Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wins and Whims

So blogland has been very good to me lately, and I have been remiss not to post the goods till now. Last month, I won two contests in the span of about two weeks, and I still can't believe my good fortune. First, I won the Bee Fields Shawl pattern and this drool-worthy yarn, from Cara.

Socks that Rock, laceweight, in Oregon Red Clover Honey

This picture does not do it justice. The pics over at Cara's place are much better (if you know Cara's photography, you will realize I just stated the obvious). I don't know when I'll work up the nerve (or carve out the time) to actually attempt this pattern, but I do occasionally pull out this gorgeous hank just to bury my face in it and sniff it. Oh, admit it, you would do the same if it were yours.

As if the knitblog gods had not smiled on me enough already, I then promptly won Ashley's Birthday Blogstravaganza. The package was amazing, put together by three very rockin' bloggers, who all had mid-August birthdays. This awesomest of t-shirts was made by Christy NotHip. See a much better pic here.

You likey?
Then you can order one of your own right here.
It has already become my favorite t-shirt.
I really, really love it.

And then there was more Socks the Rock, from Ashley.

Socks that Rock, lightweight, in Moonstone
I really love this color - light blue with silvery grey yumminess.
Yeah, definitely more socks in my future.

I've never knit with STR before, and I'm really looking forward to feeling the love!

Next up was this amazing little clutch, handmade by Ashley:

I LOVE this clutch!!!
It makes me so happy!!!
I love the colors!
I love the linen!
I love the big red button!!
This happy clutch makes me want to talk in exclamation points all the time!!!!
Also, in the clutch were some embroidery patterns and a beautiful assortment of embroidery floss from Julie Frick, (who just brought into the world this adorable little Fricklet)
I don't have pics of the pattern and floss to show, but I'll show some embroidery once I do it (one of the patterns was sea creatures, which would look super-cute on some small towels in our sea-themed bathroom)

After all that blogland booty, I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy toward the blogiverse. So much goodness and generosity, and not the first time it's been heaped on me this year.

I wanted to give a little tiny something back - that's how my newest little hobby started. Next thing I knew, I had an almost full-blown addiction: stitch markers! People, a bead shop is just as much of a vortex as a knit shop. For a couple of nights, all I wanted to do was make stitch markers. I began imagining my etsy shop. Ooh, not just stitch markers - I'd make earrings, too! And bracelets! And necklaces! I would get rich off all the beautiful beadwork I would sell! Fortunately, I was able to dial things down a bit before I actually sank too much money into yet another avocation. Still, I'm a little pleased with myself.

for Christy

for Julie

for Ashley

Ashley's right.
Blue and red together do rule.
(Now I'm totally thinking I need to make some coral and turqoise earrings like these stitch markers to wear around town with my fancy new clutch).

for Cara
(you know, to keep with the bee theme)
(these haven't been sent yet
because I am still planning to make one dangly one as a round marker)

I still have plans to make more, for the other good folks out there who have sent me awesome packages this year.

But first! A contest! Coming soon! Tomorrow, I hope!!
(yep, you guessed it, I'm holding my little red and blue clutch! can't turn the exclamation points off! see you tomorrow!!!)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Oasis

The park near our home has a pretty big drawback for a mom with two kids running in opposite directions: it's situated right next to an intersection, and with no fence. What this means is that taking the boys to the park is an athletic event for me, as I herd boys, swivel my head in all directions, nervously eye the traffic and the big kids, and try to be in two places at once. My visions of sitting peacefully on a nearby bench, quietly knitting while watching my boys play, is laughable.

I recently learned of another park, just a bit further from our house (a 10-minute walk as opposed to 5-minute), and it is like a dream-come-true. I never knew I could love a park so much. It is tucked away from busy streets, but not too isolated, wide open with rolling green hills and lots of big trees. There is one big play structure and one swing set - so no trying to manage boys who want to be in two different places. And it is not too crowded.

Also, I have found a perfect knitting spot:

From this bench, I can knit in peace while watching my boys play just a few feet away. No swiveling head, no running after kids, no heart palpitations. Or, I can put the sock down and join my boys on the playground.

