Wednesday, February 3, 2016

May The Force be With You



Being a Star Wars fan since the original movie was released in the 1970's I simply had to knit The Force Awakens Hat pattern by Mrs. Luedeke when it popped up on Ravelry.  It's a free pattern, but I would have paid for it.  It's a fair isle stranded knit hat with a band of Empire Tie fighters, a band of wording (which I left off as my husband didn't care for it) and a band of crossed light sabers and Storm Trooper helmets.  There was also some fair isle patterning in between the motif bands which I left out or replaced.   You can see my mods and notes here.  It's a fast knit which I found very enjoyable.  My husband loved it and has seriously been wearing it ever since - even inside the house (hmm, maybe I should turn up the heat?)  He has a Star Wars buddy a work who oddly is not another computer geek like himself, but a woman in the HR department (now, that might seem a bit sexist of me, but really the odds are clearly in the computer geek sector don't you think?)  Anyway, she flipped when she saw the hat, and since it's a fun fast knit I told her I'd make her one too.  She did give my son an R2-D2 kitchen timer after all ;)  So, the gray version is my hubbies and the blue in progress one is for his Star Wars buddy.  Now, my son Sam wants one too to match his dad.  Good thing I like the pattern huh?

As for books, I'm on to reading book two of the Percy Jackson series The Sea of Monsters to my son.  We're really enjoying it thus far.  This time around instead of stopping a World War Percy must save Camp Half Blood, the only spot on earth safe for the half blood children of the gods.  No small task.  This week I'm even squeezing in some time for my own reading and since my interests are turning towards Minimalism that's exactly what I'm reading about.  Minimalism, live a meaningful life by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  I like parts of it and not others.  To risk sounding sexist again it's a little bit single male in tone, but they are guys without wives or kids so what do I expect? Actually, I'm noticing a lot of minimalists seem to be men.  Not sure why, but now I'm on the look out for some Minimalism books by women.  If you know good one leave the title in the comments would ya?  Thanks and I hope you're all having a great week!

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Wee Break



I needed a break from my Banded Turtleneck as the sleeves are giving me trouble and thus annoying me to no end.  So, I turned to my bin of WIPs and picked out one I thought I could actually complete in a short time and came up with the above Arika cowl by Jane Richmond.  It's very much like wearing a poncho without all the bulk.  There are two yarn strands used to "create" a bulky weight yarn in my version as I had no bulky yarn that the pattern calls for when beginning this project.  The first strand is Flax Down by Purl Soho which consists of Alpaca, Merino and Linen fibers and is so light and s-o-f-t.  The second strand is Tilli Tomas's Raw Silk 100% silk sport weight yarn. The effect of the two shades of yellow I find very pleasing as it creates more depth of texture.  Tying on all the fringe was fun and it does go all the way around the back in case you were wondering.  A very satisfying knitting project, but oddly too fast as I am not ready to go back to my sweater just yet.  Maybe it's time to go back to the WIP pile or cast on something new?

As for reading my son and I are still enjoying The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan.  It's the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series and it really does hook you in as a first book should.  I'm hoping to finish reading it today to find out who was the instigator behind it all.  As for adult reading, I have been reading mainly on lots of blogs/websites lots about Minimalism.  We are wanting to downsize to a smaller home and as I go along in the process of shedding possessions I need some inspiration to keep me going.  Theses guys are my favorite.  I'm writing about our process to live better with less on my other blog called Small Simple Dreams.

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Turtleneck With a Capital "T"



The past few days have me cruising along on my Banded Turtleneck sweater by Kathy Merrick.  And, when I say turtleneck I mean TURTLENECK!  Wow, did it come out big!  Even when I made it a whole two inches shorter than specified in the pattern.  What do you think?  Is it too much?  I'll definitely be warm wearing it and with the sub zero Fahrenheit temps we've been having in Minnesota I better hurry up and finish it.  The body and neck are completed and I only have the arms left to knit.  Will see how it goes, but so far it's slow as increasing while keeping in pattern I find a bit difficult. 

I noticed something while knitting the arms that I find dismaying and humorous at the same time.  Look at the above swatch and see if you can see it.  In the first row of blue there are squares of the oatmeal colored yarn and on the top blue band there are dashes.  Now, the first is correct and the second is not.  So, which row style did I knit the whole sweater in so far?  The dashes of course!  Yup, I just glazed over that row in the chart over and over and over again.  There is really nothing wrong with changing the pattern, but I do prefer the look of the squares to the dashes. With so much already completed though, the dashes with continue on the arms as well.

