hand.

For the first time in years, I knit myself a party sweater before Thanksgiving.  I have the Ravelry forum for NaKniSweMo to thank for keeping me on task (and, in case you participate in it as well, the sweater does exceed the 50K minimum stitch count).  Here is a selfie in the bathroom mirror, unblocked, right off the needles:
Merle by Norah Gaughan
Although you can't tell from the photo, the yarn is shimmery (a clear nylon tube filled with colored wool fiber).  The sweater is lightweight, warm, and just dressy enough.  I am happy with this gift to myself.

Joe has joked that he is so busy that in addition to making Xmas happen for our family and guests, if I want to find any presnts with my name on them under the tree, I need to do the shopping.

Hmmm.  Some of those Black Friday yarn sales look awfully appealing….

PS:  I realize I have not posted in many months.  I have, however, knit quite a bit.  Updates next time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Many Ways That Stash Multiplies

I have been thinking lately about the many different ways that my stash grows.  Let me enumerate:

It appears unrequested at my home.

This is the least common, by far.  Every once in a while, I get a gift of yarn (not very often, despite many hints dropped).  I have received sock yarn a few times and once I received 2 skeins each of 3 different chunky yarns (those became a shawl).  Joe, if you're reading, Valentines Day is this week, and sock yarn is always appreciated.

On three separate occasions, I have been the recipient of the remaining stash of someone's recently deceased mother.  The logic seems to be "she loved to knit, you love to knit, you will love her yarn as much as she did".  Usually this stash is heavy into Red Heart and the like, but I often get a few gems as well.  My mother-in-law's last knitting basket became mine this fall.  Along with the Red Heart (most of this has already become scarves for charity), there was a softball-sized ball of black eyelash (perhaps one of my friends will enjoy using it for their charity knitting), a few yards of super-bulky pink chenille (will be repurposed as ribbon for wrapping presents), a cone of baby blue lace-weight merino (I see a wedding ring shawl or two in my future), and half a cone of ivory single ply lace-weight silk.
What remains of Ming's stash
It comes as a gift with purchase.

These have been more frequent lately, especially since British knitting magazines are available at Barnes & Noble.  In addition to the Amy Butler kit I received with my Rowan magazine subscription last month, sometimes the magazines I buy at the store include yarn.  The latest was 6 25g balls of fingering weight yarn along with an issue of Knit Now.  There were several patterns utilizing this yarn in the magazine; I plan to make a baby sweater that uses up all of the yarn.
Knit Now kit (included yarn, pattern booklet, & needles)
It arrives every two months as part of a subscription.

I have just started my 4th year of the Rockin' Sock Club.  This means 6 times a year I get a shipment of yarn sufficient to make a pair of socks (plus a few patterns, at least one of which is for socks).  Many of these get knit up within a reasonable period.
Rockin' Sock shipment in late January
I have subscribed to two more clubs this year.  I just received my first shipment from Cookie A's club (it comes with 2 cookie recipes in addition to sock yarn and 2 patterns).  Today I signed up for Laura Nelkin's Beaded Jewelry Club (offered through Patternworks).  The first item is a necklace kit, which should arrive in 1-2 weeks.
Cookie A shipment (yarn is from indigo dragonfly)
I purchase yarn for a specific project.

This is how the Comfort Sock for the border of my Barn Raising Quilt arrived in my stash last month.

This is also how some more yarn will arrive in the next few weeks.  I have fallen in love with several sweaters, and somehow just happened to buy the yarn on line.  They are the Thistle Cardigan (from Martin Storey's Scottish Knits), Chloe's Vest (from the Spring '13 Interweave Knits), a cardigan in Bliss Cashmerino Aran from the February '13 Simply Knitting (design by Amanda Jones), and the Great Oak Socks (from the January '13 issue of Yarnwise; this yarn (Smooshy) was in part to round up my Webs order to the next discount level).

I succumb to yarn fumes.

