Saturday, December 24, 2011

Empty Needles

From time to time, I have knit socks for my sister-in-law. She has small feet, it’s a quick project.

Her mother, who I have also known for most of my life, has admired Erin’s handknit socks. And asked me to knit a pair for her.

In August, I took my stash of STR-Mediumweight in colors I didn’t love up to the lake. And had Marianne pick out a skein she liked.


I essentially cast these on over Labor Day weekend. They took a few good long snoozes.

Shortly after I started knitting, I decided that a pattern would both add to the stretchy-ness of these socks and help keep me entertained. So that makes this my third pair of Holidazed socks, a Rockin' Sock Club pattern from (I think) my first year in the club.

Toe pic!

I used my favorite garter toe, knit for an inch or two, then was off to the races.

Marianne has extremely narrow feet and a high arch. These socks are funny-looking (and slightly overstretched on my sock blockers), but I just hope they fit properly.


I used New Pathways along with the pattern stitch, as usual. And once again, I’m happy with the results.

This leaves me with precisely ZERO active knitting projects. Really. It’s a strange feeling. I know the next pair of socks that I want to cast on, but if I’m going to do a “12 in 12” sock challenge, I need to wait a week before I cast those on. But really, it’s kind of nice to have a little bit of relaxation this time of year, isn’t it?

These socks are not a Christmas gift, so the timing is coincidental, not planned. But I’m really just happy to have another project finished. That’s a good feeling these days!


Marianne’s Socks

Pattern: Holidazed by Anne Hanson
Yarn: Socks that Rock Mediumweight
Color: Bumbleberry
Quantity: I’d guess about 2/3 of a skein. I have a lot left!
Needles: US 2/2.75mm 16” ChiaoGoo red lace circs (which I love, by the way)
Started: 2 September 2011
Finished: 23 December 2011
Mods: Plugged the pattern stitch into a New Pathways/Riverbed Master architecture

Friday, December 23, 2011


So what do you do when you need a quick gift? I’m reminded at this time of year that hats can be a great answer to this problem.


I needed a Christmas gift for Jeff, my trainer. Last year, he got a hat and knucks. This year, I grabbed a new-to-Bloomin yarn and a pattern I’d knit a few years ago as a shop sample and was off to the races on Saturday night.


This is a reasonably close approximation of one of the NFL sideline hats from a couple seasons ago. It’s a free Cascade pattern and it knit up (for me) in less than 24 hours. I consider that a massive win.


The Simpliworsted yarn is very nice to knit with, and will be machine washable. The colorwork pattern is just 12 rows, quick to knit, and a very suitable first-fair-isle project as far as I’m concerned. Once again, the hat was well-received, and another Christmas gift is off to its new home. Success!


Steelers Hat

Pattern: Pittsburgh Steelers Hat by Lorna Miser (free pattern from Cascade)
Yarn: Simpliworsted (HiKoo by Skacel Collection)
Color: Black, Gold Crest
Quantity: Most of the skein of black, less than half of the gold skein
Needles: US 8/5.0mm KA Switch 16” needles
Started: 17 December 2011
Finished: 18 December 2011
Mods: Did a final round of K2TOG at the end before closing the top of the hat.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Haven’t You Always Wanted a Monkey?

Monkeys are very silly creatures. With long arms and legs, they can hang around pretty much anywhere they want


I first met this particular monkey's cousin when my knitting group friend Heather made one of her own. It was stolen by her daughter, who is a day younger than my niece.

I figured that hit my target demographic for a Christmas gift.


I pulled some Vintage Chunky on a Saturday at the store. Started knitting on Sunday. Put all the pieces together on Friday. Boom. Gift finished.


By the time I was finished with arms, legs and the tail, all very narrow tubes, I was kind of over it, but the results are so cute, who could really argue?


There’s a reason that DangerCrafts patterns are so popular. Rebecca is very attentive to detail. I love the monkey ears. It took a bit of work to find safety eyes at my local JoAnn’s (several “you want WHAT?” looks from store employees), but I did eventually find them and got them attached fairly evenly.

The mouth is a bit funky, but I decided that just added personality.

On Heather’s advice, I stuffed the ever-living crap out of this toy. I don’t think any more fluff would fit in there.


