Archive | December, 2011

New Additions

30 Dec

This strawberry yarn bowl was made by a local artist and purchased at Loopy Knit/Crochet.

This Christmas some new knitting materials came into our house. Firstly, my mom (knowing that I love to shop local) contacted the owner of Loopy Knit/Crochet in Missoula and purchased this locally made yarn bowl and some yarn for me.

I’ve been wanting a yarn bowl for about a year now. That special cutout in the side helps me pull up my yarn from its ball, while the bowl keeps the yarn from rolling around the floor and getting covered in bunny fur … or attacked by the bunny.

This bowl is a great size. The yarn is a skein of Blue Sky Alpaca Worsted Cotton in the “True Red” colorway. The skein is 150 yards, a common size for a single skein of yarn, so this bowl should hold any yarn I’m working with perfectly.

The design of the bowl itself also couldn’t be more perfect for me. I love strawberries, and when I was a little girl, my favorite time of year was the summer Strawberry Festival. One year my mom even made me a strawberry dress especially for the festival. Moms remember this kind of stuff, and it made this great Christmas present even better.

This hand-dyed vegan sock yarn is based on the colors of "The Castle in the Sky".

My youngest brother-in-law also hit a homerun with my Christmas gift this year. I’m always drooling over the beautiful, hand-dyed yarns created by Quo Vadis Handspun. Much of this yarn is dyed in colorways based on the palettes of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli animated films. This yarn is based on the colors of Laputa, the hidden flying city in my favorite Miyazaki film: The Castle in the Sky.

This skein of yarn will make one pair of socks, but I’m still undecided on which pattern I’ll use. The yarn itself is 75% bamboo/25% nylon, so it will be shiny, light and stretch back into shape. I’m going to look for a pattern using lace or cables to highlight the gorgeous colors.

New England Knits is a great book published by Interweave Press.

The final addition to my knitting collection this Christmas was a large stocking stuffer picked out by my husband. New England Knits by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre has great patterns for pullover and cardigan sweaters, as well as some really cute hats.

Many of my knitting books are focused on socks (unsurprisingly) but it will be nice to have this beautiful collection of patterns to pull from for larger projects.

I’m still knitting away on Ismael’s Stepping Stones socks, which are working up beautifully. Hopefully I’ll have finished project photos for your on Monday.

Happy weekend, and Happy New Year to all my readers!

Starting on Stepping Stones

29 Dec

The first four inches of the Stepping Stones socks.

A few months ago I picked up a couple balls of DK-weight yarn in a beautiful burnt orange color during a sale at my local yarn shop: Loopy Knit/Crochet. Although I loved the color myself, I’ve been wanting to make another pair of socks for my husband since I finished his Writer Socks last spring.

Getting the go-ahead on a color for socks from a man is a big deal, so when Ismael didn’t immediately reject the orange, I knew they were meant for him.

It has taken me forever to decide on a simple but interesting pattern for these socks, and today, right before I was going to cast and go with my own design, I found the Stepping Stones pattern on Ravelry.

With the thicker yarn and size US 2 needles, these are working up quickly and I can’t wait to finish them up and get them on my hubby’s feet.

Christmas comes but once a year

26 Dec

And thank god for that.

I love my family very much. I was excited to give them handknits this Christmas and know that my gifts would not only wrap them in warmth, but love. However, If I had to constantly knit at such a fever pitch with a bright shiny deadline looming ahead, my nerves would be absolutely shot.

Now, you could contend that I knew Christmas was coming. In fact, it’s the same day every year. There’s no way I could have been blindsided by a holiday with unavoidable reminders from October on. That’s true. I knew it was coming. I even had a plan in place to not get down to the wire with my gift knitting. To prove I was committed to this plan, I even knit a sock this summer. One sock.

This is when the trouble began. As I’m sure all you knitters are aware, not only is one sock NOT a pair, but it’s a dangerous presumption of a pair of socks. You say to yourself, “Look how quickly I knit that one sock. And Christmas is months away. I have so much time to knit the other one, why don’t I knit myself a sweater right now instead? I can always come back to that other little sock.”