(no, I don't usually leave a size 0 dpn
lying loose on top of the sock while I run off to play)
It has been a great place to discover, especially this busy fall when I am in such need of a quiet place to get away to, one where I can also bring the boys and know they will be safe and happy. There are times when, in the press and crush of deadlines and stress (including this week's news of My Old Man's recently bricked hard drive, which has not been backed up since April, which is two months out of warranty, which contains the first part of the book he has been writing, and from which no data can now be retrieved), a person just needs an oasis. Ah, oasis. Even the word makes me feel happy and calm. Oasis:
1.a small fertile or green area in a desert region, usually having a spring or well.
2.something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from what is usual, annoying, difficult, etc.
Exactly what I was looking for this week, and found in a city park on a hot afternoon.

And I'm not the only one who has found an oasis there.

He loves the oasis too.

How about you? Where do you find oasis in the midst of a busy week?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bye-Bye Summer

I would've preferred to write a "Hello, Fall" post today, but instead, and at long last, I am blogging my last two unblogged summer projects, from June. I was so excited about this little ensemble I had dreamed up. In the end, I only ended up happy with one half of it.

pattern: side-zip A-line skirt from Sew What? Skirts
fabric: Robert Kauffman cherry print cotton
notions: rickrack trim, because you know I love it
made: in a couple of hours (or less) one June afternoon
modifications: none. Made this exactly like my orange skirt. Again, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
verdict: Love everything about it: the style, the fit, the fabric. I definitely see more of these simple little skirts in my future for fall. I get compliments everytime I wear one of these, including from people who don't know I made it myself and even from people who don't know me. Not bad for a cheap little cotton skirt that took no time to make. (For fall, I am dreaming in brown corduroy and plaid wool).

pattern: Tempting
yarn: KP Shine Worsted, 8 skeins (with only a few inches left over!), Green Apple
size: small, but with gauge issues
needles: KP Options, size 8
made: June 1 - June 30
modifications: none.
verdict: Love the yarn. Love the color. Love the super-quick, super-easy pattern. Hate how mine turned out. The main thing - it's way too big:

(please ignore my complete lack of mad bow-tying skillz and my utter disregard for the proper way to thread the ribbon for this pattern - neither of which I noticed till I loaded these pictures in)

I made the size small - finished size of 36" for my 37" inch bust. But as you can see in the picture, I should've either gone down another size, or gone down a needle size or two, or, I don't know, double-checked to make sure my gauge hadn't loosened up once I got going (because I actually did swatch for this; then again, as Miss Approximate, it's certainly possible that I did not measure the swatch accurately). The only reason the sweater is actually on my shoulders at all in this picture is that poorly-threaded ribbon at the top.

I was so disgusted when this turned out not to fit that all my finishing skills went to crap. I completely botched the first underarm seam. I moved on to the second with the idea that I would do a three-needle bind-off instead and then come back and redo the first seam. But I did the bind-off inside-out, putting the very visible seam on the outside. And I don't know what happened when I started weaving in ends. I did a truly craptastic job. Everywhere I tried to weave in ended up being astonishingly noticeable. I don't know what went wrong. When it comes to weaving in ends, ribbing always trips me up a bit, but I've never encountered anything like this before.

It's really sad that things turned out this way, because this pattern has a very special role in my personal development as a knitter. This was my introduction to Knitty and the online knitting world as a whole. I had been toying with the idea of trying again with the needles, having taught myself (poorly) from a book 3 years earlier. One day I was hanging out on the Mothering forums and discovered the yarn crafts board. I asked a question about a simple beginner sweater, out of curiosity, and someone linked to this pattern. I was completely taken with it. I really wanted to become good enough to make that sweater. Off to Knitting Help I went, where things finally clicked for me (two years ago this month). It was nostalgic to me to finally pick up this pattern and make this sweet simple little thing. So it's a little extra-disappointing that it didn't work out.

Earlier in the summer, I had the idea that I would take the sweater to my sewing machine and somehow sew darts into it (I love me some darts!) or something to make it fit more snugly. But I kept thinking I needed to fix the underarm seams and the woven ends first, and I just couldn't bear to look at the thing long enough to do that. I simply lost heart. So it has been sitting at the bottom of my knitting bag all this time, taunting me. Well, no more! I am stashing it away for next spring, when I will frog it and make it into something brand new, perhaps Picovoli. And then I will wear it with my kickin' little cherry skirt. Because no matter what else went wrong with this sweater, I got one thing spot on.

