Friday, December 10, 2010

Hooray for warm socks

Our neck of the woods is frigid cold this December. It's weather like this makes makes me love my handknit socks all the more. And just in time for this cold snap, I've just finished two new pairs.
First up are a pair of plain vanilla socks in Knitter's Brewing Company's Cabernet Harvest Sock-a-holic yarn.

These were my conversation socks for the nights C and I sat out by the firepot this late summer and fall. I think the colors are gorgeous and the hand is sturdy yet soft (not scratchy).

The second pair are my very first Wollmeise socks in My Old Blue Jeans Twin. The pattern is Hermione's Everyday socks.

I loved knitting these socks and I adore this yarn base. It has an almost cotton like feel to it but with the give of wool. The yarn is on the heavier side of fingering weight. I used a US 1.5 (2.5mm) needle for a dense yet not at all stiff fabric. I can not wait to see how these wear.

Of course I've cast on a new pair of socks, another pair of plain vanilla socks this time with some of my own hand dyed yarn. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More mitts

As a follow up to the mitts I knit for my sister, I indulged in a pair of mitts for me. These cute little mitts were on display at Yarn Love when we visited there a few weeks back and I couldn't resist the them.
The pattern is the Welted Fingerless Gloves from Churchmouse Yarns. The yarn is Silk Blend by Manos del Uruguay. These are an extremely simple and fast knit. The pattern uses a one row buttonhole for the thumb opening, the first time I've seen a thumb done this way. 
The yarn is incredibly soft and warm. In the past I've not been happy with this type of softly spun singles yarn because they tend to pill. I'm interested to see if the silk content helps to reduce this tendency. I've worn them many times these last few weeks and so far they look as good as new.

Another finished object, but this time from the sewing front. A recent Knit Picks catalog featured a cross over product from their sister-site, the quilting store Connecting Threads. KP is offering a sewing kit that includes material and patterns to make a needle case, backpack and drawstring project bags. I chose the winter variety of fabrics and made the needle case.
I would rate the pattern as intermediate, not for a beginning sewer. Were I to sew another one (and it's likely I will since I'm so happy with the case) I would change up the pockets a bit. All the edges are finished with a turned under edge, but I think a doubled over pocket would be sturdier and also look more finished. Of course, that uses more fabric so I understand their decision to finish the pockets as they did.
There are PLENTY of pockets in this case. There are enough pockets to accommodate an entire set of interchangeable tips as well as pockets for the various cables. The pockets on the right are designed for circular needles. I have far too many circs to move them into this case, but might put a few of my most frequently used needles in there. There are pockets for dpns as well, although those too are empty in my case since I rarely use them. I love this case. The only drawback is that the pockets aren't labeled with the needle sizes and KP doesn't mark the size on their needles. I think I'm going to order their needle id tags and sew them to the pockets like buttons for easier identification.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Leaves

Although this could be a post about the glorious fall foliage display C and I observed this week in our travels, I am instead talking of the October Leaves fingerless mitts I just finished. My sister requested a pair of fingerless mitts for work. Since knitting requests from family are like kryptonite to me, I eagerly set out to find the perfect pattern. I've made several different mitts over the years and find my favorites are the ones knit with fingering weight yarn (sock yarn). They fit close to the hand so they are unobtrusive when you are trying to type or use your hands for any reason, yet they still provide plenty of warmth. I also wanted a pattern with a bit of interest. The October Leaves pattern by Abbie Tilden looked to be the perfect choice.

The color requested was grey or black and a quick search of my stash produced a gorgeous grey superwash sock yarn. I was off and running.
The mitts only took 11 days to complete. The pattern calls for cables up both sides of the hand. But after a few rows in this fashion, I decided the outside cable was too much. I much preferred the single cable running up the thumb side and blooming into the leaves that frame the thumb.This pattern is super easy. I manged most of the 4 stitch cables without a cable needle. When I did need a cable needle I used a lightly sanded round toothpick since none of the cable needles I own were small enough for such fine yarn. This worked wonderfully. The only other modification I made was to knit the top (hand) ribbing on smaller needles to keep the fit snug around the knuckles. There's nothing worse on mitts than the top edge being loose and bunching up.

