Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Luxury Knitting

This past weekend my mom treated me to a luxurious weekend at a hotel in Connecticut.  We relaxed, I knit, she read, we ordered room service, and we watched lots of HGTV.  (I miss HGTV. A lot.)  It was so nice and relaxing.  Thanks Mom!

That gave me the opportunity to finish my Mystery Knit-a-long socks! (Called "April Showers")
That's a terrible picture, taken with my phone at the hotel.  You know, because somehow posting this one is proof that I finished them at the hotel.  Like you need proof.  Here's a better one:
Ok, not that much better but the color is better.  These socks were so fun.  Starting from the toe and moving up, we knit flowers, umbrellas, rain and clouds.  Then along the back we knit lightening.  Now I'm entered to win a knit-a-long prize.  I hope I win!

In Other Knitting News:
Yesterday, I got started on the Meadowlark vest.  You know... the one with all the swatching:
I will grudgingly tell you that all my swatching actually helped move things along pretty quickly.  I had done the pattern so many times already that it was a piece of cake!  Obviously I've just started.  I have no idea how long this will take me - it has a very interesting construction that I will do my best to show you as I go along.

I also actually did some organizing of my needles - something I've been meaning to do for a long time.  Of course, I didn't take a "before" picture but picture this in your head:  A plastic drawer full of a tangle of circular needles.  Now look at my "after" picture:
A plastic bag for each size and length all nice and tidy in a basket.  Thanks to my friend Lisa for the idea and the plastic bags, of which she has approximately a thousand so she was willing to share.  They have a white strip across them so you can write on them.  Yay.  It feels great to get a little organized.  I'm going to do the same with my double pointed needles.  By the way, here's the reason I organized:  I have no less than FIVE size 7, 16" circular needles.  Let me know if you need one.

In Book News:
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline: Love her books.  A suspenseful thriller about a reporter who sees her adopted son on a missing children mailer and the heartbreaking path this takes her on to determine if her son is really a boy who was kidnapped from his biological parents.  Exciting pace - I couldn't put it down as it got the to exciting, heart-stopping conclusion.

I'll leave you with three words:  Vanilla. Creme. Peeps.  (two more words: Get. Some.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Swatching, swatching, swatching...

I've been swatching.  A lot.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I don't like swatching.  At all.  It's boring and a barrier to me getting to my knitting.  It's just like finishing, but in the beginning.  Finishing is a barrier to me wearing my knitted thing.  Swatching is a barrier to me starting to knit my knitted thing.  [For those who don't know, swatching means knitting a little square with the yarn and needles for the pattern to make sure it will be the right size in the end.] I try to avoid it as much as possible, usually by convincing myself (pretty much correctly) that I knit "normally" - not to tight and not too loose, just right - so I will just use the size needles the pattern calls for and it will turn out the way I will like it.  HOWEVER....

This new pattern that I am obsessed with, Meadowlark, has given me no choice.

Isn't it cool?   I love, Love, LOVE the back. The pattern calls for using laceweight yarn, held double - two strands held together and knit as if they were one strand.  Since I don't have laceweight yarn and my LYS doesn't carry it (when I had the shop, I only had a little and it didn't sell.), I wanted to substitute something.  The pattern actually allows for this and says to use, as a substitute, a "light sport weight" yarn.  Light sportweight???   It's certainly not a common term used for yarn. You hear of sport weight, or something heavier which is DK weight, or something lighter which is fingering weight.  When I researched the projects on Ravelry, many used either sport weight or fingering weight and none of them indicated that it came out too small or too big.  They all loved how it came out.  So I thought, "Well, I could use either with good results."  But I had this nagging feeling that all of them couldn't have come out right, since sportweight and fingering weight are different gauges and then I got this icky feeling that I'd have to swatch.  So, I picked out a great fingering weight yarn and bought the two skeins needed since, despite the nagging feeling, I figured it would just be a formality to do the swatch and it would all be fine.  WRONG.
I swatched and it was way too small. (top swatch)  And it was very loosely knit which means the needles are just too big for the yarn.  So, going up a needle size to make the swatch bigger was not an option.  I'd have to try another weight.  Rather than purchasing the yarn again, I found some spare sport weight yarn - which I should have done with the fingering weight - and did another swatch.  It was still too small. (middle swatch)  I could have gone up a needle size, but that yarn - all wool - didn't seem to be right for a lightweight vest.  I then found another yarn - a wool and silk blend - informally considered light DK, and did a third swatch.  This one turned out to be perfect! (bottom swatch) So I went back to the yarn shop, returned the one skein of fingering weight that I didn't wind into a ball and got new yarn.  To be continued....