Then, BAM, the next thing you know it’s November. Not only is that other sock not knit, but the sweater you’ve decided to knit for your dad also needs finishing, and you never knew how slowly stockinette stitch could come together into a men’s size large sweater. (Side note: You know what knits up quickly? Lace. Why don’t men wear more lace?)

So there I was, mid-November, hastily trying to finish up a sweater for dad and that other sock for mom, and then even another project for mom! I was doomed. I really was. I had to make some tough choices. Other gift socks for extended family members – and even for my husband – had to take the back burner and be abandoned as Christmas gifts.

I knuckled down and knit until my little fingers cramped and couldn’t move any more. And you know what? I won. Just in the knick of time to get my gifts wrapped and in the mail in time to arrive for Christmas, I was finally finished.

Hand-painted yarn and a simple pattern knit up quickly into mom's socks.

Dad's Cobblestone Sweater took up the bulk of my Christmas knitting time.

Despite my ill-fated attempts at creating a “plan” to avoid that last-minute rush, I really did come in just under the wire. But it wouldn’t be Christmas without panic, would it? And it all worked out in the end. Mom loves her green and gold socks, knit with sport-weight Blue Moon Fiber Arts Handpainted Sock Candy (96% cotton, 4% elite elastic).

Dad’ sweater – Cobblestone by the talented Jared Flood – is knit with warm, soft Berroco Comfort Heathers in the Honeyberry colorway. Dad has socks knit from the fingering weight version of this yarn and he really loves them, so the yarn choice was a no-brainer.

My only issue with dad’s sweater, despite the long stretches of stockinette stitch, is how the decreases in the yolk pull two purl stitches together to make a little bump. However, when the yarn is stretched during wear, this issue pretty much disappears.

Mom loves her socks, and unsurprisingly, she also loves the label they came in.

This simple label was made using Apple Pages and printed on cardstock paper.

I had seen a simple printable sock label on the Knitmore Girls website awhile ago, and I stored the idea away for Christmas. This label was easy to make and you get a lot of bang for your buck. It really makes the presentation of handknit socks a treat for the receiver. For this label, I found the Christmas image online and using Apple Pages (like Microsoft Word) I added the text on top. The label is designed longways down letter-sized, cardstock paper, and taped together at the back. I also included the name of the yarn, fiber content, and washing instructions on the back.

I still owe my husband a hat, and I have some socks on my needles for an aunt, but Christmas has passed, and it amazes me that after all that, all I really want to do right now is sit down and knit.

Baby, it’s cold outside

23 Dec

Hoar frost clings to the needles of a pine three outside my house.

Winter has hit western Montana hard these past two days. Everything – fingers, toes, ears, necks – need handknits to keep warm as frigid, biting cold has settled into the Missoula valley. So, in the spirit of keeping things warm, I made a sweater for my coffee.

The warm glow of Christmas and a cup of hot coffee. Mmmhmm.

I love to pick up a cheap drip coffee while I’m out and about, but this time of year I find my coffee gets cold fast in those thin cardboard cups. What kind of knitter would I be if I didn’t solve that problem with yarn?

This is my new Cozy Partridge Coffee Sweater (click for free pattern). It’s so named because the slip-stitch pattern that adds such great texture to the fabric and diversity to the color is commonly referred to as the “eye of the partridge” stitch. This stitch is usually used for a nice cushy heel on socks, as seen on my River Rapids socks last February.

This is the first free pattern I’m adding to this site, and it’s not even for socks! I’ll try to correct that very soon. But until then, please feel free to bust your stash of all those tiny balls of leftover sock yarn. This pattern requires less than 50 yards of fingering or sport-weight yarn, and you can use as many different types and colors as you like. Your coffee will never notice that you combined pure merino with a synthetic.

Speaking of socks, isn’t this blog supposed to feature them? And this is the fourth post in a row with no socks??? WRONG.

Striped and Ribbed sock, ready to go and waiting for its mate.