My son and I finished the Blackwell Pages' last book Thor's Serpents by K.L. Armstrong and have moved on from the Norse Gods too reading about the Greek Gods in the hugely popular Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan.  We are on book 1 The Lightning Thief and enjoying it thus far.  It's a bit sillier, faster paced and more humorous than the Blackwell series which I think I preferred, but it's a bit too early to judge.  I gave my son the DVD of the movie based on this book as a treat to watch after we finish reading the book.  What books are you reading now?

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On and Ginny for Yarn Along

Monday, January 4, 2016

Endings and New Beginnings

Ringing in the new year with a new knitting project!  Banded Turtleneck by Kathy Merrick from Vogue Knitting Magazine Fall 2010.  Using Jamieson's Shetland Aran and Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0 yarn and loving it!

This time of year has many of us acessing of how the previous year went and how the new year will move forward.  Which got me thinking I'd do a little recap here on my knitting in 2015 while sharing my vision for future knitting in 2016.

Year of 2015

Knitting Projects - 42
Yards Knitted - 19,734
Yards Spun - 1564
Ending Stash Yardage - 27,566

It was quite the bonny year for finishing knitting projects.  The Knit Girllls Stash Dash really motivated me to finish/fix a couple of my husbands' vests while also getting a lot of my gift knitting done for Christmas.  Stash Dash 2015 ran from the middle of May until the middle of August.  I completed 19 projects during that time.  It was a fun challenge, although I didn't get a lot of gardening and house projects done last summer since I was pretty much solely focused on knitting.  That really was the only downside.  

I toyed with not buying yarn and didn't do too well at that, but I did do a lot of yarn stash assessment.  After attending this retreat run by Stephanie Pearl - McPhee (I know I keep mentioning it, but it was such a game changing event for me) I learned a lot more about yarn, and figured out what qualities are most important to me.  My number 1 quality I want my yarn to possess is durability as I really want what I knit to have a long life.  Now, lots of things factor in durability, twist, strength of fiber, length of fiber etc. etc.  But basically yarn marked "wool" and not a specific brand of wool such as "merino" are usually more durable as they are a mix of many wool fibers.  Shetland and other long wool breeds are also more durable and less likely to pill as the fiber has more twists per staple length than a short hair cashmere would.  So, I really looked at my stash and sold off what wasn't durable to my standards and added in more yarn that was, namely a lot of Shetland found it's way into my stash.  I'm feeling a lot more content with what I have and since softer less durable yarns are what is popular now their siren call isn't affecting me as it once would have. 

Year of 2016

My main goal for this coming year is to be more mindful.  More mindful of what pattern I am knitting, what yarn I am using, and the when and during time that I am knitting.  Sometimes I switch to auto pilot or get too caught up in what is coming next to really enjoy the current moment.  So, I'm going to slow down and focus more on quality versus quantity this year.
My project goals for the year 2016 are to knit another sweater for my mom, a vest for my husband, and 2 sweaters for me.  Anything more will be grand, but I'm not going to plan so extensively this year as I feel it pushes me along at too fast a pace.

My stash goals for the year 2016 are to make it smaller.  That's why I thought I'd keep track of yards in the stash which I can track through my stash page on Ravelry.  I have all of the yarn for the above projects so I don't need to purchase more, but I won't come down on myself if I do add in a few skeins.  Knowing myself as I do, I think another idea to help me not purchase more yarn is to not go to any festivals this year.  I get wrapped up in the moment and can't help buying.  And really, I still have un-knit yarn from the last few festivals I went to last year.  So, a year off seems prudent as I am the type of knitter that when I have too mush stash gets overwhelmed and bogged down.  I like some stash, but too large a stash and guilt overtakes the fun.

I have no spinning goals for the coming year as I haven't really been in the mood to spin for a while now.  Thus, I'll just wait and see how the year pans out.

General goals for the year are to get more home improvement projects completed, focus more on my son's homeschooling and focus more on doing things together as a family.  I'm really looking forward to the year ahead of me and I hope you are too.  

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2016!