The only problem I had with this project was the yarn. The yarn was a gorgeous mottled grey handdyed sock yarn. It is delightfully soft and a pleasure to knit with. However, I washed the mitts and then laid them outside to dry. When I went back to check o
n them a few hours later, I discovered the side facing up had turned green!I've never had a yarn change color on me. It was so weird. After checking the yarn label, I found the dyer DID say to dry them out of direct sunlight, so it is entirely my fault. The green was an interesting color and had I been able to get the second side to fade the same way they might have been usable. However, the request was not for green mitts so I took to my dye pot and overdyed them. Two dyebaths later, the mitts emerged a fabulous charcoal grey.

They are on my hands now as I type and I adore them. Sis, I do hope you love them too.
It's a wrench parting with them but it makes me feel good knowing you'll have warm (and I must say, smartly dressed) hands thanks to me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sherlock

A few months ago when R first told me about the new Sherlock coming to PBS's Masterpiece Mystery,  I was dubious. The preview looked flashy and I just couldn't imagine Sherlock Holmes set in current day London. Few can match Jeremy Brett's portrayal of the sleuth in my book. Thus I tucked it away in the back of my mind and more or less forgot about it. While browsing the channel guide last night I discovered the show had started so I decided to give it a watch. Wow. I mean, WOW. Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing as Holmes. He plays the fast talking detective to a T. The character observes everything and processes his observations lightening fast. Martin Freeman's Watson is an excellent foil to the genius. I love the way the show uses text cues to help the viewer get the clues. My one and only disappointment was the scene where they tracked the GPS location of the victim's cell phone and were stymied by it's apparent location. Given other clues in the scene, specifically Mrs. Hudson's announcement, it was pretty obvious where the phone was and who the killer was. But everyone was standing around scratching their heads. Sherlock does, of course, figure it out, and maybe it was just a dramatic pause to show his thought process. Other than that one minor complaint, I give the show highest marks.

Favorite line "Dear god, what is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring."

Sherlock is available on DVD as well as on demand at PBS.org (I assume this will only be for a while though).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Good stuff

My Future Primitive order arrived this week and as expected, this soap rocks.The soaps are all wrapped in pretty glassine paper with cigar band labels. They smell phenomenal (although you can not smell them through the wrapper, I opened up the ends to smell them.) In addition to the 3 soaps I ordered, Tiggy sent a sample of her White Witch soap which immediately found a home by the bathroom sink. I've been using it all week and it is simply divine. I know, I'm gushing, but really, this soap is quite possibly the best I've ever tried. Not only does it look glorious, but it is also darn good soap. The bars are nice and hard and work into a creamy highly scented lather. The scent is long lasting on my skin. The ultimate test is face washing. I can use this on my face with out even a hint dryness. I will definitely be buying more soaps from her.

Next good thing this week is applesauce. With local apples being dirt cheap and my co-worker extolling the virtues of homemade applesauce, I decided to give it a try. I washed and cut up enough apples to fill my 6 quart dutch oven (peels, cores and all go in the pot). I used a variety of apples...Rome, Macintosh, Stayman, and Yellow Delicious and just about an inch of water. Cover and cook on high until the water boils. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are super soft. I let it cool slightly then ran the cooked apples through my food mill. From about 5 quarts of apples, I ended up with 3 pints of applesauce.
So so yummy and incredibly easy. 2 pints went into the freezer and the other jar will disappear in no time, I'm sure. I will definitely be buying more apples this week to make a big batch for the freezer.

I finished reading Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton this week. It is the first in a knitting themed cozy mystery series. This was an enjoyable, light read. It is obvious it is meant to be a series as there were tons of characters introduced and a lot of story lines that didn't seem to have resolutions. The characters were all very likable and the setting a dream come true for a knitter (the knit shop is set side by side with a coffee shop/cafe in an old farmhouse, sigh). It was refreshing to read a cozy where the main character didn't end up at death's doorstep through their stupid heroics. I'm sure I'll be reading more from this series.