This monkey was fun to knit, and makes me happy that I purchased Rebecca Danger’s book last summer. I’m sure I’ll be knitting more DangerCrafts beings in the future.


Jerry, the Musical Monkey

Pattern: Jerry the Musical Monkey by Rebecca Danger
Yarn: Berroco Vintage Chunky
Color: Aster and Petunia
Quantity: 1 skein of each
Needles: US 7/4.5mm KnitPicks Options. Used both 40” and 32” cables.
Started: 4 December 2011
Finished: 9 December 2011
Mods: Inadvertently knit the legs a little skinny. By 2 stitches. No biggie. Also did mirrored decreases instead of all K2TOGs. That was on purpose (once I decided to do it, mid-noggin)

Bonus points to anyone who can identify the source of this blog post title/headline

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Over a Yard of Indulgence

Every so often, it’s nice to splurge.

When Bloomin’s shipment of Fleece Artist/Handmaiden arrived at the store, it included batches of Sea Silk and Camelspin. Both were beautiful, and neither is appropriate for socks. So what is a non-shawl-knitter to do? My answer was to think outside the box.


We’ve had a store sample of the Churchmouse pattern Annabella’s Cowl for over a year. But that sample was knit far shorter than the pattern. This sucker measures at 40” in its natural state.


Believe it or not, it does stretch out far wider and is a nice cozy true cowl. What does that mean? It means it can be worn as a hood or down around your neck. It’s not too tight when it’s all smushed down, but here’s Baxter modeling it as a hood:


This was knit using one skein of Camelspin and three of Blue Sky Alpaca Silk. And I used every last centimeter of each yarn. Don’t believe me? Check out the three green boxes in this picture:


From left to right, that’s where the Camelspin ran out, the tail of the Blue Sky so I could finish the last 12 stitches of bind-off with the Blue Sky held doubled, and the loop with the end of the Blue Sky after the bind-off was finished.

I used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off until about the last 12 stitches. Then I switched to a regular bind-off, worked loosely, since I was justifiably worried I wasn’t going to have enough yarn to secure the rest of those stitches.

So the whole thing is super long. Big enough for a two-bear cozy, actually


And I’m quite happy with the final product. It will be a luxurious winter accessory during the cold months ahead. Totally worth it.


Annabella’s Cowl

Pattern: Annabella’s Cowl by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas
Yarns: Handmaiden Camelspin, Blue Sky Alpaca Silk/Blueberry
Quantity: One skein Camelspin, three skeins Blue Sky
Source: Bloomin Yarns
Needles: US 10, 16” KA Switch needles
Started: 6 October 2011
Finished: 9 December 2011
Mods: Knit an extra inch of stockingette to start. Mostly because I wasn’t paying attention.
Not like it mattered. At all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WiP Wednesday

Sorry I’m late today, I’ve been busy writing for pennies.

Since my Friday finishing binge, the two stretches of knitting time I’ve had have both gone into my socks-in-progress.


I got from pre-arch-increases to the heel turn in one sitting, from short rows to heel flap decreases in the second. Now all that’s left is the leg and I’m back to knitting on my own projects.

Sewing is going to be taking up a decent chunk of time in the immediate future. Both some gift-sewing and a flavor of commission sewing. All holidays, all the time around here.

Speaking of which, that rather simple picture shows three of my favorite things.

Socks that Rock (this particular base is their Mediumweight)

The stitch marker you see is a 10-row counter from Hide and Sheep. They are my very most favorite row counters and I intend to acquire more.

And, finally, the bag is from my new favorite pusher, JessaLu. It’s becoming quite the addiction. Although that puts me in some good company, so it’s OK. Plus the sewing on these bags is awesome. Go give her Artfire and Etsy shops a look. You won’t regret it. (and, if you happen to be shopping for me, I'd love one of her Stormtrooper bags. Which is the same price as her Dr. Who bags. Just sayin' ...) A sneaky friend got me that particular bag already. But I'm sure JessaLu will come up with another one I love in the not too distant future!

Monday, December 12, 2011


I finished three projects on Friday night. Yeah, none of them needed much work, but still. That’s a big day!

The first thing I finished is McHenry, a Christmas present for my 2-year-old nephew in Little Rock. The minute we got Interweave Holiday Gifts 2011 in at the store, I flipped through it and saw a Susan B. Anderson toy section. At that point, I knew I was buying the magazine.

