Friday, December 12, 2008

Colors have been changed to protect the innocent

Greyscale - to protect the innocent

Yes, with less than two weeks to go, it's suddenly Christmas knitting time. Thankfully this is pretty much the extent of what has to be knit up...

... and washed, and blocked, and wrapped... guess I'd better get started already!

Monday, December 08, 2008

It's sweater season

Well, maybe I'm a bit late to sweater season, and I know I'm surely late to the game for this sweater, but I'm making one anyway.

FLS

Here is the beginning of the really lovely February Lady Sweater. Apparently everybody is making this - Ravelry currently lists over 3,000 projects, making it the most popular adult-size sweater on the site. The designer adapted a baby sweater pattern by Elizabeth Zimmermann to adult size. I'm excited about the effect - and who couldn't use another cardigan?

I'm about at the point where I can quit knitting endless garter stitch and switch to the lace pattern - I just have to double-check the raglan length against another sweater. Even with two needles in the bottom it's hard to gauge accurately how big it is when I try it on.

I have a feeling that once I get going, this is going to be a very, very quick sweater to finish. Which is good - it's already more than cold enough out!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Luck of the Draw, part 1

I've fallen into some good knitting luck lately and won some very nice yarn that I have to show off.

Part of the reason you're seeing all these socks on the blog is that they're not just socks. They're also raffle drawing entries. And the raffle prizes are usually yarn - I've now won a prize three months in a row!

Schaefer Anne Custom

This is a gorgeous skein of Schaefer Anne - and it was custom-dyed just for me.

Schaefer Anne Custom

Each way you turn it, it's a little different. I asked for a warm brown, and autumn colors to complement it. I think they did a lovely job.

Schaefer Anne Custom

Now I simply have to decide what to make with it!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Another sock

Another sock - because I'm just that exciting. I know, I know, how many more socks am I going to show you? (It could be worse, right? I could do nothing but take photos of the cat!)

Seaweed

One down, one to go. Finally, a toe-up construction that doesn't drive me crazy! No waste yarn, no short-row heel, just a very well-fitting sock. The heel and toe are arguably a little fiddly, being written for circular needles, but I can persevere. These are called Seaweed Socks [warning: PDF] by Wendy Johnson of WendyKnits. The yarn is Koigu (yum!).

And here's a close-up, because I can.

Seaweed

I think it's time to start the second one... and maybe scheme about some argyle socks.

Monday, December 01, 2008

All Moved In...

...and knitting again.

I am happy to report that moving couldn't have gone better. Out of the old apartment and into the truck in half an hour - two easy days on the road with clear weather - out of the truck and into the new apartment in half an hour. I'm mostly unpacked and soon I get to really start learning my way around Chicago. Once I get all my housekeys, that is - the hardware store didn't cut them all properly so it's a little hard to leave! (Well, I can leave just fine... getting back in is another story.)  Not that I want to leave, it's snowing outside, yuck.

I have a delightfully long list of things to knit before the New Year, including:
  • a sooper sekrit hat
  • at least 2, maybe 3 pair of socks
  • another Lace Ribbon Scarf
  • some more sooper sekrit sample knitting (hooray!)
  • Bits and pieces of an afghan
  • and the February Lady Sweater for yours truly.
It seems all I've been knitting is socks this year and I really want to get back to knitting larger pieces for myself. I have enough yarn laying around for four or five whole entire sweaters!

...but all I have to show you is socks. These made for some nice moving-van knitting (thankfully I had someone to split the driving with).

Komet Socks

This pattern is called Komet and it was written by the very ingenious Stephanie van der Linden for a German sock-knitting list. I am in love with the German patterns - they actually assume you know what you're doing, and have wonderful notes such as "substitute your favorite heel", which is great if you have a go-to heel that you know works for your feet. The yarn is Artyarns Ultramerino 4, and I am in love with it. It's round and squishy and has great definition. The colors were a little odd (the photo doesn't do it justice, bad light at night) but at least they're different than everything else out there.