This combination totally rocks.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Miss Approximate May Exaggerate

You guys are great, both with your questions trying to get at why the socks I make are sometimes too long/too large, and with your defense of the utility of handknit socks. I loved your comments! (and thanks for the nice words about my socks)

Regarding the fit. I do try on my sock before determining when to start the toe. In fact I try on my sock all throughout the knitting process (starting when I have maybe 2 inches of cuff) because I just love imagining how it's going to look/feel when I finish it. I have reflected on your questions and I think I have narrowed down my problem to three possibilities:
  1. I am the queen of approximation, which is why My Old Man calls me Miss Approximate. So even though I try on the sock to see when I get to the point of needing to start the toe, I think my measurements may not be, how shall I say it, oh, accurate. I really do have a problem measuring things right, especially knit things that can be stretched. I can measure the same thing three times and come out with a slightly different measurement each time. Perhaps I should start mentally adjusting for that and assume I need to start the toe before I think I do.
  2. I think I may have heel flap issues. I have small feet and narrow heels. I wonder if I should be altering the heel flap (or sticking with short row heels instead) to accomodate this. I think that perhaps measuring from heel to end of sock while the sock is in progress maybe doesn't give a true representation for me for how the thing will ultimately fit once it's done, because the heel is going to fit looser than I think when I'm wearing it as opposed to actively measuring it. Not sure, just a thought.
  3. Row gauge? I hadn't thought about this till Sean brought it up. I do check my gauge, but not my row gauge. So maybe if my row gauge is off then even if I am starting the toe at the right place it is going to end up too long? I should measure the toes of these socks and see if they ended up the length indicated by the pattern.
Thanks, y'all, for scratching your heads with me over this. I think I have to mostly chalk it up to my tendency to approximate in life and in measurements. I should point out that in both the sock swaps I have participated in, the socks I received fit me perfectly.

Now about the utility of socks. Perhaps I overspoke. It's true that I have a tendency towards exaggeration. Perhaps it's also true that my shoe styles don't tend to accomodate handknit socks very well. I do wear them with my Mary Jane-style Earth Shoes some. And very, very occasionally with my Birkenstock sandals (but I've been trying to tone down my 90s-style hippie-esque style ever since entering the professional workforce). I also wear my handknit socks to bed. But most of the time, I wear basic boring black socks or (with loafers) knee high stockings or (with boots) tights. Maybe I need to break out of my mold a bit, I don't know. Most of my handknit socks are somewhat delicate things, so I think I feel they are inherently more luxury than wardrobe workhorse. I really should peruse the Socktoberfest flickr group to get ideas of how the right shoes could really make the handknit sock work.

Meanwhile, lest you think I was overly serious about all my exaggerated moaning about taking a break from sock-knitting, I really must show you what I cast on next:

Uptown Boot Socks.
(but not for me)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making Waves

Look! An actual FO!
pattern: Waving Lace Socks, Evelyn Clark, from 25 Favorite Socks
yarn: superwash BFL merino, from Collette's Etsy Shop, in Stellar's Jay
needles: size 1 dpns
dates: July 2 - September 13
modifications: none
verdict: These socks have caused me to start coming to terms with my love-hate relationship with sock-making.

what I love:

-working with tiny needles, tiny stitches, and tiny detail
-working with fine, gorgeous yarn

-the singular beauty of a slipped-stitch heel flap
-the magic of turning a heel
- and, of course, the portability

what I loathe:

I can't seem to get the fit right.

First of all, these would have been too loose, even if I hadn't made them too long. After I made the first one, I realized I should've used size 0 dpns (and I changed sizes accordingly for the second pair I made, for my sockapalooza pal). But of course I wasn't going to change sizes for the second sock of the first pair. I guess I need to resign myself to always knitting socks on size 0s. Anything bigger than that and they are too loose. This is strange since when I make garments with bulky yarn, I typically have to go up in needle size because my knitting is tighter than the pattern gauge.