Because I think Susan B. Anderson is magic.

Anyhow. McHenry

I had this picture in my head the entire time I was knitting McHenry. Fortunately, Sydney’s humans let her out right when I was taking pictures yesterday. And she cooperated, for the most part.

Like all Anderson patterns, McHenry is knit in pieces and everything is sewn together. He has poly pellets (inside some old panty hose) in his butt and is otherwise stuffed with polyfill.

He’d been done for most of a week, and I kicked off Friday’s Finishing Frenzy by embroidering his face.

As always with Anderson's toys, I can’t quite manage to get the drape in the limbs that she achieves. Yes, I am a tight knitter. Why do you ask?


Susan’s patterns always have great little details. This dog would have been cute all by himself, but the spot on his back is particularly adorable. The spot is knit separately and sewn on, same with his tail.


I think it’s slightly hilarious that I used Blue Sky Skinny Dyed cotton for one of my favorite vests, and the scraps from that sweater are in at least two other projects. The collar is also cotton and came from the scrap bin at the store.

Unsurprisingly, McHenry is incredibly cute and is already on his way to Little Rock. Here’s hoping he has a long and fun life with my nephew.



Pattern: McHenry by Susan B. Anderson. Available in Interweave Knits, Holiday Gifts 2011
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Organic
Color: Clay
Quantity: Less than a skein
Source: Bloomin Yarns
Needles: US 5 DPNs
Started: 26 November 2011
Finished: 9 December 2011
Mods: None. You think I’m gonna mess with the Toy Master?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Letting Noro be Noro

Barbara Walker’s “Knitting from the Top” has been in my library for years. It spent a good chunk of time in my knitting bag after I saw Turtlegirl76’s Noro Striped Sweater.

It took far too long for me to finally knit from this book.


When I started this sweater, I learned a new provisional/invisible cast-on, which was fine. I chose the simultaneous set-in sleeves, which led me to questioning the instructions early in the process.

But then I took a deep breath and decided that this is Barbara Walker. She certainly knows what she’s talking about. So I forged ahead.


Of course, the sleeves turned out perfectly. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I chose this path because I prefer set-in sleeves to raglan sleeves. There is no question in my mind that I’ll use this pattern/guideline again. It’s great.


So, after motoring through the torso, I decided that all the sweater needed was enough ribbing to keep the bottom edge from curling. Eight rows of 2x2 ribbing later, the torso was finished.

Same deal on the sleeves


I could have been a lot more careful about starting to shape/decrease the sleeves on this sweater, but at the end of the day the mildly batwing-looking sleeves fit just fine. So I decided not to worry about it.

The last bit of decision-making went with the collar. My one fear was that the collar would flip outward. With a thicker yarn, I felt like this was a potential problem.


I solved the potential problem by switching to 1x1 ribbing for the neckline, allowing for centered double decreases at the corners and making sure the collar laid flat. Success!


Nothing specific to say about the side of the collar. I just liked the picture.

Early in this sweater, I had trouble working on it at night, when my brain wasn’t at full speed. The book is quite similar to Elizabeth Zimmerman-type instructions. Nothing specific, just guidelines. Which is fine.

All in all, I’d call this sweater a huge success. I enjoyed working with the yarn and I think I got a great sweater out of the process. Win-win!


Noro Kogarashi Sweater

Pattern: Seamless Simultaneous Set-In Sleeve “pattern” from
Barbara Walker’s “Knitting from the Top”
Yarn: Noro Kogarashi
Color: 10 (purple/turquoise)
Quantity: 6.5 skeins (just over 1,000 yards)
Needles: US 10/6.0mm, KnitPicks Options
Started: 25 October 2011
Finished: 2 December 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

WiP Wednesday

So McHenry is finished, and I’ve moved on to the next bit of Christmas knitting.

I needed something for my niece, and I figured it was about time that I tried something from one of the more prolific toy-designers. Rebecca Danger!

Meet Jerry, the Musical Monkey.


I started Jerry’s torso during the Steelers game on Sunday. Arms were finished by bedtime on Monday, I did two ears and a leg last night. All that’s left is a second leg, tail, mouth and assembly.

I love toy knitting. It goes so quickly and the results are SO cute!