Now I'm trying to settle on my next book and having difficulty finding something to fit my mood. I've started several books this week and nothing seems the right fit. Instead, I'm watching season 4 of Corner Gas. Hilarious!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Scary Gary

I've been meaning to post about this comic for ages.
Scary Gary


 Scary Gary follows the "life" of vampire Gary. Gary is reformed and doesn't hunt people. He lives with his henchman, Leopold, a goblin-type creature who is most definitely NOT reformed. The strip is hilarious and smart. Do check it out if you want a good laugh.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Soap p*rn

Everyone knows, I've got a weird obsession with soap (the stuff that gets you clean, not that crap on afternoon TV). My obsession with soap led me to start soaping a few years back. I've made a good number of batches of soap, some good, few unusable, most just average. Soap making is easy. Soap artistry, on the other hand, is something I have yet to achieve. I'm not giving up soaping. But I have allowed myself the luxury and shear pleasure of browsing (and buying) soaps from some mighty talented soapers. Here I'm highlighting the ones I ordered from recently. (pictures captured from each vendor).
I picked up a few melt and pour type soaps from Solstice Scents a month or so ago.
Monster Mash
Harvest Moon
Monster Mash and Harvest Moon.  These smell great and are quiet pretty to look at. She uses a good glycerin soap base that isn't at all drying to the skin. They leave a light scent on your skin as well. If you like M and P soaps, these would be great to try.

But what really makes my heart sing is fabulous cold process soap. And boy-howdy have I found some FANTASTIC examples.

The Morbid the Merrier has become my number one favorite indy perfumer. Her Sleepy Hollow scents are fabulous. And her general collection Absinthe and Cocoa Absinthe are my new favorite day to day scents. She released a few soaps related to the Sleepy Hollow series and I snatched them both up...
Baltus
Brom
Sadly, there are no companion perfumes, but I can content myself with soaps. These are generous 4-5 oz bars wrapped with a paper band adorned with Lysa's sideshow-esque labels. There's a sort of plastic half wrap that keeps the tops and bottoms of the soaps clean while sitting on the shelf but still allows you to smell the delicious scents. I haven't tried them yet but am storing them in my chest of drawers where they keep my tee shirts smelling yummy.

Next up I picked up some soaps form English Major Soaps. These soaps all have a literary theme. They come wrapped in pages from an old book. (For the life of me I can't get pictures to load so you'll have to click the links to see the soaps.) The 3 I chose are Cask of Amontillado, Beowulf and Dante's Inferno. The imbed in Cask is supposed to resemble the bars of a cell, awesome, and the scent is definitely wine like. Beowulf is scented with dragonsblood. Dante had the least amount of scent so I put that one to use right away. The soap lathers well and is gentle on the skin.

When I saw Future Primitive on someone's blog (might have been TMTM) I about fell off my seat. Now THESE are some rockin' soaps.
No. 11
One Ring
Lagoon
Her scents lean more towards nature (lavender, geranium, patchouli, etc). I pretty much want every scent she offers. She's in England and shipping can add up  fast so I limited myself to 2 bars and a sample. One Ring, Lagoon and No 11. I'm waiting for my order to arrive but I am sure they won't disappoint.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beads!

I've spent a few nights this week working on stringing the beads for my Shipwreck shawl. As I said last time, the pattern calls for 5000 beads. I've strung about 1000 beads using a dental floss threader. It was slow going at first since the threader is rather flimsy and I wasn't able to just skim it through the jar of beads and pick them up. I was picking up a few beads between my fingers and more or less feeding them onto the threader. Very tedious. I've since discovered I can put a small pile of beads in the palm of my hand and pick them up with the threader pretty easily (note to self, get a big eye needle!) This has greatly speeded up the process, not to mention saved the fatigue on my fingers. The pattern calls for 8/0 seed beads, which is what I bought. I tested a few I had on hand before placing my order and thought they would work fine. Now that I have many strung, they seem a bit small. They fit rather snugly on the yarn. I guess that's good, they won't shift around when the are placed in the shawl. And with the number of beads needed, using 6/0 would add quite a bit of weight. I finished the Madeira pattern this morning. A few more knit rows then the stitch count doubles and I start the net. I'm excited to start beading. The shawl has been fun so far. The net is going to be tedious. 590 stitches per round. All yo/k2tog. For a jillion rows. For some people, this time flies, for others it's mind numbingly boring. I don't know which camp I'll land in, hopefully the first!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Knitting roundup