But what is the deal with me and too-long socks? This is the second pair I've made myself that have ended up about half an inch too long, and I don't know how I can keep making the same mistake. And I know myself - I'm not going to go back any time soon and rip out the toe and the extra half inch and reknit them. And part of that is because of one final realization I've made:

Knitted socks just aren't that useful to me. I know that at one time they were one of the most practical things a person could make. But now, they are definitely a luxury item. And I'm beginning to think they are a luxury I just don't have the time for. I certainly enjoy the actual knitting of them. But in terms of final product, I would be much better off with, say, a sweater. Or a hat. Or mittens. Or a scarf. Or even a shawl. Seriously. Right now I am thinking of knitted socks as even less practical than a knitted shawl (this could have something to do with the shawl I intend to finish and wear for our niece's wedding this fall).

Still, I love these socks. Love them beyond what's reasonable. Love them despite the fact that they have disappointed me (or, more accurately, that I have disappointed myself by not making them to fit). I love them because of where they were knit, and when, and what they got me through.

These were intended to be for my sockapalooza pal. I had chosen this colorway because I thought it would be a nice match for blue jeans. I decided to make them my main vacation knit, and then it struck me that the colors were also reminiscent of the blue-green water of the Emerald Coast, where I was headed. That helped me make my decision about a pattern - the Waving Lace looked like little ocean waves; all the more so in these colors.

(not a great shot, due in small part to the fact that the two lifeguards below the blue umbrella in the bottom of the picture were eyeing me like I was nuts, and then point-blank asked me what I was doing)

I began these socks on the way to our ill-fated beach trip. Every morning I rose early, sat on the deck in the breeze, and knit while the house was quiet. Every night as we sat around the table, I happily knit these socks. I had had visions of actually knitting on the beach, but the stress and anxiety of keeping an eye out for two little kids playing on the sand and near the water made that impossible.

After Little Buddha's accident, I didn't pick up the needles again at the beach. Honestly, I was in such a state of shock and horror I'm not sure how I did anything at all other than stare at him, hug everyone every chance I got, replay scenes from the accident in my head, and cry. But as the shock began to subside, I started feeling the need for the needles again, so again I knit. Only now I knew I could not give these socks away. They felt too intimately connected with that beach, that beach house, that time with my family. I needed them. And knitting them helped me feel "normal" again. Knit on through all adversity, Elizabeth Zimmerman said. And so I did.

So yes, these socks are a luxury. A loose-fitting luxury that remind me every time I look at them or wear them of how very lucky I am for what I have that I almost didn't get to keep.

Also, I was right. They do look great with jeans.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

School Daze

It has been 11 years since I completed my last degree (and by "last" I do not intend to mean "final," because I do in fact hope there is still one more in the cards for me; by "last" I simply mean the last one done to-date). All these years later, I still think in terms of semesters. As in, if the semester continues at its current pace, I will not make it to Winter Break. Of course part of this semester-oriented thinking could be due to the fact that I live in a University Town, where life is dominated by the academic schedule.

But the truth is, for me, it isn't just because the University is here, or even because I work for an institution that also structures its program year similarly. It's because, at heart, I am a schoolgirl. I LOVED school. Did you? I was shocked to find out recently that My Old Man did not look forward to the start of school when he was growing up. I thought everyone who was academically-inclined simply loved school, and especially the start of school. What's not to love? Buying new clothes, buying new school supplies, getting registered and finding out who your teachers are going to be, hoping to have a class with that cute guy on the cross country team, going out for cross country so maybe you could get to know that cute guy, throwing yourself at that cute guy until he finally asks you out and gives you his class ring and his varsity jacket and takes you to prom. Okay. Maybe that last part was just me.

At any rate, I always feel nostaglic at this time of year, when so many other people are going back to school, and I'm just doing the same old stuff. But not this year! My boys are not the only ones who get to have "happy scholastics" this year! See, they are going to a Cooperative Nursery School, which means I'm going to school, too. In a Co-op, the parents all run the school - they oversee the governance and administration, and do every job but the actual teaching (the only person on the payroll is the teacher). So 10-12 times a semester each of us assists in the classroom, as well as having volunteer jobs on top of that. Three mornings a week, my boys are in class. Nearly once a week, I'm there with them. It is actually exciting to me beyond rationality. Yes, I may be living vicariously a little bit. Also, there are snacks.