Once Jerry is ready for gifting, I’m feeling the urge to clear the little projects that have been living in the bottom of my knitting bag for far too long. Of course, I also have a bunch of non-knitting stuff that needs to get finished before Christmas. So we’ll see what I have to share next week, OK?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

We Are!

If you know me live and in person, you probably know that I’ve been pretty serious about gym attendance for a little over two years (this time around). For a little less than two years, I’ve been working with a pretty darn awesome personal trainer at my gym.

He got married at the end of June, and I wanted to do something special for a gift.

Jeff and Kate are both Penn State grads. I didn’t know much about how their new house is decorated, but I figured navy and white was a safe bet for anybody who is serious about the Nittany Lions.

About a week before the wedding, I was at The Mannings for a class, and I learned how to weave a double-width blanket. It didn’t take long to decide that a similar blanket would be a great wedding gift for Jeff and Kate.

I know I owe you a finished renovation post. I’ll get to it. I promise!

I wound the warp while renovations were going on. My loom was under a dropcloth, buried in the corner of the living room, and measuring out a warp was about the best I could do to scratch the itch for weaving.


The endlessly talented Sara at The Mannings was invaluable in helping me project plan for this blanket. She suggested Fibonacci stripes. I thought that sounded like a great idea.


I threw in a 26-pick stripe at the beginning and end of the blanket (it’s pretty easy to see the “square” on that picture above. It was the widest block of white that wasn’t the center stripe). I kind of forgot to measure the amount of navy between the stripe and the fringe, but I knew it was three bobbins of weft. The starting and ending blocks of navy are pretty close, so I was happy.


My beginner status stood out the most on this center stripe. Even more than it did on my class project, which bums me out a little bit. It could have been a lot better. I think that two things contributed to this. First, I was rusty and it's still a new skill. Second, I used Cascade 220 instead of a thread whose primary purpose in life is weaving, like the Harrisville Highland I used in class.

Winding this warp and weaving this blanket reminded me once again that life can be made a lot easier when you use the proper materials. I think a weaving thread would have led to a cleaner fold. Although more experience could easily have compensated.

In case you were curious, the navy bits down the center are where I left too much weft on the fold line. The white bits are where I didn’t leave enough. There isn’t much of that fold where it isn’t white or navy. But I made an executive decision that “finished, gifted and in use” is far better than “perfect.” And I’m OK with that.

Aside from the stretchy-ness of using a knitting yarn for weaving (rather than a weaving thread that is less elastic), I really only had one beef with the Cascade 220 in this project.


The navy bled. A ton. Like it had never been rinsed or set. Within seconds of this blanket hitting the wash water, the entire (white) tub was BLACK. I drained and re-filled at least three times before the bleeding dissipated enough that I was comfortable letting the blanket soak.

The finished blanket is soft, drapes well, and I was happy with how it finished. But as you can see in that photo, the white finished a dingy blue-gray rather than the snow white way it started. If you look closely, you can see where I tied slipknots to minimize tangling on the fringe during the wash cycle. Those are the parts that stayed white. Very disappointing that the navy bled so much.

Oh well. It wasn’t perfect in any other form or fashion, but it is now in its new home, where it will hopefully be enjoyed for years to come.


Penn State Fibonacci Stripes

Thread: Cascade 220
Colors: Navy (11 skeins) and white (4? Skeins? I can’t remember. Oops.)
Width on loom: 30”
EPI: 8
Size Off Loom (Unfinished): 8’ long, 4’6” wide
Finished Size (after wet finishing): 7’10” long, 4’2” wide
Timeline: Warp wound in August.
Warping started in early October, finished November 30.
Wet-finished December 1, 2011.
Presented as a very belated wedding gift on 3 December 2011.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WiP Wednesday

I am without a big project at the moment. The Noro sweater was finished at knit night on Black Friday and just needs a bit of end-weaving. Maybe I’ll do that tonight so I can wear it to work tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I have been resisting casting on any of the stuff I want to be working on. So I can force myself to get the last bits of Christmas knitting done.

The niece and nephew are getting one toy each. Since the weekend, I’ve been cranking on McHenry from Susan B. Anderson for my nephew.


He needs limbs, a scarf and assembly. I love toys. They go so quickly!

I’ve also made good progress on the loom, but the thing with weaving is that it is pretty much going to look exactly the same until it’s finished and off the loom. So no new picture.