Finally, a finished object.
These are the Purl When Ready socks from The Big Book of Socks knit in Liberty's Yarn Bluetopia Tea Party. The color defies photography, they are much prettier in person. The yarn is a light fingering with a tight twist. Knit on US 0 needles it produced a dense yet still drape-able fabric. The socks are very comfortable and I hope the combination of tight twist yarn knit at a firm gauge will result in a long lasting pair of socks. I am not a fan of knitting socks at this gauge because they seem to take forever. My current sock projects are the Hermione's Everyday sock in Wollmeise Twin and a plain vanilla sock in Knitter's Brewing Company Sockaholic. Both of are true to heavy fingering weight, much more pleasurable to knit.
Most of my knitting time the last week has been devoted to my new obsession, the Shipwreck Shawl. I have no idea what triggered this wild hare, but I am smitten. Shipwreck is a circular shawl knit in fingering weight yarn. The center is a lace medallion made of 3 separate designs. The rest of the shawl is a randomly beaded net pattern. I'm knitting mine as the pattern calls for in Knit Picks Bare Gloss yarn. After the shawl is complete you dye it. I intend to dye mine similar to the original, a stormy blue/gray.

This picture was taken a few days ago having finished the center strawberry pattern, bleeding hearts pattern and just beginning the final motif, Madeira. I am now 2/3 done with Madeira. The charts are pretty easy to follow, 10 stitch repeats. There is some trickiness with some of the rows where you have to move your starting row marker. This was confusing to me at first, especially the rows where you move the marker to the right. I've had 2 rows with mistakes that I had to tink back (un-knit each stitch, one by one) entire rows. This is very frustrating and time consuming, but in lace you just can't fudge over mistakes. It is pretty easy to spot mistakes on the next row, though, so I've not had to tink back more than one row. I hope to start the beaded net by midweek. I purchased my beads from Artbeads (love them). I couldn't find a bead mix anywhere that floated my boat, so I made my own using 10 different shades of blue and black.

They are all Toho rounds size 8/0. Colors include: Amethyst Gunmetal, Navy Iris, Rainbow Black Diamond, Rainbow Moss Green, Iris Gray, Matte Gunmetal, Metallic Hematite, Matte Metallic Navy Iris, Silver-lined Sapphire, Deep Plum-lined Aqua. I think the mix is beautiful and am anxious to see how it looks on the shawl. The pattern calls for 5000 beads. Most of the tips and hints I've read advise not to string them all at once. I'll probably work on stringing later today so I'm ready to go when I reach the net.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Button jar

Hands up everyone that loves button jars. If you grew up with a grandma, mom or aunt who sewed, you probably know the joy that is a button jar. They are an endless source of fun for a child...sorting by color or size or number of holes, just rolling it around to hear the sound it makes. As an adult, I think they are aesthetically beautiful. Not to mention useful if you lose a button or are a crafter like me. And anyone who sews knows buttons are not that cheap any more. All the more reason my heart leaped when I found this little gem at the flea market today.
A jar full of green buttons marked $4.50 (although the vendor only charged me $4, sweet). C asked me what I had planned for them. Nothing really. They'll sit on the shelf and look pretty. I'll pluck a gem here and there when I have need. The kid in me could not resist dumping them all out when I got home and looking for treasure.

The jar did not disappoint. These were my favorites. Look at those colors! And see the nifty little 3 leaf clover on that one? Gotta find a special project for that one. Later I'll sort them and see how many are singles and how many are sets. The 8 year old in me is beaming.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Massive catching up post

I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I posted! Summer leaves me lethargic and not all that talkative. But it's time for a bit of a catch up.

I read Mint Julep Murder by Carolyn Hart. This was the first time I've read one of her books. Sometimes her style rubbed me the wrong way but in hindsight I think it could be that I just didn't know the characters backgrounds (this book was #9 in a series) so some things were assumed the reader knew and understood, but I didn't. Other than that, I really enjoyed the book. Lots of red herrings and false leads so that it looked like just about ANYONE could have been the murderer.

