Friday, November 30, 2007

Time Crunch

I am feeling the time crunch of the holidays already. I am still unpacking, doing laundry and generally rebooting our life from our Thanksgiving week in Florida, and already and my calendar is packed with commitments and I haven't even had time to draw up the first of many holiday to-do lists. To buy, to bake, to send, to order, to decorate, to schedule, to do....

I have a pair of finished socks to show you, but no time to plan a clever photo shoot, so you'll have to content yourself with these action shots, taken with the self-timer as I emptied the washing machine and unloaded the groceries. Luckily, they are simple stockinette socks, so they are hardly worth a post on their own anyway. They're knit with Austermann Step yarn, and yes, Ann, they are identical to the pair you made this summer.

There's not even much time to knit, but what little knitting time I do have is dedicated to these little mittens and hats for the advent calendar. Only 4 more to go, plus some sort of cord from which to hang them all. And then all 24 to embroider, to pom, to hang, to fill. By tomorrow night.

Will I make it?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Quick Surprise

At the end of the summer I got a surprise email forwarded to me from N's school -- a friend that I had met backpacking in Spain was trying to track me down and had found my name on the RWS website. We reconnected and it has been such a wonderful time getting to know her again and learning about her family and life.

And last week her family grew a bit ... one more life has joined it. So I will send off a little surprise in the mail tomorrow ...

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by EZ (The Opinionated Knitter)
Needles: US 6s
Yarn: Louet Gems Fine/Sport Weight in Grape and Willow
Notes: I have been blessed with some mighty fine knitting projects lately and this was no exception. What an incredible pattern (my first BSJ) and what fabulous yarn (my first time with Louet Gems as well). I did not modify the pattern at all -- just wanted to knit it as it was written originally and see what happened. I am extremely happy with the results but wish my increases were a bit neater looking.

I changed colors randomly and love how the funky seaming turned out.

This yarn is just wonderful and I am going to use the remaining yarn for something for my girls (I used just about 1/2 skein of each color).

These excellent buttons are from The Yarn Lounge here in Richmond.

When I bought this yarn I had no idea it was from South Africa. Tomorrow I will be sending the BSJ to Cape Town where it will meet it's new little owner ...

Surprises all around!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be taking the week off from blogging while I celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with my husband's family in sunny South Florida. Maybe by the time I post, I'll have sewed the buttons onto my Forecast sweater, finished my second New England sock, and who knows what else...

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones, grateful for all your blessings. I know I will be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rockin the Holiday Bazaar

I'm feeling more than a little overwhelmed here at Holiday Bazaar Central. The big event is on Saturday (from 10 to 3 at the Richmond Waldorf School, get yer butt down here and make some holiday cheer!).

I'm the co-chair and the BackBou is cooking lunch for about 250. But just so you know, all the stress of getting ready hasn't stopped the universe from hurling other things our way -- back problems for me, a heavy work load for the BackBou, and an unexpected MRI for N tomorrow.

I like having a handle on things. I have been called a control freak before. Many times before. Many times today. We're at the point where I need to trust my coordinators and surrender to the unexpected but I find this hard to do. Really, really hard to do. So instead, I will be popping some ibuprofen, cracking open a non-alcoholic beer, and staying up late getting my s@*# together.

I am going to get the vendor check-in clipboard ready, the set-up check-lists ready, the clean-up check-lists ready. I am going to schedule when we're packaging up the daffodil bulbs and making the peanut butter sandwiches. I will double-check our table requirements. I am going to figure out how to build temporary fencing for the pony rides. I am going to tell King Winter and Jack Frost that they must help hand out free CFLs as well as announce all the story times and the raffle drawing. And I will not forget trash bag liners. I'm in the last half of the marathon and I am not going to bonk.

I can do this. This Holiday Bazaar is going to ROCK.

Here are my knitted items to add to the RWS Craft Table ...

Patterns: Giant Jester Stocking and Chubby Stocking from Christmas Stockings
Yarn: O-Wool Classic
Needles: US 8s
Pattern Mods: The Giant Jester was fine until the toe. Here is N showing the stocking after I ripped out the toe. It was too tiny and looked ridiculous.

I actually ripped out all the way back to the gusset and decreased every 4 rows until the toe and then once every 4 rows and then every other row. With my gauge and yarn, it was more in proportion.

The Chubby Stocking was modified in that I used only two colors (using up stash my friends!) and I used a garter stitch instead of reverse stockinette.

I knit some Harry Potter Sweater ornaments from Charmed Knits. So delightful!! I'll be knitting more of these for family presents. I lost the ball band for the yarn -- it deeply discounted at The Yarn Lounge. Very scratchy and the dye came off in my hands. It was just fine for the ornaments. I'm sure I'll find the ball band as soon as I hit post ...

R felted some Cherry Tree Hill wool (they have just incredible colors) into ball ornaments.

And the BackBou and N worked hard to felt this beautiful Blue Bird ornament. Although the BackBou wanted to charge $200 for this, it will be sold for $3.50.

And don't forget those stocking ornaments from September that I knit ahead of time!

I am so ready.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Holiday Knits

I am one button band and 8 buttons away from having a completed Forecast, but I am too distracted by holiday knitting to settle down and finish it up.

I love December. We're a family that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah and my birthday is the week before Christmas too. When you're the mom of small kids, you have a lot to do to pull it all off, between the shopping, baking, decorating, but for me, Christmas is not a chore at all. I love to decorate my home and make for a festive mood. I love that sense of excitement and anticipation, as do the return of beloved holiday traditions: decorating Christmas cookies, building a gingerbread house, cutting down the tree, opening the doors of the advent calendar every night before dinner.