This is how most yarn gets in the door.  Stitches West is always dangerous to my credit card balance due to the overwhelming number of yarns available to fondle.  I always end up with a big Webs purchase, in large part due to the excellent sales support from Andra, the Berroco sales rep.  Local yarn stores also get me that way -- I came home unexpectedly with 100g of Shibui Staccato last week, with no specific project in mind (I'm leaning toward a pair of cabled gloves).
Shibui Staccato
This is why trying to reduce stash is a losing proposition:  it's like trying to plug 12 holes in a dike with only 10 fingers!


I have finished my Spiral Blanket.  Joe spotted it while it was blocking on top of Kerry's bed.  I think he likes it, because he kept asking who it was for (I had planned to give it to him for Valentines Day).  I  discovered last night that if you fold it half, it makes a warm and attractive shawl, so I may be borrowing it from him.
Spiral Blanket before blocking
My next project is jointly for the Use It or Lose it challenge and for the 2 KnitLit Chicks Kardigan challenge.  This is the Thistle Coat (on the cover of A Season's Tale) knit from Rowanspun Aran (not to be confused with the aforementioned Thistle Cardigan, which is knit in Rowan Fine Tweed).  I found it completely kitted up (including buttons and extra yarn) in a drawer with another, less ambitious sweater project that I had considered for these challenges.
Thistle Coat (on the left)

Thistle Coat sleeves in progress
Having that project in my knitting bag has freed up some room for my latest purchases...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

If you Give a Mouse a Cookie (TM) or How I Find Myself Down Another Knitting Track

When the kids were small, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was one of the favorite books in the house.  If you don't remember or know the story, it shows how doing the next logical, make-everything-a-bit-more-perfect step can quickly get you to some sort of unexpected extreme.

This happens not infrequently with my knitting, which may partially explain why so many of my knitting projects have stalled out.

This past week, I was working away on my first project for Use It or Lose It challenge period #2, a Boneyard Shawl from some Brooks Farm merino/silk blend that had been in my stash for over 3 years. I have 810 yards of this, not quite enough for a long sleeved sweater unless I add in another yarn, and since I already have vests in similar colors (blues and black), I decided a shawl was in order.  This is what it looked like about 40 yards in:
Boneyard Shawl in BF Four Play
I was in my living room knitting away when I glanced at the stacks of knitted squares I store on the lower shelf of a coffee table.  They are all knitted from leftover fingering weight yarn (socks mostly), and it occurred to me that I might have almost enough to make a throw.
Squares on the coffee table shelf
I had 40 completed squares, so I promptly dropped everything and knit 4 more.  This is how 42 of them look together.
42 sock yarn squares
I am now thinking that 49 or 64 squares will be a great finished size.  I've even bought a few balls of Comfort Sock in gray for my assembly/edging yarn (see the two balls in the stacks photo).  These are my second stash addition for 2013.

As I was knitting my squares, I flipped through the rest of the Knitalong book where the pattern for the above squares (Barn Raising Quilt) came from.  The Spiral Blanket caught my eye.  It would use much more of my Brooks Farm yarn than the Boneyard Shawl would (unless I made the shawl HUGE), and besides, I already have a shawlette in similar colors (something that slipped my mind when I cast on the shawl).

Last night I cast on the blanket, and about 100 yards in, this is what it looks like:
Spiral blanket WIP
I think I will stick with the spiral blanket, at least for my Super Bowl knitting.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wading Through my WIPs, or a Moment of Public Honesty

By any sort of rational measure, I have an excessive number of WIPs and UFOs.  I know for a fact that it exceeds the size of the entire stash of some of my knitting friends, many of whom have been knitting even longer than I have.

Don't believe me?

I looked at my Ravelry page AND at my Excel spreadsheet (which I began in January 2010 to catalog my entire stash; it also helps me narrow down the location of projects/yarns to a particular cupboard or drawer).  On January 1, 2013, I had a reported 74 or 75 WIPs and UFOs.  Two of those were not really WIPs (a snoozer project on my Ravelry page that has yet to be cast on, or even have the beads strung for it, and a failure from a few years back that has been frogged and is awaiting repurposing), making the total 72 or 73 valid WIPs and UFOs.