I also finally got around to finishing Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot. This was another good read. Not a diet or exercise or motivation book, despite the title. It's a cozy mystery set on a college campus in New York City. The story revolves around a now-grown pop singer, Heather Wells, who's trying to make a go in life after her singing career ended. This murder was much easier to solve pretty early on, but Heather is a fun character who is easy to relate to. It looks like there may be more books in this series too which I think would be worth a look.

I started The Something That Happened in Pepperville but have set it aside. I'm all for quirky towns and quirky characters, but this one goes to extremes. Not a character or place was introduced that didn't have some weird foible. I need at least a bit of normalcy in there somewhere. Now I'm on to Frankly My Dear I'm Dead. Not far enough to make comments but chapter one was good. Oh, that is when I'm not playing word games. Amazon released 2 word games for Kindle this week which I'm finding WAY too addicting.

Sewing...I'm once again making bags for my Etsy shop and hope to get them listed in the next month or so. They still need buttons and photos taken, but I'm getting closer. I also just sewed the cutest little pair of house slippers.
The pattern comes from Amy Karol (Mail order #9). The sizes included are S (5-6), M (7-8) and L (9-10). I wear a size 8 1/2 shoe so I fall right in the middle. I tried the medium, but it's too small. Will try the large next time. I also used polar fleece for the soles rather than the cotton duck/canvas she calls for. So much cushier. The top fabric is a vintage cotton found at Shupp's Grove a few weeks back. These are perfect summer slippers.

I'm back to knitting. I finished the Multnomah shawl.
Used about 1 1/2 balls for 100purewool lace weight held double on US 5 needles. I did 13 lace repeats rather than 10. I could have done more for a larger shawl, but I just wanted it to be done. The pattern is easy and it's a cute little shawlette. I'm not crazy about the garter stitch middle. If I were to knit it again I'd probably do stockinette stitch.

I've been longing for a denim sweater since I first heard about the yarn (indigo dyed cotton yarn that fades and shrinks like denim jeans). There are several companies that produce denim yarn. When Elann announced a bag sale of True Blue denim yarn, I jumped at the chance to get a sweaters-worth for under $40.  The color is medium blue and I bought 2 bags of the same dye lot. I found the dye to be very inconsistent throughout the bags though. Some balls are much lighter than others. They evened out a bit in the wash, but I can still see where I changed balls.
I designed the pattern myself using Knitwear. Knit on Bond USM, keyplate 1, ribbing handknit on US 4 needles, 13 balls of Elle True Blue Denim yarn. Took only 5 days to complete (over the course of 3 weekends, working only a few hours at a time). I love my sweater machine for plain sweaters! After washing the sweater is so incredibly soft and light. I've got 7 balls left and am debating ordering another bag to make a sweater for C as well. I'm not really into matchy/matchy couples, but we could just make a point not to wear them at the same time! :)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Not even trying anymore

Remember way back in December when I talked about going on a yarn diet? How I was going to be good and knit from stash and not just buy yarn for the sake of buying yarn? Yeah, lets just try to forget that lofty goal. I've failed AGAIN. And with the whole not actually knitting thing going on, I feel strangely compelled to buy yarn so at least something is happening in my fiber world. It's a sickness, I know.