Meanwhile, I made this hat in one day:
It is the Wurm hat and I love it.  It was pretty easy - the only difficult part was folding the brim and picking up the cast on edge and incorporating it with the existing stitches to make a doubled brim (which makes your ears extra warm!).  After that, though, knit a few rounds, purl a few rounds.  Easy peasy.  

And finally, a pretty winter sunset:
The end.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sweet Valentine(s), a little knitting and a book review

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and my two sweet little Valentine's gave me this:
And lots of hugs and kisses.  Then I helped them make a stickered, scribbled, hand-print traced Valentine for their mommy and daddy!

My main-squeeze sweet Valentine took me to dinner at a new-ish Italian place, Cafe Calabria.  It was yummy!  I had tortellini carbonara -- tortellini, bacon, garlic, cream sauce.  But it made horrible leftovers.  Note to self: Do not take a cream-sauce-based dish home to reheat in the microwave.  You will end up with rubbery tortellini and droopy, rubbery bacon in a pool of oil.

In Knitting News:
I haven't been knitting too terribly much. I'm still stuck on what to start next.  And I haven't knit on my knit-a-long socks because it takes some concentration, and extra tools, to add the bling (beads) so it makes it hard to be a portable project to do during nap time.  So, I've been working on another afghan square.  I'm working my way through what seem to be the easy ones....
I don't have the Great American Afghan book in front of me and I can't remember which block number this is.  But if you have the book, it's the one that looks like this, minus the what-I-think-is-weird i-cord "stitch" edging.  Mine is just going to stay plain-jane without that embellishment.

In Book News:
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  I loved. Loved. LOVED this book!  Couldn't stop reading it last night until I was done, then had to watch 2 cooking shows before I could fall asleep.  Now that's a good book and definitely one that I will think about for a long time.

Harold lives in England and is recently retired, but life is pretty dull and his wife seems irritated with everything he does.  Then, one day he gets a letter from Queenie, a former co-worker, whom he has not seen in twenty years.  She is in hospice and writing to say good-bye.  This letter throws Harold for a loop. He writes her a short response and steps out to the corner to post the letter.  But once he gets to the box, he thinks maybe he'll just walk a little further to the next box, and then the next.  Then, events happen that convince him that he needs to hand-deliver the letter to Queenie.  By the way, she is several hundred miles away.  And thus begins his journey, his pilgrimage - both physical and emotional.  I can't say enough how this book just drew me in and took me along, routing for Harold, hoping he gets to Queenie before she passes, feeling for him as he experiences all kinds of emotions, thinking about his past, gasping at some of the twists the story takes.  Highly, highly recommend!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Warm Warm Warm

WARM fire, WARM cat, WARM knitting.  Perfect for the day after a snowstorm!

We only got about 10 inches from storm Nemo, which is a pretty normal snowstorm for us.  We did still have to do some digging out and plowing of course.
Good thing Paul has 8,000 of those car part things to weigh down the back of the plowjeep!  I think there are more in the garage somewhere.
And yet again, some beautiful snowy views:

Speaking of staying warm..... Knitting news:
I actually brought out and finished an unfinished project!  Yay!  Someone give me a medal.  This is my Tudor Henley that I started almost 3 years ago.  February 28, 2010 to be exact (you can thank Ravelry.com for my exactness)
I had to attach the sleeves and knit three rows for the neck/buttonband.  The only issue is, to be perfectly honest, that it was going to fit me back when I started it, but it doesn't really fit me now.  Hence, no picture of me wearing it.  Hopefully that will change with my new health regimen!