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Finishes and Frogging



I had a swarm of finished objects here at the end of December.  Most were gifts for Christmas and one was a just languishing project. The gift knitting was not coming along as I wanted it too, but I did rally managing to put aside my Fair Isle Vest for the time being.  First up were the two scarfs for my friend Anna's friends, who have now become my friends (don't you love it when that happens?)  The one was a lattice design using a thick aran weight yarn, the other was simply textured in a luxurious angora/silk yarn.  When I finished those two knits I quickly wrapped them posting them just in time for Christmas.  Phew!  Then comes my biggest accomplishment - I finished my mothers' cardigan sweater.  Wow, I just love how it came out.  The best part is the colorwork was much looser this time around (I knit this same sweater for her 2 years ago and my stranded knitting came out pretty tight) so it was a breeze to block into shape.  The collar lays down much better too on this version, as I made a few discrete decreases in the last couple rows.  It is a touch big on her, but she really loves it and that's the main point.  

After that project I whizzed through making some felted slippers for my son.  He asked for them way back in September so I'm a bit late getting to them, but now they are done.  They are Minecraft themed after a famous Youtuber iBallisticsquid who my son watches.  His Minecraft character is a squid and this is what the face looks like.  You see my son already has the same size feet as I do (US sized 8 1/2 Women's) at the mere age of 9 so the "fun" slippers for children don't fit him anymore.  And being only nine he of course wants fun slippers. Thankfully they were a hit.

My last completed object is a pillow of a chicken for myself.  It's the Oluffa doorstop by Lucinda Guy.  I have no use for a doorstop, or a pillow either for that matter, but I adored this pattern the moment I saw it.  It was my Christmas Day knitting and I finished her in just a few days.  We're still thinking up a name for her - any ideas?  The only tricky thing is there are some very long floats, but I did a bit of duplicate stitch in some areas to get around that.  All in all it's a very fun knit with embroidery added and I would highly recommend it to anyone.  

I was hoping to finish my White Russian sweater by Thea Coleman as it was already about 1/2 done, but sadly I frogged it instead of finishing it.  The sleeves were really, really big and I tried to fix them twice, but decided it is ultimately a flawed design for my body shape and desired fit.  I have a large bust, but average sized arms and with a top down raglan the only way to enlarge the bust is to enlarge the sleeves as well.  After reading more about sweater designs I am going to go back to a bottom up pieced sweater with set in sleeves.  You really have lots more control over sizing when knitting all the pieces separately and seaming afterwards.  Thus I frogged it, re-skeined the yarn and gave the yarn another bath so it will be all smooth and fresh with which to knit another sweater.  This is the sweater I'm planning on with an added turtleneck.  It will be my first Custom Fit Amy Herzog sweater so I thought I'd keep it simple.  

Today I'm swatching for a fresh knit to start in January.  My first choice is a Fair Isle turtleneck sweater for myself and second is this cabled vest for my husband.  I really should do my husband's first as he did not receive a knitted gift this year for Christmas, but oh the colors for the first are fabulous!   What are you working on?  Planning for the new year or just winging it?  I'm loosely planning to knit a mix of new and old projects, taking my time and knitting only things that I really love.  Happy New Year everyone!

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Still Learning

 My mistake fix on the inside of my Fair Isle Vest (second crochet reinforcement and weaving ends still need to be done.  With slippery yarn you can never be too careful right?)

My mistake fix from the outside of my Fair Isle Vest.

I was having one of "those" moments with my son.  We were doing a simple writing exercise to work on his printing and he made a mistake.  I said not to worry there are erasers for such moments and that is why we use pencils.  He was angry at himself, me, the situation.  I got frustrated and angry myself at what I thought was blowing out of proportion a minor slip of the pencil.  He rewrote the lowercase "a" over a dozen times never quite happy with it.  I sat losing my patience until I realized he was having a perfectionist moment.  You know those moments when you can see in your mind what you want to happen and just can't seem to make your body do it the "right" way?  Well, I have had quite a few of those in my time.  In fact, they used to completely immobilize me until I learned that not doing something you wanted was worse than trying.  I needed to help him learn that lesson too.  So after calming myself down and finding my reasonable voice again I told him a story.  I asked him if he could remember a time when I didn't knit.  He said he couldn't.  I said you would think with all that time and practice knitting I would no longer make mistakes right?  He said yes.  And I followed with the following example of a big mistake I just made.  