I love doing the advent calendar, but have been ready to dispense with the 99 cent cardboard ones with the chocolates, mostly because the chocolate sucks. So I'd been on the lookout for a permanent, reusable one, but have rejected most that I have seen as too cutesy or too country or too juvenile for my taste. Until I saw this one from Garnet Hill, which was perfect!

I actually considered buying it, but decided to make it for several reasons. Besides knitting, I am not a crafty person, and cannot sew or paint or otherwise make things, but many of my most favorite holiday decorations have been handmade - the cross-stitched hand towel from Aunt Ruth, or the peg-doll ornaments from Aunt Kathleen. So I loved the idea of making a beloved family heirloom that also represents something special about me. I can customize it for our family, making a special one for my birthday on the 17th, and can include a nod to Hanukkah, by including blue and white in the color scheme. Besides, it is the perfect thing for using up leftover bits of yarn!

I have the first eight hats finished, except for the pom poms or embroidery. I am making things up as I go along, but both hats and mittens knit up in less than a hour. It's all going so quickly that I plan on finishing up Forecast before I knit any more!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Marigold Mitts

I am determined to warm the hands of all my friends and family. This makes the fourth pair of fingerless mitts I've knit this autumn!

Pattern: Fingerless Mitts by Ann Budd from Weekend Knitting
Yarn & Needles: Vermont Fibers Handspun Alpaca, US 9
Mods: None

This yarn should look familiar to you, Ann, since it was last summer's housewarming gift from you to me! And wow, Ann, this is some amazing stuff. The rustic texture of the yarn is the perfect thing for a garter stitch, and softness of the alpaca is a treat for the hands. This was my first experience in knitting with handspun, and I am officially hooked. I loved it.

But what intrigues me the most is that these are naturally dyed using marigolds and onion. Here's what the label says:

This yarn is made of fiber from Vermont's finest farms. It is hand processed and dyed with natural plant materials using traditional dye methods involving flowers, bark, lichens, and mushrooms.

Of course! I tried to describe the color to someone once, since it isn't a sunny yellow, or a mustardy yellow, or a greenish or brownish yellow. I should have explained that it is the color you would expect if yarn was dyed with marigolds and onion skins. This is exactly the color you'd imagine. Now I want yarn dyed from lichens. And mushrooms!

The tag also reveals that the yarn comes from an alpaca named Marigold! I love that! I have furiously searched online to learn more about this yarn, (and where I could get mushroom or lichen yarn) but it appears that having serious earth-cred also means having no online presence. Fiber Festival attendees and Vermonters, keep a sharp eye for Vermont Fibers from Plainfield, VT, and buy this yarn.

The individualness of the yarn made it especially hard to give these away, but while I love them, they are even more perfect for someone else who reads this blog. If she is at all paying attention, she'll notice right away that they match the scarf I made her last fall. And that they are super-natural and Earthy and green and eco-conscious, which might tweak this certain person's enthusiasm. And that having recently acquired a job that requires a commute, she might need some help in the handwarming department.*

* They're for my sister, my Favorite Person to Knit For, new commuter and all around enviro-woman.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Angel of Darkness Finished

There is not much to say about this project except I adore this yarn and I think Evelyn Clark is brilliant. First the project specs ...

Pattern: Angel Lace Shawl by Evelyn Clark
Yarn: Jo Sharp Alpaca Silk Georgette, Pewter
Needles: Knitpicks Options US6s
Finished size: 13 pattern repeats -- 63" wide and 30.5" deep
Notes: The yarn (40% Alpaca, 40% Merino, 20% Silk) is exquisite. I think it was just wonderful for this project (since I like a shawl that can provide a bit of warmth but have gorgeous drape). It was a joy to knit with, it just flowed perfectly. Wouldn't a snug fitting top knit with this be just luxurious?

The pattern is simple and fast to memorize as was my experience with the Leaf Lace Shawl. I was able to go from start to finish in 3 weeks with lots of other non-knitting things going on in my life. I think I want to knit an Evelyn Clark shawl at least once a year. It is just so gratifying.

My gauge was 6.5 spi so my finished shawl was larger than the pattern dictated. I used up about 4 skeins.

After I showed it off a bit here, I donated the shawl to Art 180 for its Art Karma Auction that happens on November 29th. Please tell your friends to come bid on this shawl! I'd love to have it bring in some money for this wonderful organization that brings art to children. I mean really, here in Virginia where standardized testing trumps all else, we need Art 180 desperately.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Prayer Quilt, Part Two

The quilt is finished. There will be a Blessing for the mother tonight where she will receive her gift from the school. She hopes to leave soon for Honduras in order to try some alternative treatments since the doctors here have nothing more to offer her. I hope that our intentions and prayers will help her in her journey.

The quilt was made with O-Wool Classic and knit on predominantly US 8s and 9s. The gauge for each square was wildly different, but adds to the dearness of the quilt.

The 1st graders (the mother's son's class), each knit a row or two in this square which is positioned so that it will rest over the mother's heart when she is wrapped in the quilt.

I do not know this woman personally, we only met once, but I was honored to be asked to work on this quilt. She is a tremendous woman and has touched so many lives in a positive way. I know that her spirit has touched mine. When I read a bit of this poem on Jen Lemen's blog, I thought of her ...

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.