Also, I am making progress on my April Showers Mystery Socks:
Front of sock with, from bottom,
flowers, umbrellas and rain

Back of sock with lightning .
 Next come clouds with some beaded embellishment.  These are the most interesting socks I have ever made.  It's been fun to see how it will evolve, since we didn't know what it would look like in the beginning.  The pattern is not the same for long, so it really keeps you interested.  When they are done, there will be better/more clear pictures to show you.

Now I'm in a dilemma of what project to start next.  Or finish.  I'm dying to start an aran cabled sweater with yarn I got at Rhinebeck, but haven't settled on a pattern yet.  Or these really cool - but warm - lined Fiddlehead Mittens. Decisions!

Speaking of staying warm again.... Book News! (reading under a cozy blanket):
I finished Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and really enjoyed it.

The story starts off in 1962 Italy with a young innkeeper who gets to know a young actress over the course of a couple of days.  Then the story jumps to present day America with an older Italian man who is looking for the actress he met fifty years before.  From there we learn what happens back in 1962 and then the years in between - for these two but also many others that touch their lives, as they all navigate the complexities of their lives while also trying to pursue their dreams.  While I really enjoyed the story, I had somewhat of a hard time keeping track of the story when it jumped back and forth in time - in addition to a few chapters that didn't seem to fit into either timeframe.  This through me off and aggravated me a couple of times, but not enough to stop reading.  It really is a nice story!

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Yarn Accident and Upside Downton Abbey

Remember in my last post how I said I was going to work on an unfinished project?  Well...... I had a yarn accident at Knit Picks which may derail that plan.
But it really wasn't my fault.  They were having a kit sale.  So I couldn't resist these arm/hand warmers in the pretty "Ocean" colorway.  I figured that this was good, though, because there are 10 balls of yarn and I will only need a little bit of each color for these mitts, which means I could make more mitts or I could use the yarn for another project, like a cool multicolored hat or cowl or socks or whatever.  There.  I totally justified adding 10 more balls of yarn to my already-out-of-control stash.

Also, I was watching Sesame Street with Benjamin and Michaela the other day - actually, they had gotten bored after about 10 minutes of the show and were off playing with other things - and this little skit came on:  Upside Downton Abbey!

Very cute.  Loved that they kept the music and the opening logo the same.  And Lady Violet sounded just like the one on the show!

Just before snowmageddon arrives, I got Phoebe to the vet for a checkup.  She was not happy about it at all.  She complained the whole way to the vet. BUT, she is a very healthy 15 1/2 year old cat - with the teeth and eyes of a 5 year old!  I think the experience exhausted her as she made not one peep on the way home.  She's been recuperating from being poked and prodded and nail clipped in front of the fire ever since:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

One Day Vacation

Last weekend we went on a one day vacation to one of our favorite spots, Geneva, NY.  We stay at a hotel on Seneca Lake and this time we had a great view!
Late afternoon....

We took advantage of their mid-winter overnight package deal and got this too:
Mmmmmm.  Wine and chocolate.
On our way there, we detoured up to Sodus Point and Lake Ontario.   Also, some VERY pretty views:

It was a nice day and a beautiful drive and when we got home we felt like we had been away for longer than a day.  You can't ask for more than that out of a one day vacation!

Was there knitting in the car, you ask?  Yes!  On the way home.  We took the scenic route on the way there, so there was so much to look at that I didn't knit.  But on the way home we took the boring speedy thruway, so I knit away.

I knit almost a whole afghan square (#20 in the Great American Afghan pattern book) on the ride home:
And the night before, while watching American Pickers at the hotel, I finished my first afghan square (#3):
Ooh, these pictures are terrible. Doesn't do the colors justice.  Daytime photos next time...
I also worked on my mystery socks but didn't get a picture yet.  I'm almost caught up with the clues.  the next one comes out tomorrow and I hope I'll be caught up by then.  After that, I am going to pick up one of my languishing unfinished projects.  Honest. I'm heading to the crap craft room right now to figure out which one...
Actually, I may have to wait until after snowmageddon.  Batten down the hatches everyone!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chocolate is awesome. The end.

