Friday, January 31, 2014

FO Friday: Baby Blanket

Two of my teammates from school have had babies in the last year, so I just finished the second blanket:

I have to say that it isn't really this crooked, but rather the camera angle is a bit wonky.

I made it up -- though I'm sure many people have made up this same pattern -- using metered blocks. I like the way it looks and the fact that you pick up stitches for new squares. I don't think I could handle sewing together this many pieces!

I used Lion Brand Jiffy because it's thick and cozy and machine-washable. The drawback of acrylic, of course, is that it can't be used for a sleeping baby as it is flammable.

What have you finished this week?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Languishing WIP

I hate posting bad photos, but it's still pretty dark here at 7:00 a.m. so I had to use flash:

This finished section of the Colorbox Jacket has been sitting in my knitting basket for about a year. The sleeves are finished, too. I can't seem to find the mojo to seam it all together. Then there is the issue of all those loose ends.

But I think the biggest block for me is that I think it came out, well, garish! I can't look at it without thinking: What was I thinking? Still, I have yet to knit a sweater that fits, so I do want to sew this one together. If it turns into a wearable item, I know I'll be happy with it, even as loud as the colors are!

When I checked this morning, Tami hadn't posted yet, but I hope to see what everyone is working on her blog this morning.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Almost Only Counts in Horseshoes

I started this on Christmas eve and knit religiously (pun unintended) over winter break, but got stuck at the very end:

These handwarmers are based on Kirsten Kapur's Recipe for Mitts, which you can find here.  It is an adorable pattern. I guess one should never put aside a project this close to the end -- it's just too hard to pick it up, especially when you are working on something fiddley, like a thumb.

The yarn is from Pigeonroof Studios. I lost the ball band so I have no idea what the colorway is, but it is beautiful yarn. The gorgeous colors prevented the rounds of stockinette stitch from getting too boring.

As much as I like these, they will definitely be a gift. The colors are just not me. However, living in the polar vortex, as I seem to do these days, I'll certainly make a second pair for myself.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thanks to Bobby

Last night's Robert Burns party was quite fun. There was no haggis, but there was "chaggis," Percy's riff on the Scottish traditional dish. She combined a variety of meats -- no organ meat -- and stuffed it into chicken skin:
A good time was had by all, even our fabulous cook:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bad Blogger!

How did I go a week without blogging? Shame on me. To atone, I have set a goal of blogging every day this week.

Blogging may be easy -- if the schools are closed due to cold weather. Some school districts have already announced that they will be closed both Monday and Tuesday. Our district usually waits until the last moment. In the meantime, I'm trying to assume I will have to get up and go to work in sub-zero temperatures tomorrow.

It would be nice to make some progress on these socks.  The pattern is Hermione's Everyday Socks. I'm knitting them in purple for my niece, who is having some health problems and loves both purple and Harry Potter. It's easy to imagine watching a movie and knitting tomorrow.

However, we have used up our bad-weather days. If we miss any more school days, we'll have to make them up, which isn't very appealing. It gets very hot here in the summer, and our schools are not air conditioned.

 I'm trying hard not to check the Internet for school closings every 10 minutes! It will be easier this evening when I'm going to a Robert Burns party. If they have haggis, I'm not going to eat it! In case you're not familiar with haggis, it is a savoury pudding containing sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with other ingredients and encased in the animal's stomach. I'm not a vegetarian, but I do have my limits!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Best Part of Winter ...

... looks like this:
Those skinny skis are for cross country skiing. This past weekend, Keith and I went up to Wausau with some friends for two days of skiing at Nine Mile County Forest.
 Although we've had a lot of cold in Madison, we haven't had good skiing snow, so it was a treat to glide along on snowy tracks. I'm not a very athletic person, but x-country skiing is the perfect winter sport. For one thing, you warm up really fast! And you burn a lot of calories. And there is something magical about skiing through the forest:
Love the woods!

The pictures, by the way, are courtesy of my talented friend, Lisa Seidman.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

And We're Off ... A Year of Sock Knitting

It started yesterday -- but I'm sure you could jump in today ...

Knitting Sarah has launched a year in which we will knit on socks every single day. I think that it's impossible to knit enough socks -- everyone wants a pair, right? -- so I like this idea.

I started by adding a few rows to this sock:

Plain Vanilla Sock in self-striping Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

If you love socks -- or want to learn how -- jump over to Sarah's web site.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I'm Captivated by the Brioche Stitch

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that Madison has (so they say) the largest Knitting Guild in the United States. At the moment, we have 493 members. Even though all the members don't attend every month, we have a hard time finding spaces large enough to accommodate our numbers.

I haven't gone to many meetings this year, largely because I am just too tired after work, but I made sure to go last night, when the guest speaker was the author of this book:

One of the cool things about having an enormous guild is that we can bring in world-class speakers every month. I have been lucky enough to be in an auditorium with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Franklin Habit (not at the same time!).

I would put Nancy Marchant, the reigning expert in brioche stitch, in that same category. She is a great speaker, funny and self-deprecating and knowledgeable. Not only has she build a great career on knitting, but she lives in one of my favorite cities, Amsterdam -- a long way from her native Indiana.

Brioche stitch has intrigued me for a long time, but it just seemed so complicated. Marchant is a great speaker and her explanation demystified the stitch. Her slides of the stitches and projects she's developed drew "oohs" and "aahs" from the audience. She spent a lot of time exploring and experimenting with the stitch and has developed beautiful body of work.

But, what really got to me were the samples she brought. Brioche stitch has an incredible amount of richness and depth. I'm hooked. It's only a matter of time before I get my hands on her book and give this a try.

We always have vendors at our meetings -- and they always offer tempting stuff. I am so proud of myself for not succumbing to this beautiful table of yarn and resisting the urge to go home with at least one skein of yarn!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

FO Sunday

Sometimes it's all about the yarn:

I knit this simple cowl, which varies knit and purl rows, out of Mountain Colors River Twist. This is the best photo for showing its colors, but it's not exactly right. The colors are more vivid and rich in the flesh (in the wool?).

I love this cowl because I love this yarn. My face and neck are supersensitive to wool, so I was gambling on this wool being soft enough for me. I think it is, but I won't know for sure until I try to wear it for a full day.

The pattern, Present, is a free Rav download. It's a great pattern -- quick and easy. It really allows a special yarn to take center stage.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Good If Disturbing Book

I picked up this book in my never-ending search for book that will engage teen-age boys. I can barely put this one down.
 It's a novel based on the true story of a teen-age boy who lived through the genocide of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970's.

Patricia McCormick is one of the best "Young Adult" writers around. She bring a sharp intelligence to her books, along with polished writing and believable characters. This book is no exception.

McCormick spent a lot of time with Arn Chorn-Pond, the protagonist. She also tracked down other people who figured into the story and interviewed them. She drew so much detail from her interviews that you feel you are there in the jungle with Arn.

I usually hate dialect, but McCormick pulls it off here in a way that adds to the story. She uses a few of Arn's English variations -- enough to give him a voice, but not so much that it is distracting. 

Warning: This book is intense. There is a lot of violence, a lot of starving and death. Personally, I think all world leaders should read it before they start wars.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

There Isn't A Deadline For Resolutions, Is There?

For the second day in a row, most (if not all) schools in Wisconsin are closed because of cold weather. However, I have not been knitting and eating bonbons -- although those are two things I love to do. I've been thinking and planning and organizing.

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but to be honest, I need to do things differently. My life is too chaotic, too stressful, and too hectic. I want to enjoy my daily life.

So the first different thing I'm going to do is make some resolutions.

First, I need to take care of myself. To that end, I am going to meditate for at least 5 minutes 5 days/week and to exercise for at least 20 minutes. I realize these are little goals, but I know that I need baby steps in these areas!

Second, I am going to drastically reduce the amount of sugar I consume -- bye-bye bon-bons. Really, I have no self control once I start with candy or ice cream or cookies.

Third, I am going to devote more time to marketing my jewelry and other work.

Fourth, I'm going to stash-bust! This applies to both knitting and beading. I suspect I am SABLE in both (stash amassed beyond life expectancy). And owning so much raw material is beginning to feel like a burden.

So, no more impulse yarn buys -- like the one at the top of the page. This yarn called out my name a few weeks ago at an LYS, so grabbed it, came home, and found pattern for it. More on that when it's an FO.

Fifth, I want to listen more and talk less. Be present. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Which brings me back to my first goal. I guess I could start now by taking a few minutes to meditate.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Mexico Is All about Yarn

I hope you won't mind one more travel post, as long as it involves yarn:

I picked up this gorgeous skein of merino fingering-weight at Mooncat Fiber, an inspiring store in the historical center of Taos. I'm not sure  any picture could really capture the the beauty of these rich purples and pinks, but I am sure that my iPhone doesn't do it justice.

The story behind the yarn is as inspiring as the wool. It is spun and dyed by a Buddhist nun in Northern New Mexico. The master spinner was actually ordained in 2005 in India by the Dalai Lama. A self-proclaimed hermit, she says that each yarn and roving comes with love and blessings -- free of extra charge! You can read about her here.

She does have an Etsy store, but it is appears to be empty at the moment. Keep checking, though. This is special yarn!

And let me put in a few good words for Mooncat Fibers. With a friendly and knowledgeable owner and a fabulous selection, this is a top-notch store.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Blanket Knitting Is Perfect ...

... for this kind of weather.

At this moment, the temperature outside is fine, around 20 degrees F, but an extraordinarily cold front is moving in. The high tomorrow is predicted to be 4 degrees F (that's -20 degrees C) and Monday's high is supposed to be -11 F (that's -24 C). That is not a typo. Those are the HIGH temps. And the air will feel even colder with wind chills figured in.

This is cold even for Wisconsin. In fact, yesterday my district announced that school will be closed on Monday. In weather this cold, it's not safe for kids to wait out at bus stops. I have been a parent or teacher with this district for 20 years, and they never announce school closings in advance. Usually they decide that same day by 6 a.m.
It is perfect weather for me to continue working on the blanket.

The baby I'm knitting for is due in mid-January so I need to focus on this.

I have mixed feelings about school being closed Monday. We are at the tail end of our two-week winter break, so the timing isn't great. If we're going to have a cold or snow day off school, I'd rather have it in February, when we need a break. On the other hand, I am thoroughly enjoying being off work so one more day will feel good.

Today was the only warm day we've had, so I got out cross country skiing with friends. It was my first vigorous exercise since breaking my leg last April. Let me just say that I am going to be VERY sore tomorrow morning. Totally worth it though.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

WIP: Travel Knitting

I didn't do this on purpose, but my travel knitting project embraced the colors of the desert, with its tans, browns, and purples.
The fingerless mitts pattern is actually a "recipe" by one of my favorite designers, Kristin Kapur of Through the Loops. This super-simple pattern knits up relatively quick for a fingering-weight project because you use size 3 needles. It is different from the other mitt patterns I've seen because it produces a slouchy wrist, which is very cute and comfortable. You can find the pattern here.

Appropriately, I bought the yarn on vacation a few years ago, when I found the cutest little shop in the Mission District of San Francisco. I can't find the ball band, but I do know that it is a skein of Pigeonroof Studios sock yarn. This is very yummy stuff. Silky and beautifully died.

We are back home, but I'm still working on the second mitt. I didn't accomplish as much knitting as I had anticipated because the scenery is so gorgeous in northern New Mexico. I did no car knitting whatsoever.

I can't sign off without sharing a photo of Taos Pueblo, where people have lived continuously for more than 1,000 years. People still inhabit these adobe pueblos without electricity or running water. This is a holy site to the Pueblo people and it was magical to walk these grounds.

 As a midwesterner, I can't get enough view of the mountains!