My Fair Isle Vest that I am knitting is too big in circumference.  I did all the right things.  My substitute yarn weighed the same as the original for the same amount of yardage.  I knit a swatch in the round as I would be knitting the sweater.  I carefully measured over a large area and averaged the stitch count.  I got gauge.  But the gauge my sweater was coming out as was a 1/2 a stitch off.  How much difference can half a stitch make?  Try 5 inches difference.  Yup, too big by a lot.  What to do?  Well, I contemplated the options of 1) frogging it all and starting over.  2) finishing it as is and give it to someone.  3) cutting out the extra inches and seaming to the right size.  I chose option number three.  I went through the cast on stitch amounts for each size dividing by my gauge of 6 stitches to the inch to see which one was closest to my chest size.  I then took the difference between the stitches I cast on and the stitches for the size that would fit at my gauge and marked off the 32 stitches that I needed to remove.  By consulting the charts for this new size I would be knitting I was able to pick where to take these stitches out so the patterning would match up.  I then did a crocheted steek, cut out the extra inches and used a mattress stitch to seam the two sides back together.  On the right side of the vest it is very hard to see the seam, but on the inside it's a bit bulky with the steek salvages on each side of the seam.  So, it's a trade off, but tearing out all that knitting would have been just too difficult emotionally for me, not to mention the fact that I diligently wove in all the ends already.  

So, I closed my story with saying that by making the mistake I learned something new.  I learned how to make a repair in my knitting that I've never done before, and that maybe a "quick" in the round swatch is not the same as a true in the round swatch, at least for me.  That really I needed to slow down even more.  I needed to knit the tube swatch or hat , measure gauge, wash it, measure gauge, repeat if adjustments are needed and finally start my project.  I told my son slowing down is ok, there is no deadline and rushing is not necessary.  Mistakes will happen, but what we do with our mistakes is what's important, not the mistake itself.  As always, I don't know what he will take from this little exchange, but hopefully he'll stop worrying about being perfect and simply try.  

Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On and Ginny for Yarn Along.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Embracing the Slow Path

The swatch for Mary Jane Mucklestone's Craftsy class on Fair Isle Vests.  It's a new beginning.

I've been thoughtful as of late on the idea of slow fashion.  After viewing the movie The True Cost which chronicles the path of our clothing and how fast fashion (i.e. new clothing styles every month of cheap clothes) is costing others their health, their environment and even their lives.  Before watching I kinda knew some of the issues with cheap clothing, but this movie really brings home it's point.  It wasn't all a downer though.  They showcased some solutions.  People Tree fair trade clothing was one trying to create a new model for how their clothing is created.  I would even purchase from them if they made clothing in a big enough size (a problem I find often with fair trade clothing.)  Well, all this to say I started questioning the speed of my knitting and that perhaps I should slow it down a bit.

As I wrote in this post I went on a retreat this past Autumn to learn faster more efficient knitting techniques.  I just always seem to want to make more then I can in a year.  Sometimes even choosing simpler patterns so I can go faster - the garter stitch shawl is a good example as purling slows a lot of us down.  Social Media seems to push us all to do more, more, more as we share our projects.  It's simply not as fun showing the same knitting project week after week.  But, now I think it's time for a change, at least for me, to pick my knitting patterns with more care and only knit that which I absolutely love, will wear and that fits my life.  And if it's a really difficult time consuming pattern that is fine - I have time, there is no rush.  I'm not naked in winter needing clothing instantly.  I have a closet and chest full.  It begs the question "How many sweaters, cowls, hats etc do I really need?"

After helping a relative clean out her closet I was amazed at her amassed clothing, shoes and coats and couldn't see how she could possibly wear all of it in a year's time.  Even in my own meager wardrobe (our house was built in 1945 so closets are very, very small) there are items I do not get around to wearing in a year.  In the US we are so conditioned that more is better, but I'm wondering if the opposite is true.  I've been working on this a while with my wardrobe, but thought nothing of it when it comes to my knitting.  Out of all the items I've knit I really only wear one sweater constantly all winter, have one cowl that goes with everything, and use only 2 sets of mittens and hats.  I think part of the problem is understanding yourself and what clothing really truly fits you and your lifestyle.  I'm an at home mom who wears jeans all day, and doesn't like tight or fussy clothing, yet I find myself constantly attracted to shawls I never wear or Vintage or dressy sweaters that wouldn't suit our cold Minnesota winters.  

So, what to do?  Well, I think the main thing for me is to simply focus on what I'm knitting now, enjoy the process and bag the idea of a deadline.  I'm always planning ahead and thinking of where I want to get to, in a certain time frame and I think therein lies my problem.  I'm going to try and finish a sweater for my mom and a scarf for a friend for Christmas then back to knitting for enjoyment without a deadline or looking to the next project.  If I can stop judging myself by what I accomplish and complete I think I'm in for some major changes - some really good changes.  

Wishing you all some peace during this busy holiday season.

Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.