A few rounds have been knit on the cowl, and my sock is languishing in the bottom of my knitting bag. Ah well. It’ll all get done eventually!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WiP Wednesday

I had a few chunks of time over the last week, and the Noro sweater is thisclose to finished.


It needs a bit of end-weaving and a collar, then it’s finished. I’m a bit concerned about the collar flipping out and can’t decide how to tackle that project. The other cuffs on this sweater are 8 rows of 2x2 ribbing. Any suggestions?

In other news, I made some time for weaving over the last week. Hooray!


You can see the fabric rolled onto the front beam. It’s coming along nicely, and I keep telling myself that the fabric will even out when the blanket gets its bath. I hope I’m right!

It’s hard to tell how much fabric has been woven from that front-beam shot, but you can really see the progress when you look at the back beam


Only half of the back (sectional) beam is still holding warp. The end is in sight!

And, because tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays, I will share one of the Best Thanksgiving TV episodes ever. It’s just short of seven minutes, but worth every second. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Public Service Announcement

Last Thursday, I was trolling the interwebs in my usual morning routine and gearing up to transcribe some interviews I had done for my regular freelance gig.

Then a gray curtain dropped from the top of my screen to the bottom, and a box popped up in the center, telling me that I needed to hard-reset my laptop by holding down the power button until it turned off.

It was a kernel panic.

What on earth does that mean? Well, my friendly neighborhood Apple Genius (I live on a 15” MacBook Pro) explained to me that it was probably some sort of a hardware failure. Sure enough, a diagnostic was run and my hard drive was failing.

So why am I telling you about this?

A week ago today, I turned in a big story. Roughly double my usual word count. I emailed it off, got confirmation from my editor, then I plugged my laptop into my external hard drive for a Time Machine backup and headed for the gym.

I had no way of knowing that my hard drive would die four days later. But when I walked into the Apple Store, I was not in a panic. I had backed up on Monday and even if my laptop was dead, I wasn’t going to lose any work. I knew I hadn’t lost anything that would be difficult to replace.

After a shockingly inexpensive hard drive replacement, I brought my laptop home Friday night and was able to restore everything from my Time Machine backup. I honestly can’t tell that there’s a shiny new hard drive on the inside of my laptop.

Which means that the moral of the story is that I hope you are backing up your computers on a regular basis. It’s a pain in the neck. It makes my laptop run really slowly for a few minutes, which drives me bonkers.

But if I hadn’t been backing up regularly, I would have spent most of Thursday with my heart in my throat and all of the weekend scrambling to figure out what I had lost when my hard drive failed. No fun.

Back up your computers. You will never regret backing up, but you will eventually regret it in spades if you don’t.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Warm All Winter

I finished the top to this quilt ages ago. Sent it to my machine quilter many, many moons ago. Got it back last spring. Like spring of 2010.

Hanging to dry off of the amazing and wonderful new deck, hence the binder clips so it wouldn’t fall.

I machine-sewed the binding last summer (yes, 2010). It sat around like that for a year.

I love my machine quilter. She does fantastic work.

A month or two ago, I needed to do some hand sewing to finish the rep weave placemats that are handwoven and currently on my kitchen table. So I kept my hand sewing kit out and buckled down and sewed down the binding on this quilt.


This is my first time using a wool quilt batting. It also has a flannel back, which makes it unquestionably a winter quilt. The fabrics are the Bali Strips, purchased with a pattern at The Quilt Company. Very simple sewing.


Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind about whether or not it is actually winter yet. Add that to the fact that we just insulated our attic, it’s been tough to tell when to change over to the winter bedclothes. But it’s on the bed now, and I’m quite pleased with the finished project.


Huh. Maybe I should get back to the quilting thing more often!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WiP Wednesday

The Noro Sweater is zipping right along. I’m past the elbow on the first sleeve. I’m on skein #6. I started with seven skeins, picked up an eighth just to be safe shortly after starting the sweater.


Zipping right along. Yay, progress!

In other news, I sat down at the loom for an hour yesterday. Wove a little more than a bobbin, roughly six inches. I see every bit of uneven beating in this picture, and I keep reminding myself that it will even out with finishing. It will be OK.


That’s what I’ve been up to. Some holiday knitting has to sneak in here soon or I’m up the river. But so far, I’m a pretty happy crafter. Have a great week!