I have whittled down the list a bit this month.  In the first week, I finished off a hat and a pair of socks begun in December.  Yesterday, I finished a scarf begun in October from yarn I had purchased in 2011 (see photo below).  I also knit a beaded bracelet (my "or" project because the beads were strung, but I did not cast on until 1/13/13) from a ball of Blue Moon yarn destined to eventually be socks.
Bobcat Farms Lace Scarf

That brings me down to 69 WIPs and UFOs.  Here's the breakdown:

1 felted purse (only need to sew in the zipper)
1 pair of flip-top mittens
3 pair of socks
4 blankets
11 scarves and shawls
51 sweaters and tops

Of the sweaters, only 5 are child-sized (in most cases, the intended recipient grew faster than I expected).

I know myself well enough to know that if I pledge to knit only from my WIP/UFO list, I will break that pledge in no time.

As I mulled over what to do, I scrolled through the 2KnitLit Chicks Kardigan KAL forum, looking at various ideas for a cardie that I should start in a week that might take me most of the three months allowed for completion.  In addition to adding to my favorites list, I noticed that several Ravelers referred to the 2013 Use It or Lose It Challenge sponsored by the Stash and Burn group.  For this challenge, participants finish 13 projects from stash purchased prior to December 2012, roughly one every 4 weeks.  Since this challenge is primarily intended to move untouched, well-aged yarns from stash to finished project, finishing off well-aged WIPs is limited to three at most of the thirteen project goal.

I have a lot of stash (no, not everything is in WIP form) falling into the untouched category, so I decided to join in.  As of today, I've finished 3 projects started in 2013 from stash purchased before December 2012.  As a spur to continued stash reduction, I've decided to avoid front-end loading my count, so only 1 of those 3 counted toward the goal for period 1.

I figure I can do a similar challenge of finishing 13 WIPs/UFOs that were started before January 1 of this year.  The added goal is to make this a net reduction in WIPs/UFOs, meaning that my total count on January 1 of next year needs to be 59 or fewer.

At this point, these goals seem challenging, yet doable.

I also need to make sure I don't buy quite as much yarn in 2013.  This may be difficult, since I signed up for 2 sock yarn clubs (Blue Moon Rockin' Socks and Cookie A's Sock Club) plus I bought a subscription to Rowan Magazine, so I'm already lined up for stash aquisition.

Note that the goal is "not quite as much yarn purchased", not "no net adds to stash".  I know I have some limitations.

The subscriber-exclusive kit from Rowan arrived in the mail this past week, making it my first stash acquisition of the year.  It consists of a pattern for the Cosby Slouch Hat (not in Ravelry) and three balls of a discontinued color of Amy Butler Belle Organic Aran (saddle brown).  I like the yarn and the pattern, but not together, so I think this will be repurposed (yarn for a scarf or cowl, pattern for another yarn).
Rowan kit for subscribers

Maybe I can finish before any sock club yarn arrives.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sometimes the Knitting Works out Just the Way I Planned

Last post, I showed the beginnings of my Rayures cowl.  Today, I am pleased to report, the cowl is complete, and the things I did to make sure the FO met my standards all worked well!

First, I used my current favorite provisional cast-on:  a long tail cast-on in which the tail is waste yarn.  I like this because it holds the stitches in place in the correct configuration.  This way, I did not need to remove the waste yarn first, thread the stitches onto a spare needle, and try to make sure the grafting all went in the correct direction with no twisted or missed stitches.  Instead, I grafted the live stitches just as I would a sock and the top stitches I just hooked into as they presented themselves.  I snipped and removed the tail after every 6-12 stitches had been grafted to make sure that the grafted stitches would not stand out.

Here are some photos to show what I did:

Tail for long tail cast-on in scrap yarn
Grafting to the cast-on edge
Another thing I did was to use some more scrap yarn to run a line up the original seamline.  Because I used a jogless join that requires the color change to move one stitch to the left every stripe, it would have been easy to get the cowl twisted.  When I had finished my knitting, I lined up the seamline (being careful not to twist!) and pinned it in place until I had grafted the first few stitches.

Here's what it looked like:
Seamline marked with scrap yarn

Pinning to get make sure I have no twist
The final result looks great.  With the winter sun, good quality photos from my phone are hard.  The FO picture is a bit fuzzy, but the colors are pretty accurate.

Work in progress on the grafting

Finished Rayures Cowl!
I think I may spend a few hours (or days) on knitting that requires a bit less close attention before getting back to my Transition Point socks.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Knitting Inspirations (Distractions?)

The good news is my plan to get the Opal socks finished worked.  Alternating between the socks and a scarf from MIL's stash yarn resulted in two FOs last week.  I gave Margaret the scarf Wednesday to add to her (beginning) accumulation for next fall's scarf drive for the AAUW teen program, and I am currently wearing my new socks for the second time since finishing them.
Red Heart Scarf for charity

Comfy (but garish) socks
I also finally knit a Laura Nelkin bracelet that I had strung the beads for last August.  It was one of those times when I just couldn't seem to wrap my brain around what was needed; it took me three hours  and countless attempts just to string the beads last summer.  On Sunday, it only took me one try at knitting to spot another stringing mistake and one botched attempt at knitting after that before it all became clear.  A few hours later, I had my finished Medallion Bracelet.
Medallion bracelet
Instead of being a good girl and working on one of my (many) WIPs, I started two new projects (at least they were from stash).  The first project is called Transition Point, a very complex sock design by Star Athena.  It was the May 2011 Rockin' Sock Club project, and I had tossed it aside when I realized 3" into the cuff that a size medium (64 stitches) was not going to stretch over my high arch/pointy heel due to all the twisted stitches, even if it fit my ankle perfectly.  Sunday I ripped and cast on a size large which should work well.  This is slow going due to a different chart for the front and back of the cuff.
Back of sock cuff

Front of sock cuff
The other project is a Rayures Cowl; I bought this as a kit at Interweave Knitting Lab this fall from Nine Rubies.  The yarn is a heavenly Anzula Cloud, and I love the way the stripes are developing.  I am using a jogless jog as I change colors, and it is working well whenever I don't make a mistake.
Rayures Cowl in Anzula Cloud

Close-up of the jogless "seam"
I have been inspired to think about knitting something other than accessories lately.  In Menlo Park, the window of an upscale housewares shop features three handknit toys that I really like.  The website says that they are 22" tall and knit from hand spun wool by artisans in Kenya.  The asking price of almost $300 apiece thus seems appropriate if the craftswomen are paid a reasonable amount, but it is beyond my budget for purely decorative items.



I have also found myself dreaming of sweaters, but wanting to try something new.  Along comes my enabler friend Carol, who mentions that she plans to participate in the 2 Knit Lit Chicks Kardigan KAL .  Since the rules specify that the project must be started and finished between February 1 and May 1, that eliminates any of my WIPs.

A Ravelry ad from designer Carol Sunday caught my eye just after reading my friend's post.  Here's the photo:

Tapestry by Carol Sunday

I've already corresponded with Carol S. to double check body and sleeve length for my preferred size.  She kindly offered to calculate how much yarn I will need.

I think I'm about to spend some money...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year's Resolutions and a Few Observations

I have noticed in the past that my "inner Zelda" (the magpie part of my soul that has ADD and loves the new and shiny) tends to be asleep for the first part of the year.  This means January (and often the first part of February as well) is an excellent time to finish off WIPs that had been dropped due to boredom.  Since 2013 began, I've completed a hat begun and finished less than satisfactorily in December (the Eco-Duo beanie) and finished a pair of socks in Mountain Colors Bearfoot that was my travel project for the Rose Bowl.

Once I got home, I started a pair of Shadow Rib Socks (one of my favorite patterns since it ALWAYS fits and looks good in so many yarns) in some Opal from the same yarn box as the Bearfoot.  At the back of my mind, I was thinking perhaps I would finish off the entire bin (10 pair of socks worth) as a New Year's resolution-worthy activity this year.