So here's the current fail. A week or so ago I got a ding on Ravelry that my name was mentioned on the Knitter's Brewing Company group. So I clicked over to see why. Lo and behold, I won their monthly drawing for a free skein of yarn. Sweet! I had only just discovered the site a week or two before that and signed up for the drawing on a whim. Lucky me! The indy dyer behind KBC, Wendy, uses a micro-brewery theme for her collection and has based all her yarns on cocktails. She has multi-color skeins as well as semi-solids. All sock yarns (75% superwash wool/25% nylon). I couldn't narrow my decision down to just one color and since she runs sales every Thursday (and this just happened to be a Thursday) I went ahead and ordered 2 skeins along with my freebie. The yarn arrived super quick, and adorably packaged.
Each skein is wrapped in tissue paper and nestled into its own foil stamped bag. I need to get pictures of the yarns unwrapped so you can see their gorgeousness, but there was a bit of an accident (involving a cat with a hairball, 'nuf said) so one of the yarns need to be washed (yuck) so no glamor shots just yet. The colors are lovely. The blue is called "Old Fashioned" and the grey is "Greyhound". These are both semi solids with subtle variations in tone. The pink multi is "Cabernet Harvest". It was much more pink in the skein than I had anticipated. However, when I unfurled the hank I discovered rich burgundys and dark olive greens hiding. Wendy includes a free pattern with each skein of yarn you buy. I chose Stashbuster and With a Twist. I also picked up a Knit Happy notepad which contains little post it notes, post it arrows and a notepad. Can't wait to get to knit some of this up!!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Tuesday, July 5, 2010 5:45 pm

Yeah, right. That reads 104. No joke. Almost 6 o'clock in the evening and it's over 100 degrees.

More sewing

This weekend's post was supposed to be all about Tour de Fleece (a spinning challenge that coincides with the bicycling race, Tour de France). A month or so back I signed up with the Knit Girllls team with a goal of spinning 10 minutes a day during the tour. Alas, I'm still sidelined by my achy hands so I'm going to bow out before I even start. If you are interested in more information on TdF, check out the official group on Ravelry.

On the plus side, I am starting to notice improvements in my hands. My left wrist is doing much better and only gives me problems occasionally. I was even able to do some weight training this week, still no push ups though. My right thumb still hurts but it too is showing signs of improvement. The last few nights I've been putting a hot pack on it rather than ice and I'm feeling quite a bit better. I've been able to knit a bit, maybe 30 minutes each day since Friday. I wear a support on my left hand and have my right thumb wrapped so I remember not to use it. I'm hopefully I can avoid the trip to the chiropractor if improvement continues.

So instead of knitting, I've been doing tons of sewing. Last weekend I sewed 2 bags with some of the fabric from Burkholders (and some stash fabric). The first is a purse from the fabulous One Yard Wonders book.
This is the Flouncy Bag. It's much smaller than the Namaste bag I've been carrying, which took some getting used to. But the lighter weight and cotton fabric make it much more summer friendly.

Also from this book I made the Better than a Box cat bed.
This was a bit fiddley to sew, but the results are very well loved by the feline population of our home. I stuffed the bed with the leftover wool batting and some random wool leftovers I had laying around.

Next up is a little tote bag that's made using 3 fat quarters of fabric.
I found the pattern online, but am not linking it because the pattern has issues. The designer must have larger fat quarters than I can get (you know those things are never cut square and you rarely get the 18x22" you're supposed to) because I couldn't get the pieces she calls for from my FQs. So I just used her basic idea and came up with my own bag.
The fabrics are reversed from one side to the next. It's a perfect little lunch bag size.

Last up is a nearly instant sundress. JoAnn Fabric had this cheater fabric on sale this weekend.The top is shirred with elastic and the bottom is a full skirt.
For $9 I got enough fabric for a dress and ribbon to use for straps. All you do is sew up the 2 cut edges, add straps and you are done! You could cut the bottom down and hem it if you wanted a shorter dress. But since this is strictly for around-the-house-wear for me, the selvage finished edge is just fine for now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Sew a Button

I just finished up the book How to Sew a Button by Erin Bried. This quaint little book serves up the wisdom of our grandmothers in easy to follow steps. The tips range from the useful for everyone...(how to sew a button, how to grocery shop and how to spring clean) to the useful for those of us who yearn to be more like our grandmothers...(how to roast a chicken, how to hang a wash line and how to play crazy 8s). There's practical tips about budgeting and saving. Cooking, cleaning and sewing tips abound. There's stuff you'd never think to find in a how to book, like how to make friends with the neighbors or how to greet your honey after a hard day (lest you feminists balk, she's quick to point out this tip goes both ways). Everything is presented with a light heart and charming attitude. Each tip starts out with a pithy comment from "the grandmothers" who contributed to the book. There a kitschy, retro drawings scattered throughout the book as well. All in all an entertaining but educational read. Downside, makes me REALLY miss my grandmas!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Zero knitting

My hands are rebelling against me and I'm unable to knit. I've not knit a stitch in almost 7 days which is probably some kind of record since I've taken up the hobby. The problems I'm having were probably brought on by the new exercise routines I've been following lately, but knitting definitely aggravates the pain so it's off limits for now.