Saturday was the Great American Afghan square knit-a-long day at The Spinning Room yarn shop, so I thought I'd make a treat to bring with me.
Dark chocolate cupcakes with a raspberry glaze.... Mmmmmm

My sister-in-law Anita gave me this gourmet cupcake mix for Christmas (thanks again, Anita!), along with some fancy cupcake paper cups and signs....
I made the mini cupcakes since I was sharing with so many, so didn't use the cups this time.  The cake mix indicated that it made 12 regular cupcakes or 24 mini cupcakes.  I filled my mini cupcake pans right up to the rim.......

.....and still had some batter leftover.  Maybe for one or two more.  So, I ate that while I waited for the oven to heat up.   What?  That's not bad.  Those calories don't count if it's not cooked yet and especially if there are raw eggs in it.  At any rate, I baked them and then I glazed them and then I brought them and then we ate them.  Chocolate is awesome.  The end.

Just kidding. I wanted to show you a picture or two of my shawl once it was off the blocking wires...
My Saturday Night Fever Stayin' Alive pose...
....and my creative attach-it-to-the-window shot.
I also finished my Downton Abbey Knit-a-Long mitts!

love, Love, LOVE them!  In case I haven't said it enough --- I love the yarn I used.  Cascade 220 Sport Superwash.  While a tad bit splitty, it is just so nice to work with and I love how it feels knit up and I love these mitts so much I want to sleep in them.

And finally, here is the last tiny project I was making as a sample for an upcoming class:
A Bunny Nugget! (click there for the FREE pattern) Cute, no?  Here's the back:
I made that pom pom with a fork.  Yes, a FORK!  I love learning new things.  

Stay tuned for more knitting progress and some pics from our one day vacation...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Garage Time

Do you know that saying, "It's going to get worse before it gets better"?
Remember "my" car-to-drive-around-once-it-gets fixed up that got purchased recently?
The one without the you-know-what?:
You'd think it could only get better from here right?

Well, take a look at it now:
What the heck??????  According to my resident car-restorer husband, "This is why I wanted this particular car.  It doesn't need any body work." [Really????? None???]   "It's only about a month away from being in primer."  Which means, it will be all back together with the primer coat of paint on it.  REALLY?????

And as a side note, today as we were discussing plans for our Saturday - mine being "go to the yarn shop for the knit-a-long", his being "go in the garage" - he happened to mention that if I wanted to help him in the garage, I could.  Since it's "my" car.  That I didn't have any inkling that I wanted.  But which will be really cool to drive around in if it happened to get fixed up and was available for me to drive.  Hmmmm.  I'll think about it.

In Knitting News:
I finished two projects for upcoming classes that I will teach at The Spinning Room.
Project the first: Little Coffee Bean Cardigan (click there for the FREE pattern)
Oh my gosh - so, So, SO cute, right???? Easy, easy, easy!  A great first-time-knitting-a-sweater pattern.  Took me four days to knit.  While I was also working on....

Project B: The Trousseau Shawl
Here it is pre-blocked:

 And being blocked with my blocking wires:
What a difference once it's pinned out!  I was surprised to find that this pattern was actually very easy.  The repeats within the rows are easy to memorize and the stitch patterns are not difficult.  Even when it got up to 326 stitches per row.  
This one took me 10 days.  Which means, between these two projects, I didn't do any other knitting and now I am REALLY behind on my knit-a-longs.  The 4th clue for the mystery socks just came out and I haven't even started the 3rd clue yet.  And I haven't started the 4th clue for the Downton mitts and the fifth clue is coming out in two days.  And no more progress on the afghan square.  One more class project sample to make - a little tiny thing that hopefully will be done tonight and you'll see in the next blog post - and then I can attempt to catch up.  That garage time is looking less and less likely....

Phoebe is too comfy to even offer to help me: