Monday, December 31, 2007

Party More!

I can't say my slate is exactly clean; I'm having some neckline issues with my laceweight sweater, but still, I am content with my year's worth of knits.

Here's the final FO for 2007, then, Herringbone Mitts from Elliphantom.

I used Cascade 220 in cream and a tweedy brown and size 6 needles. This is my second attempt at colorwork, and this was the time that it clicked! I think the colorwork bug has bitten me badly, so look for more stranded goodness here at XRK in 2008. In fact, I've even begun major swatching for the next big project, the Sugarplum Pullover (Ravelry link) from Handknit Holidays.

Many New Year's Eve's ago, my family was celebrating together, and we made a series of lists: the 5 best things that happened to us that year, the 5 worst things that happened to us that year, and 5 New Year's Resolutions. It was the one and only year we made such lists, but there was one resolution I remember vividly. It was my sister-in-law, a senior in college, who resolved to "Party More!"

Party. More! I loved it. And I instantly adopted it as a go-to resolution. Now, as a thirty six year old mother of two, partying means something different than my then college-aged sister-in-law, but I love the attitude of wanting more celebration in life. So I resolve to Party More in my life, to celebrate life's precious moments more in 2008, and to look for ways to add more joy to my life and the life of my family.

Knitting remains a joy and a passion, and one of the ways I truly do party in my life. I resist rules and structure in my knitting, and allow whimsy to be my guide. I'll continue to follow the spirit of my inspirations this year, and knit what pleases me with yarn I love.

So from Ann, Mo, and me, we here and XRK wish you a Very Happy New Year and urge you to Party More too!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Clean Slate 2008

It has been the joy of family and the magic of Christmas with young children that has kept me from blogging. I did have a wonderfully blessed Christmas with my family and with Mr S's, and Santa was very good to all of us this year. And while I truly did read many of your wonderful Christmas messages and received all your wonderful wishes with a warm heart, I was just to busy to leave many comments on anyone else's blog. I do hope all of you had a lovely Christmas!

I don't know why I care, but I decided to try to finish all of the WIPs before the new year begins. I am generally not one to leave projects to linger, and am fairly disciplined about finishing or frogging. I have a lot of projects in the queue ready to be cast on, but I decided to just focus my energies for a couple of weeks to finish up, and I think I am going to reach my goal. My current sweater (which I haven't even mentioned on the blog) has about a quarter of the sleeve to go, my colorwork mittens are blocking, and my longest lingering project ever, my New England socks, are finally done!

Pattern: New England socks by Nancy Bush from Knitting on the Road
Yarn and Needles: Koigu KPM, Knit Picks US 1.5 (2.5mm) circular

Notes: These socks were my quiet vacation knitting, sitting on the front porch of our cabin in the Maine woods. They were a part of my summer dalliance with Nancy Bush, and the final remnant of my flirtation with the Single Sock Liberation Movement.

I got through the first sock this summer, but when I first made the second sock, I noticed I had gauge issues when I was about 80% finished. I had swapped out my Knit Picks 1.5 needle for my Addi Lace 1.5, and it really did make a noticeable difference in my gauge. These socks are not difficult to knit, but they do require you to refer to the chart for every other row, so it took my Clean Slate Resolution to muster up the urge to finally finish them. It's my first highly patterned sock pattern, and I'm not sure if you'll see many more in my future. I like to knit socks because they are portable and mindless, and these socks were neither.

They are a little bigger than I prefer, but I hope a few washes will shrink them slightly. I'll give you an update in 2008, for a newly planned feature on the blog, where I'll post updates and wear reports on various knitting projects.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Forecast Notes

As previously mentioned, my Forecast is finished and photographed.

Pattern: Forecast by Stefanie Japel, Knitty Winter 2005
Yarn & Needles: Brooks Farm FourPlay, US 7 & US 8
Mods: Like many Forecast knitters, I used Winnie's mods.

Since picking up the needles 6 years ago, I have learned a lot of techniques that have made me a better knitter, and really improved the look of my garments. I thought about this as I made this sweater, as I used combination knitting to make neat ribs, as I knit backwards to speed the bobble-making, as I cabled without a cable needle. A beginning knitter could easily make this sweater, but I was struck by how some of these simple tricks made the knitting of this sweater easier and neater, more professional looking.

But this sweater is also an example of how an experienced, technically proficient knitter can end up with so-so results. A top-down raglan is usually a no-fail method for me, and Stefanie Japel's patterns are well-written and designed to fit a woman's body. So why does my Forecast, an almost universally flattering pattern, look so freakin' boxy on me?

It's the yarn. Now, I have to say, unequivocally, that I love this yarn. This was one of the most pleasurable yarns to knit with, period. The color changes are so rich and saturated, and the smooth hand and easy knitting were just amazing. I love it so much that after making most of a loser sweater, I ripped it out and immediately cast on for Forecast. So I essentially knit two sweaters in a row with it! And loved it!

But this is a classic example of how you can combine a great pattern and a great yarn and get so-so results. Forecast is all about the structure, while Brooks Farm is all about the drape, which didn't become totally clear to me until I blocked this sweater (I used the steam-block method), and the horizontal ribbing flattened out and the sweater became a bit flabby and lifeless. The sweater sags (don't look too closely at the bottom of the button band) and is just a bit too big. The silk content overrides the merino's memory and springiness. This yarn would be great for a very drapey sweater, but I would definitely NOT recommend it for this one.

On the other hand, it feels divine, and the yarn does look great with this pattern. When I initially used it, I just loved how it looked in garter, but was not pleased with how it was striping in stockinette, so I figured that the combination of garter, cables, and bobbles would break up the color repeats to interrupt the striping, and I was right. Most finished Forecasts I've seen are in a solid or tweedy yarn, but I would not hesitate from using a tonal variegated yarn for this pattern.

Overall, I'm pleased with the sweater, but know that good old Cascade 220 would have served me better for this pattern than the yarn I chose. I still have a lot to learn, which is why I can't wait for my birthday present from Ann to arrive!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Am 36

Dinner with my husband followed by big rock show last week :: this post :: this post, 22 years later, and be sure to read it to the end :: flowers from Mom :: this mug from my sister from here :: dinner with my kids at the local pub :: morning coffee with Carol :: a new Lantern Moon needle case from Aileen :: a finished Forecast (details to follow)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday Liz! (A day late)

How incredibly wonderful it is that you were born! I am so thankful that you are part of my life. It's hard to describe how you have enriched who I am. You are wicked smart. You are irreverent and hysterically funny while never turning away from the intense and deep emotions of love and pain. You are courageous. You are a brilliant, brilliant mother -- someone I use as an example for myself and others time and time again. And you are one of my best friends.

I hope you had a wonderful birthday Liz!

Leave a birthday wish for Liz in the comments!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gray Gray Gray

Besides the general busy-ness of being Primary Shopper, Chief Organizer and Head-Celebrator-in-Charge in a dual-holiday household, the gray weather has also kept me from my dutiful blogging. I've had a finished Forecast to show you for days, but cannot take a decent photo in this gray weather. When the sun did come out for a precious few hours yesterday, we threw themselves outside into the cold, muddy yard like something out of "All Summer in a Day." I was not about to change clothes and take pictures of my sweater.

Instead, I leave you with a picture of what ranks as one of the single most beautiful skeins of yarn I have ever owned, Sundara Yarn Sock in Fall Foliage. I'm not one to correct Sundara or her sense of color, but this red to me is more like sparkling rubies than autumn leaves. The photo doesn't even come close to capturing the rich reds of this yarn, as the colors in the picture are far more muted.

I've held onto this skein of yarn for over a year now, because I just couldn't imagine putting something this beautiful on my feet but I finally hit upon a worthy use for it in all its cranberry gorgeousness. It's currently being transformed into a Christmas present for Someone Who Reads This Blog, so no more details or pics until after the Big Day. I know I generally eschew holiday knitting, but just one thing won't send me over the edge of sanity, right?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I have been MIA in the knit world lately. No Ravelry, no blogging, and today was my first knitting group in almost a month. Unfortunate yet this is just what has to happen in order to keep the holidays sane for me. (I will be around much more in January!)

Along with the rest of the family, I've been purging the home of unused or unwanted toys (Diversity Thrift here we come!), cleaning in preparation for our tree and Christmas decorating this weekend, shopping for gifts, and enjoying the smaller holidays (St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia Day, Winter Soltice) that happen in December. And of course I am busy with holiday knitting!

Here are a few things so far ...

Pattern: Dashing by Cheryl Niamath
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Worsted, Cafe au Lait
Needles: US 7s
Notes: Great pattern. Easy. Fast. For my older brother. They are already in the mail. I loved knitting these! Isn't this yarn a great colorway?

Pattern: Coronet by Andrea Virgiel
Yarn: Malabrigo, Stone Blue
Needles: US 7s
Notes: Great yarn. Great pattern. I had the band knit for quite a while but had put it down for more than a month. Picked it up and finished it in a day. It was meant for my MIL, but then a neighbor had surgery that left her without any hair and I couldn't think of anything better than having Malabrigo warming her head. My MIL is now getting Koolhaas (I love the pattern and should be done soon!).