Instead I've been reading. I'm still on the aromatherapy kick and am working my way through a pile of books on the subject. Last week I finished the Aromatherapy Bible. The book is small in dimension but still nearly 400 pages. It is one of the best references I've read on aromatherapy. The topics are concise but thorough. The book covers various techniques for using aromatherapy, has a large essential oil reference section and plenty of recipes. I foresee turning to this book often.

I'm about half way through Essential Aromatherapy (the 1995 edition). This book is somewhat dated (there's a reference to Princess Diana using aromatherapy!) But the principles are still good. There are handy reference tables in various configurations making it easy to search for oils by name or by condition you wish to address. This too will be a book I keep on the shelf, but if you are looking to get a copy for yourself, perhaps consider the updated version.

On my Kindle I'm still reading Mossy Creek. This book is delightful. A perfect summer read. Each chapter introduces a new citizen of Mossy Creek and tells a story about them and their involvement in the town. The tales build on each other very subtly with previous characters showing up in the sidelines here and there. The characters are funny and smart and the stories are engaging. I'm sure I'll be picking up more books from this series as time goes on.

C and I made our first trek to Shupp's Grove this morning. We got there early, right when they opened, and found many vendors still closed. This flea market is very laid back compared to most where it's all a hustle and bustle. Located in what appears to be an old wooded campground, Shupp's Grove is a cool, dipped in nature oasis. The folks there are friendly. Bargains abound and we usually find something to spark our interest. I picked up an old Corning dish to use as a bird bath and C found some old comics. On the way home we found Burkholder's fabric store was open and stopped in to have a look around. Oh wow, what a store! There are 3 huge rooms STUFFED with fabric.
I picked up 2 one yard cuts of some vintage looking fabrics and a slew of fat quarters (you can get 20 fq for $25, that's half price!) Now I really have no idea what I'll do with 25 fat quarters, but since I'm not knitting at the moment, this will at least give me something crafty to play with!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The 5 yard quilt

Since I took up knitting, quilting has taken a bit of a back seat. I still love quilts and piecing tops, but I'm strictly a machine sewer and just don't find myself wanting to spend time squirreled away in my sewing room. Plus my craft/sewing room is tiny making the quilting of quilts an exercise in fabric gymnastics, constantly tucking and fluffing and stuffing and wrangling the quilt around my sewing table and into the machine. Normally I stick to smallish quilts, generally afghan size, which are somewhat manageable. But 2 years ago at the Quilt Odyssey in Hershey I fell in love with a 5 Yard Quilt Kit from Bolines and knew I had to have it for our spare room's twin bed.  The kits are great. You get 5 yards of coordinating fabric and 3 patterns to make a twin size quilt top. You supply your own batting, backing and binding. The top has been pieced for quite some time it's just been waiting for me to quilt it. So this weekend I took advantage of a day off and pleasantly cool morning temperatures and I soldiered through and got it quilted. I had started trying to individually quilt the large blocks, but this was proving near impossible with my set up. In the end, i just straight line quilted between the major blocks. I'll go back at some point and do some additional quilting in between, just to prevent the batting from shifting if it needs to be washed.
I adore the old-timey look of these fabrics. Feels very colonial to me. I intend to redo the room around the quilt. As you can see, the room needs a redo. The walls are do for paint this year and I'm leaning towards a rich, chocolate suede brown. Curtains will perhaps be navy or I'd love to find that brown floral from the quilt and make curtains with it. But seeing that the fabrics are a number of years old, this probably won't happen. I used wool batting for a truly decadent feel. The cost was a bit more than good cotton batting, but I do recommend it for a special project. Oh, and cats ADORE it too. It's been a long time coming, but I'm thrilled to bits with this quilt.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Swatching for Iona

I found a lovely seller on Ebay who specializes in chenille yarns. She carries a bulky cotton chenille that seems comparable to Rowan Chunky Chenille, so I purchased one of her four packs to do some test knitting. The yarn arrived super fast. (I give Chenille Shack highest marks for customer service. If you need chenille yarn, this is the place to go!) I wanted to give the yarn a thorough test with the pattern so rather than doing a swatch, I decided to just cast on a sleeve as written for Iona. This way I could test the color work cuff as well as the cable section. 