Unfortunately, I ran into the inverse problem that the Yarn Harlot did today (she had too many rows of garter stitch to knit in a very boring tan color).  I should have figured it out from the color name -- Papagei, German for parrot -- but this yarn is amazingly garish, to the point it is hard for me to continue with.  Don't believe me?  Look at this:

The Hopelessly Garish Sock-in -progress
I can't bring myself to dump this WIP, because I know the resulting socks will fit well and last a long time (and be hidden by shoes).  I also need a vision break as I go, so I am knitting a scarf from some of the Red Heart in my MIL's last knitting basket.  This yarn is about as boring as it gets, and plasticky to boot, but the final product will keep someone warm.  Here it is:

Scarf for Charity in Red Heart
I've decided that since the number 13 is a baker's dozen (which stands for variety), one of my New Year's resolutions should be that I make a good assortment of items this year.  In particular, I need to finish more big projects (sweaters, blankets, etc.), even if my total quantity goes down.

2013 Resolutions

•  Complete at least 12 WIPs from prior years (and, yes, I do have more than a dozen to choose from)

•  Complete at least 12 projects from yarn acquired in prior years (above and beyond the WIPs)

•  Complete at least 12 major projects (some can be started in prior years)

I saw a New Year's resolution a few days ago that one should only knit with yarn one loves.

I have already violated that rule.  However, I know from past experience that it feels really good to create an object of beauty and usefulness (such as the above scarf) from inherited stash.  I also know that new handknit socks are much better than machine knit (or almost worn out handknit), so I will trudge onward.

If Zelda has not yet appeared, I plan to finish off one of several shawls and scarves in hibernation after the above two projects are complete.

Maybe even a sweater if I'm feeling ambitious...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pre-Xmas Knitting Flurry, plus a Look Back on 2012

Even though I planned ahead and knit many gifts in advance, somehow I found myself in the position of "needing to" knit a number of last minute gifts.  We decided to splurge and go to the Rose Bowl this year, and since we drove through the Central Valley to see my family, we also decided to meet up with my BFF Sloan and her family.  I always have a gift ready for Sloan, but decided I really should have something for her husband and each of her kids, so one more cowl and 2 beanies were knit.  As long as I was knitting beanies, I decided to knit my boys each one.  I also knit more feminine ones for my niece Amanda and Alex's girlfriend Anna (Anna also got a cowl to match).  Then there were my sister-in-laws Joyce and Karen, who both got cowls.  Somehow, I ended up with a few extra for my futures pile.

Here are the gifts:
Beanie for Sloan's son Charlie
Beanie for Sloan's husband David

Beanie for Justin

Beanie for Alex

Cowl for Anna

Hat for Anna (Fair Isle)
View 1 of hat for Amanda

View 2 of hat for Amanda

Cowl for Sloan's daughter Katie
Cowl for SIL Karen

Cowl for SIL Joyce
Extra hat (Men's Large)

Extra cowl
I got a bit of holiday decorating fever and knit a small grove of trees from leftovers from the extra cowl.

I also made a few things for myself:  socks (the second pair is almost done), mitts, and a hat.
Mitts in Ultra Alpaca

Basic socks in Interlacements Tiny Toes

Ribbed hat in Eco-Duo

Almost finished socks in MC Bearfoot
I started a few scarves in the past month or so that did not get finished.  One is in handspun alpaca and is in its second iteration of a lace pattern.  The other is doubleknit (like the hat for Amanda) and I've gotten about 10" into it (more than the photo).  This will just take a LONG time, but I think it will be worth it.
Lace scarf (stitch pattern from Wendy Johnson)

Doubleknit scarf in Knitpicks Chroma
In total, I finished 78 knitting and crochet projects this year.  That's a bit more than my average, but I also finished fewer sweaters than usual (although a few of the shawls and scarves were almost as time consuming as an adult sweater).  Here's the breakdown:

17 hats
15 scarves
14 cowls
8 shawls and shawlettes
7 pairs of socks
7 pairs of mitts and gloves
3 sweaters
3 toys
3 jewelry items
1 cape

Of those, I gave away 31 to charity or friends and family.  I also gave away over a dozen more items to charity that I had knit in prior years.