In other news, happily I got to spend Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in ages. Since I've been back I've had lots of good company, good food, and a warm and happy place to live. So much to be thankful for!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Unraveling

Tonight, I sat down to knit on a sock - it doesn't matter which one - only to discover that several inches back, I'd made a mistake serious enough to warrant ripping it out. I like my pairs of socks to match one another as precisely as possible, so out it went. Two steps forward, one step back, and suddenly I'm in a place where I can start moving forward again, more perfectly.

That is kind of how life is these days, both with knitting and, well, life. I think I've gotten myself somewhere only to stop, take a step back, and start again. Things aren't working out and I'm moving. In two weeks I'll be in another city, with other people. Closer to my family, closer to old friends for the holidays - but back to bad weather and, inevitably, unemployment. It's a gamble, but how can I not make the choice for happiness? For [astronomically] lower rent? For getting to see my parents and everyone else at Christmas?

So I'm packing. Chicago or bust!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The time is now!

I voted, did you?

I voted

The lines were short when I went to vote here in Northern Virginia (a.k.a. "Communist Country" or "Fake Virginia"). If you're in the USA and haven't yet voted, make sure you get to the polls today!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled knitting....

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's the little things

Sometimes it's the littlest things that matter most.

Christmas Cactus

Waiting for flowers is a wonderful kind of waiting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oh look, more socks

Seems like everything I start these days has to be torn out and begun again. For Ravelry's Sock Knitters Anonymous October Sockdown, I started some toe-up Honeybee Socks, which were cute...

Honeybee sock toe

... but impractical. Toe-up socks drive me crazy and I should know better by now than to try them. They never seem to fit me right in the instep and heel.

So now they've been ripped out and turned into something entirely different by the same designer, these Komet socks.

Komet

Much nicer!

I've also decided that the rib and cable sock I made was also no good...

Ugly ribbed heel...
Rib and Cable

Ugly wonky toe...
Rib and Cable

Disappointing everywhere...
Rib and Cable

I don't know what to do with these. Certainly I'll have to rip them out. But will I have to go so far as to overdye the yarn? I don't know if I want to go through that. Ugh.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Crawling back

Looks like it happened again... I fell off the Internet.

Never fear, I'm still knitting. It's simply that many of the projects that I was knitting in the interim were samples that I was unable to show off.

At least I have something to show for my time away: yet another pair of socks! Ravelry's Sock Knitters Anonymous and their monthly Sockdown knit-along has inspired me yet again to actually complete a project.

Hedera

I had wanted to knit Cookie A.'s Hedera Socks ever since the pattern was first published in Knitty. While admittedly the pattern is a bit boring, the effect is lovely.

Hedera socks

I picked up the yarn, some Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Lucky Stripe, on my last trip to Chicago. It seemed a fitting souvenir (as Lorna's is Chicago-based). Not usually a fan of their "Stripe" colorways but the two colors were close enough in tone in this colorway that they blended well in the body of the sock and made nice stripes at heel and toe.

Hedera

I love the way the color pops against the incredible blue autumn sky today. The laciness of these is of course starting to make them a bit impractical as the temperature drops, but they're ready for warm days ahead.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Diagonal Rib Socks

Diagonal Rib Socks

My vacation last week included some not insignificant travel time on buses and trains, so I was finally able to finish a project for myself!

These are the Diagonal Rib Socks by Ann Budd, available via Knitting Daily.
I used Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Cool and US 1.5 needles.

Diagonal Rib Socks

I'm really pleased with the way these turned out, even if the knitting was a bit tedious. I'm thinking I should knit up more socks at a slightly looser gauge instead of as tight as possible - they feel a little finer and less clunky.

Diagonal Rib Socks

These were also my project for this year's Ravelympics, in the WIP Wrestling event. I have too many languishing projects that I need to see through to completion, and I was hoping to get more done, but one finished project is better than none.

ravelympics wip08.jpg

Back soon with more sample knitting news!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Yarn Party!

There is nothing like coming home after a day at work to three big boxes at the top of the stairs, each one filled with lovely, lovely yarn.

Yarn Party!

Of course, one box I had to send to myself because I bought too much yarn on my vacation - but the other two....

I have lovely yarn for socks and a top as payment for some sample knitting a while back, and more yarn for more sample knitting! So exciting.

Excuse me, I'm going to go play with my yarn now.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It's a Jungle out there

Somehow it's August, and I'm not sure how that happened! As the years go by they seem to go faster and faster.

All the heat has really pumped up my tropical plants.

I woke up this morning to find that my "Pretoria" canna had its first flower. You just can't ignore that glowing orange.

DSC02394.JPG

It's even more spectacular considering the leaves, which are green and yellow striped, offering its other name of Bengal Tiger. I also have a "Tropicanna" plant, but that one is not quite ready to bloom yet.

DSC02396.JPG

Next year, come hell or high water, I'm buying "Cleopatra" cannas. I just love the broken color.

In other tropical news, my elephant ear is unstoppable. It usually wilts by the afternoon, but I keep it watered and hot and it just gets bigger and bigger.

DSC02398.JPG

And of course it wouldn't be a jungle without hot things. Jalapenos!

DSC02397.JPG

Yum...

Soon I'll be done with sample knitting, and it will be time for the Ravelympics and whipping up some baby sweaters for all the soon-to-be mamas in my life. More knitting for me, more knitting for you. Until next time!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Stationery

Working at a paper store, just like working at any other store, has its pros and cons. For the creative person, it's fabulous - great ideas, great products, and a discount! Of course this means that you end up buying more stuff than you really need at any given time. Take me, for instance.

I think personalized stationery is a fabulous idea. It's, well, personal. Of course, to get the real thing is prohibitively expensive for most of us, and who really writes that many letters or notes anymore anyway?

Monogram

Perhaps we should write more. It would get us out from the pale glow of our computer screens and bring back some of that fine motor control we've adapted to pushing virtual iPhone buttons. But I digress. Regardless of how much we really do use it, I found out that personalized stationery is not all that hard to get, and lots of the materials you use to make it can be reused for the next time (you know, after you write a bunch of letters).

Ingredients:
8.5x11 paper
A2 envelopes
Fancy Italian paper for linings, one sheet
Envelope liner template
Stamp
Ink
Double-sided tape
One evening of perfectionism

Stationery

After cutting all the paper in half with an x-acto and straight edge, I stamped each sheet in the upper corner. I suppose that really, one ought only to stamp half the sheets so that when you write a two-paged letter, only the first sheet has a monogram, but who cares! (Of course, this opens the door to more and more rubber stamping, a danger in its own right). Then each sheet folds in half to fit nicely inside an A2 envelope.

That's the paper, which is easy. The envelopes are easy, too. From the sheet of fancy paper (your choice) carefully trace and cut ten linings. Insert them into the envelopes and tape the point down with double-sided tape. Repeat!

Lined Envelopes

And let's have a little close-up. This Italian paper is gorgeous, not to mention sparkly.

Lining

And don't worry, I'm still knitting, and papercrafts haven't taken over my life. They've just been added in. And it helps to have something to show you when I can't show you my secret purple knitting! But now with my fancypants personalized stationery, I can pretend that I, too, have what it takes to be all high society. Or maybe I'll just write fun letters. Who cares! Pen pals, anybody?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Garage Sale Haul

What was supposed to be a quick trip to the drugstore this morning turned into a much longer trip with several detours. The best detour was a garage sale.

Garage sale haul

8 books, 2 nearly brand new pair of shoes (to fit my crazy sized feet), and 2 star cookie cutters. $15. What a deal! And even my haul at the drugstore was cheap. Most excellent.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Naaaaa....

Na na na na na na naaa....

Katamari

Yes, it's a real Katamari! I don't have any photos of stuff sticking to it, but with its magnets you can roll it through the junk drawer and pick up all kinds of stuff. And, you know, rebuild the universe.

I realized I never wrote about this, even though it was a Christmas gift. Sadly this is a dangerous object in our home - all those strong magnets are dangerous for our various electronics. So it sits in the windowsill, generally being awesome, but kind of lonely.

I made mine from Amy Shimel's Magnetic Katamari Pattern, with scraps of acrylic from my mom. And lots and lots of strong magnets and more stuffing than you think would fit into such a small ball. This is usually about as much crocheting as I can stand, so it was a good small project.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy Friday!

This week has brought some lovely things from the garden.

Sweet peas...

Sweet Pea

A lovely apricot daylily...

Daylily

And what's this? Yarn? Yarn in the garden?

Schaefer Judith

Yes, you guessed it, it's secret stealth knitting time. I received some lovely Schaefer Yarns Judith in an incredible purple (called Betty Friedan). Impossible to photograph, even with a contrast color in the full sun, but still gorgeous. It's a lovely 100% alpaca that looks like it's going to be a joy to work with. I can't tell you much more until the pattern is published, so, until next time, happy knitting. (Don't worry, I won't totally disappear!)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The new Clapotis

It's done!

I'm amazed I've finished something else. Maybe I'm getting some knitting mojo back. Here, modelled by my lovely lamp, is the new Clapotis.

Trekking Clapotis

The stats:
Pattern: Clapotis by Kate Gilbert
Yarn: Trekking XXL, color 105
Needles: #4
Modifications: Less width, more length, a looser gauge for a scarf/wrap that's more suited to the spring and fall (and probably the not-so-intense winter) here!

I love this, I love the way the colors gently blend and don't repeat. It blocked up nicely and I think I'm going to be much happier with this one than my old one. Not that I really enjoy retiring old knits, but there is always room for new ones.

Trekking Clapotis

Especially when they're as delightful as this.

What's next? I'm still telling myself I need to finish the bedjacket, but I've also got another top-secret sample knitting gig coming down the pipe, so you may not see much knitting from me for a while. All in all I'm already doing better on my summer goals than I did on my spring ones, so that is a bonus.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Out with the old...

In with the new.

The Logan River Wrap is no more, and it has been totally frogged and balled back up.

Logan River Wrap

Anybody want 5 balls of Noro Cash Iroha?

Noro Cash Iroha 97

Because it is hotter than hot here, even my winter knitting needs to lighten up. So no more worsted weight wraps. Fingering weight is the only way to go!

I'm working on a skinnier fingering weight Clapotis in Trekking, color 105. I hope a good wash will soften it up, but right now I don't mind because I'm totally in love with the color. I also can't believe I'm making another Clapotis, but I love the one I have and don't want to make another Lace Ribbon scarf so soon.

Clapotis

I keep telling myself I should try to break away from knitting everything in purple, blue, and green. It makes all my knitting look and feel the same.

I have also started the Shetland Shorty sweater with the yarn that I dyed. Casting on and working garter stitch on over 250 stitches is a little tedious, but that's OK as it's the whole sweater. Last night, of course, I realized that 5 rows into the actual pattern I'd already botched it, so I have to rip out a few rows before I can go on. Here it is in a tangle, because my circular needle is too short.

Shetland Shorty

Incidentally this was precisely the color of my cup of coffee this morning. Yum.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Finally Finished!

It's time for my first finished object since January (well, one that I can actually talk about).

Lace Ribbon Scarf

What's this, you say? Hooray for the lovely Lace Ribbon Scarf designed by Veronik Avery. Incidentally I think I want to be Veronik Avery when I grow up. I wouldn't even have to change my name very much! In any case, I'm so glad this scarf is done, mostly because this is the third incarnation of this yarn.

Poor Spunky Eclectic Super Socks... I loved this yarn (now, sadly, unavailable). It was beautifully dyed, the colors were unique, it was nice and soft and squishy... and just didn't want to be anything I wanted it to be.

Here is the yarn, so innocently awaiting a project, months and months ago.

Spunky Eclectic

First I tried to make it into a pair of socks. Yuck! They didn't fit and the colors pooled oddly, which was a shame for this yarn.

lozenge socks

Then I tried to make it into the Lace Diamond Scarf, and got all the way to the end before the edging got screwed up. It looked nice for a while, though.

VLT Scarf

diamond lace scarf

Finally it found its true calling in this beautiful pattern.

Lace Ribbon Scarf

Super speedy, easy to memorize and modify, and a gorgeous result. This is an excellent pattern. Yes, it might be a little tedious in the long stretch, but it gives fabulous results and you can work on it anywhere. Make one!

The stats:
Lace Ribbon Scarf, by Veronik Avery, published in Knitty.
Spunky Eclectic Super Socks in Berry Pickin'
#4 nylon circular needles
My Ravelry page for it is here.

And then I promptly gave it away. A friend of mine is moving away to take a new job, and I wanted to give her something to take with her. I loved this scarf, but I've found the things I love best come to be the most lovely gifts.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hats

Today I finally sent off four hats to the 300 Hat Project started by Kristy. Kristy is going to the Ukraine in September and is planning to donate the hats to an orphanage. I had hats that I didn't need and figured they could get better use. So off they go!

Of course I forgot to take a photo before I sent them, but that's OK.

Want to make some hats for this good cause? Check the links above for more details. You have until early September, and there's prizes involved!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Foodie Friday: The Icebox Cake

A year ago, I had never heard of something called icebox cake, which is apparently a classic, made with Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers and large amounts of whipped cream. In my house we always made Chocolate Eclair Cake in the summers, another no-bake dessert made with graham crackers, vanilla pudding, Cool Whip, and chocolate frosting. In any case, with company coming, someone insisted that we make it - partially so we didn't have to eat it all!

Icebox Cake

While the recipe and photo on the Famous Wafers box isn't particularly inspiring, a quick search brought us to this fabulous entry at Smitten Kitchen. That, my friends, is a cake to be proud of, baking or no baking.

There is nothing difficult about this cake, except getting over the idea of three cups of whipping cream, and perhaps finding a way to protect it in the refrigerator overnight, which I'll get to in a bit. You have to use real cream, none of this stuff in a spray can.

Icebox Cake

But first, the super-simple recipe. This version comes from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, and evidently via Oprah before I found it on Smitten Kitchen.

Icebox Cake

3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (9-ounce) packages chocolate wafer cookies
Unsweetened cocoa (or chocolate shavings)

In a large bowl, beat cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Make sure it's not runny, as you'll need it to hold its structure as you build the cake.

On a flat serving plate, arrange 7 cookies side by side in a circle, keeping 1 cookie in the center.

Spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream, making a 7-inch circle. Repeat with remaining cookies and cream, making 11 layers of cookies and ending with a layer of cream (there may be a few cookies left over). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, dust top lightly with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.


For ease of refrigerating and serving, we ignored the serving plate and constructed an armature of cardboard and aluminum foil instead. This is not a large cake, so we laid the seven wafers in a circle, traced around them, and discovered that the resulting support would fit in one of our large pans with a lid. As we don't have a cake safe, this was the best way to get the whole thing in and out of the refrigerator safely. We covered the cardboard disc with foil and made two long foil strips attached to the bottom to lift the cake out of the pot.

Icebox Cake

Here it is, safely ensconced.

Icebox Cake

Thankfully we had a big crowd visiting and all but a quarter of the cake vanished instantly. This thing is rich! Eating it in tiny slices is about the only way to do it, but it is well worth making. If we do it again, it may be with a liqueur flavor added to the whipped cream. I'm thinking orange. And what to do with the last cup of whipping cream? I'm thinking we made ice cream with it, but I also had the luxury of pouring it in my coffee on at least one occasion. Yum!