At first I found the chenille hard on my hands. After an hour or so of solid knitting, my hands were aching. Chenille has no stretch or give like plied yarns do because of its construction and cotton itself is inelastic as well. Furthermore, you're knitting with bulky yarn (eh, maybe closer to heavy worsted) on US 5 and 7 needles, that's a somewhat firm gauge. The next day I tried again, loosening my tension a bit and I did not experience the hand fatigue. I'm getting stitch gauge, spot on (4 st/inch) but my row gauge is off (5 row/inch instead of 6). This could be a bit problematic because of the nature of the cable motif (the whole thing needs to fit in a specific amount of space. Since I'm getting fewer rows than called for, the motif will take up more space.) There's enough background I think I could adjust though.

The question is if I like the yarn enough to do a whole sweater with it. Here's what the swatch looks like so far. 
The yarn is moderately soft, but I've heard it softens considerably upon washing. It feels a bit heavy although it is cotton. The drape is ok and I imagine will only improve with washing. My issue is the reverse stockinette (the part above the checkerboard).
That is how the sweater is designed, with the "wrong" side of the stitch to the front. I've just never been a fan of reverse stockinette. It makes me feel like my sweater is inside out. And with chenille yarn it feels even more so. I'm not going to rush to a decision. Having picked up some yarn to test the pattern has scratched the Iona itch for now and I'm satisfied to think about it for awhile before making a final decision. I think the next time I place a Knit Picks order I'll pick up 2 balls of Comfy bulky and see how that looks. If I feel the same ways about the ugliness of reverse stockinette then this pattern may be out of the queue.

There's still plenty of other knitting going on. I'm working on a pair of socks in that Bluetopia BFL I picked up from Liberty during her sale.
This is the Tea Party color way (the picture is not doing it justice) and the pattern is called "Purl When Ready" from the Big Book of Socks. It's mostly a plain vanilla sock with a few purl stitches thrown in randomly for interest.
I'm also working on a Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig.
The pattern calls for laceweight yarn, but I wanted a slightly more substantial yet still lightweight sweater so I'm using Knit Picks Comfy fingering weight yarn. It's a super easy knit and I am loving the fabric it's producing. Knitting sock yarn on US 6 (4mm) needles produces such a fabulous drape. The sweater feels like the softest tee shirt. It is moving along at a pretty decent clip and I would hope to be able to wear it this season yet. 

The Multnomah shawl, Bitterroot shawl and Sleepy Hollow socks all get a few rows knitted on them each week, but there's no visible progress there. I enjoy having this variety of projects (from mindless to challenging) at hand to suit my mood at the time. 

Lastly, the Wollmeise count is up to 4 and holding. After I received my first order, I was around for another Saturday update and managed to grab a Kunterbunt and a Gemischt small grab bags in Twin (and 80/20 merino/nylon blend sock yarn). The intention was for them to go to Jen since at that time she still didn't have any WM. But as it turned out, by the time they came, she had managed to order 6 skeins for herself (which is producing much frustration do to a shipping problem, but that's another story). When the 4 skeins arrived, I found the Gemischt was the exact same colors I got in my first order a few weeks prior. Jen happily took those 2. She was nice enough to let me keep the Kunterbunt set.
So here's my current inventory.
My Old Blue Jeans, Campari Orange and 2 Versuchskaninchen. Jen is leaving me in the dust. She's already balled her's up and has started knitting socks! I still can not bear to unwrap them. In fact they still live in their original bag. I still want to get a big Kunterbunt or maybe Gemischt bag one of these days. But there seems to be a lot of duplicate yarns being shipped right now and I'm really hoping for a variety. So I'm holding off for at least a month or two before trying for more.