Back to my knitting and enjoying the unusually warm weather with a picnic in the park!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

When Mom's a Knitter... have conversations like this over the breakfast

Mom: It's going to be cold today. Wear that stripey sweater today.
Daughter: What stripey sweater?
Mom: They one I made you last year.
Daughter: Oh, you mean my Noro sweater? get a new hat just in time for the first snow of the winter

Pattern: the ubiquitous We Call Them Pirates
Yarn & Needles: Cascade 220 (red), Plymouth Encore (black), Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (lining) from (you guessed it!) the stash, US3 needles
Mods: To size down the hat, I knitted at a tighter gauge (about 7 spi) and only did two repeats of the skull motif.

I made a poor choice when I decided not to decrease in the lining. I thought the difference in the weight of the yarns (worsted vs. fingering) would make up for it, and I didn't want the lining to pucker. Well, it flares, dammit! It flares! I did EZ's sewn bind off for the lining for stretch, and then meticulously sewed it down beautifully. I was not about to pick it all out and redo it, so I threaded some elastic in the brim, and it snugged things nicely.

Notes: This was my first colorwork project ever, and it's some pretty craptacular knitting. However, this was knitted as a more of a learning and practice piece, so my expectations were pretty low. Plus, Pepe desperately needed a new hat. And despite some puckering and lack of crispness in the colorwork, Pepe has gotten tons of compliments on it, and I have managed to impress many non-knitters.

I am working on picking comfortably, and have some work to do keeping my floats even. Despite that, though, it was a relatively quick project, knitting up in a just a few afternoons.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Notes on the Calendar

I'm not kidding about the time crunch, people. I promised you details on the calendar for Sunday, and it's Tuesday morning when I get around to it.

Advent Calendar Project Notes:

Inspiration: This one from Garnet Hill was the perfect storm of advent calendars. Cute, but not cutesy. Handmade for the home in that Mason-Dixon sort of way, not the Stitchy McYarnpants sort of way. And knitted! My one and only craft! I am endlessly inspired by craft blogs like Blair's and Amanda's, and how they fill their home with their handwork. Let's face it, I have sewer's envy (Ashley, I'm looking at you), and wish I had the time and inclination to finally figure out how to run my machine.

And if you are looking for other inspiration, check out this flickr pool. I especially love this one. And while I am really impressed at the creative ideas for fillers, I am strictly for candy. And Twiglet Queen, Ann and I want to know more about your chocolate Johnny Depp advent calendar, because I am sure that one is way better. Chocolate AND Johnny Depp? Perfection.

Materials: Various worsted yarns, all from stash. Some Cascade 220. The pink is Patons Classic that I unraveled from a shrug that pilled so bad I never wore it. The last bits of some bargain blue Plymouth Encore. Leftover Lambs Pride and Baabajoe's from gifts knitted several years ago.

This project demonstrates the ultimate reason to embrace an inspiring stash. I was inspired, so I went to the stash. I made an heirloom and didn't spend a dime. I felt resourceful. Virtuous, even. And sentimental, too, since I could think about some of the special things I made from those yarns in their first life. I love you, Stash.

Process: I looked closely at the Garnet Hill picture, and selected my colors based on the ones they used. The appeal to me was the use of non-Christmas-y colors, along with more traditional reds and greens, which tempers the cute. And as the project evolved, I realized that choosing muted colors was key.

But this project was all about keeping things simple, or it would never get finished. Ever. I discarded nothing, as there was no time for ripping-and-redoing. The first hat I made (December 1st, left) was too small. Too round. I kept it. A red hat (December 11th, center) was rejected as too primary. Too Christmasy and obvious. Same with December 21st green mitten. I kept them, though, since this project was all about production.

Each hat or mitten took less than 30 minutes to knit, but the mittens took a little longer. Thus, I made more hats than mittens. I would try to crank out at least 4 in an evening, and if I had some time leftover, I would weave in the ends (very cursorily, I must admit, since this won't ever be worn, and its highly doubtful if it will ever be laundered. I saved all the embroidery for the end, since I wanted to be able to lay out each piece to make a pleasing color sequence. I got really good at duplicate stitch after a while!

Other special details: I wanted to customize this for our family, so one of the things I did was made a special hat for December 17th (coughmybirthdaycough). I included Hanukkah colors as well, since we are an interfaith family, but I was stumped with how to really represent the 8 nights of Hanukkah, since it is a moveable feast, sometimes before Christmas, sometimes after, sometimes straddling the holiday itself.

Mr S came up with a great solution: knit 8 white and blue un-numbered hats, embroidered with Hebrew letters or the Mogen David (next year!), and switch them out each year for the appropriate days. This year, gelt will go in the hats for Hanukkah, and that will just have to do.

In all, I am very satisfied with the way it all came out. And of course, the kids' reactions to it was totally worth the tedium and last minute sprint to the finish. They just adore it.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled knitting of hats, socks, and sweaters.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's Finished!

Details tomorrow.