This “Striped and Ribbed” sock, my own design, is waiting patiently for its mate. It was put on hold while I finished up some Christmas knitting, which also included some socks, but you can’t see those until Monday. (Just as a teaser, though, my coffee sweater is made with leftovers from the aforementioned Christmas socks)

The Striped and Ribbed socks feature ribbing in the sections where I wish my socks always fit a bit more snug: Ankles and toes. They are also a bit longer than my average socks, since I’m quite fond of wearing boots. They’re knit using Berroco Comfort Sock in the Dunedin colorway, which I used last year to knit my husband’s Writer Socks. I loved this color so much when I made his socks, I just had to get a skein for myself.

For at least a few more days, while I finish up a Christmas hat, this lone sock will have to hang out on my Knit Picks Sock Blocker, dreaming that it will someday no longer be a victim of Single Sock Syndrome (SSS).

Christmas Birds

20 Dec
Flash on a Julekuler

Flash the parrotlet warmed right up to the new blue bird. Photo by Kristine Paulsen.

Yesterday I delivered another Julekuler (Christmas Ball) to its new home. My good friend Kristine is, in a way, responsible for this blog. Five years ago she succeeded where many others had failed. She taught me to knit. I’ll never forget the way we sat on the floor of her house and she instructed me to grab my bamboo needles like I was going to stab someone under the ribs. Apparently, this is how I learn best.

A couple of months ago – when I first received my 55 Christmas Balls to Knit book – one pattern in particular jumped off the page and yelled, “Knit me for Kristine!”

Kristine is a bird-lover. She’s had many birds over the years, and the whole time I’ve known her she’s had two birds: Flash the parrotlet (pictured) and Mozart the pretty yellow canary. These little guys are bursting with personality, and in all the times I’ve played with them or cared for them while Kristine was out of town, I’ve developed a new respect for our feathered friends.

So, what better way to thank my friend for giving me the gift of knitting – and also wishing Flash and Mozart a Happy Christmas – than to knit them a “Bird on a Branch” Julekuler?

Though Flash is sometimes wary of new objects, Kristine reports he warmed up to the new blue bird in the house right away, as evidenced by the picture above.

Happy Christmas to Kristine, Flash, Mozart and pets everywhere!

An early resolution

18 Dec

When I started this blog last spring, I really wanted to stick with it. I love knitting. I love writing. I love having a web presence that helps me share my newest knits and keep my projects organized.

However, I failed. Despite my mild efforts, I slipped away from blogging, and the longer it had been since my last post, the less likely I was to sit down and get going again. It would mean acknowledging my failure. Which I am now doing.

So, on that note, I am kicking off a 2012 resolution early and restarting my blog.

To catch you up on some of the things I’ve been doing for the past few months, here are a couple photos:

Eugenia Mittens

These Eugenia Mittens have kept my fingers very toasty as the Montana frost gains ground.

 

The mittens above were a weekend project that has paid off very well. Montana gets cold in winter. Can you believe that? And even though it’s been a wonderfully mild winter, the mornings and nights are quite nippy, and these mittens have been my saving grace while scraping my windshield. The pattern is Eugenia’s Mittens (Ravelry link) and the yarn is Berroco Comfort Worsted in Coffeeberry.

I don’t have a ton of pictures of my knitting projects from the past few months, but I have been working on some very important Christmas knitting. Among which are some “Julekuler” – also known as Christmas Balls – from the Arne & Carlos book “55 Christmas Balls to Knit”. Arne & Carlos are Norwegian knitting dynamos, and this book features ornaments with traditional and contemporary Fair Isle-technique patterns.

Christmas Balls

Three of my Julekuler all in a row.

 

Some of these balls have stayed at my house (like the Griz ball, designed by me with the logo of my alma mater) and some have gone to other homes as Christmas gifts. I will continue to make these balls as the year goes so that many more can be sent to friends and family next year. Each ball takes an afternoon or evening to make, so they’re a great quick knit.

I have more pictures and updates coming in the next few days, including: Single socks waiting for mates, Christmas gift teasers, stash yarns and my devious plans for them.

To everyone who read my blog before, and everyone who is reading this now, thank you! I hope to be better this year!