To answer the Great Totebag Question (i.e. why the rule about no backpacks only totebags), the totebags are a part of the school's "kidmail" system. The children hang their totebags on their little hooks and then the teacher and the assistants slip any papers or forms that need to go home with them into their bags. It's a pain for them to have to open so many different styles of bags, with flaps and latches and straps and such. Much easier to slip papers into 20 similarly-styled totebags all hanging in a row. I must say, the 20 totebags look very cute all hanging on their little pegs. There are two in particular that do. ;)

Rachel pointed out that I didn't give the same kind of rave review of Tiny Dancer's fabric choice as I did to Little Buddha's. It's true. While I really fell in love with the bright cars on black fabric that Little Buddha got (with, let's be honest, my strong and enthusiastic urging), I wasn't as taken with the train fabric with its unusual combination of orange-red, dark green, and grey. But the fact is, I am impressed with Tiny Dancer's choice - not only because it is understated and refined, but because he showed remarkable individuality in choosing it. I mean, given that his mother was next to him showing him every other possibility and saying eagerly, "What about this one? Look at these cute cars!" Tiny Dancer stuck to his guns, though. He wanted that particular train print and nothing else. I am actually loving the fabric more and more now, and, more importantly, it suits him.

On Wednesday, I got a few pics (sadly not particularly good quality) of the totebags in action on the way into their school. I love how the boys each have their own very specific way of toting their bags. Tiny Dancer likes to hold both straps in one hand, all twisted up together. Little Buddha holds one strap in each hand and carries them wide apart.

And a few action shots once the school day started. The play-based approach to the school is right up their alley:

Tiny Dancer plays with - what else- the trains

Little Buddha prepares for a puppet show

*sigh* Yay for school! Thank you all for your well wishes for happy scholastics for my boys. As you can see, they are enjoying happy scholastics indeed!

Coming soon: a non-child-related actual knitting FO of the only slightly-disappointing variety. I know you can hardly wait.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Happy Scholastics!

When Tiny Dancer announced to the mentally ill homeless man at our church that he and Little Buddha would be starting school this week, the man shook both boys' hands and said, "Happy scholastics!" He also said, "Don't step in dog sh*t." Which is, of course, good advice both for preschool and for life. But I digress. "Happy scholastics" has seemed to me a delightful and perfect wish for two little boys embarking on the first day of many years of formal education. Today was that day.

Little Buddha and Tiny Dancer, ready for the new school year.

I found out at their orientation meeting a couple of weeks ago that they were required to use totebags for school instead of backpacks. This seemed to me a perfect excuse to make bags for them, even though the school had some for sale. It also seemed to me the perfect excuse to finally invest in some superbuzzy fabric. I let the boys each choose their own.

Little Buddha went with cars.
I am crazy about this print.

Tiny Dancer went with a vintage-looking train print.

And I went with my first Simple Sewing Project.

I could not be more pleased with the results.

Once I got all the pieces cut, these came together amazingly quickly. After doing Tiny Dancer's, I realized how flimsy these things felt with lightweight cotton. So for Little Buddha's, I added fusible interfacing to the bag and then added a lining. To remind myself of how to do a lining, I referred to this great super eggplant tutorial. It seems only fitting that the first fabric I've ever bought from superbuzzy would be used in a tote bag, when her tote bag tutorial is how I first found her site. (which is actually strange, given how many of the blogs I now read rave about superbuzzy fabric, but back when I was first looking for a tote tute I guess I wasn't reading those blogs yet).

Once I did Little Buddha's lining, I really couldn't resist adding a little pocket, to hold a tiny car.

Little Buddha liked the bag so much, he asked to sleep with it last night. I like the lining and pocket so much that I intend to go back and do the same for Tiny Dancer's bag as well; I just ran out of time for that before school started.

Verdict on this pattern? It's super. Super-fast, super-easy, super-fun. But I definitely will continue to supplement it with interfacing, lining, and probably pockets. Next time, I may try using cotton flannel for the interfacing, as suggested in Bend-the-Rules Sewing.

Happy Scholastics, boys!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Delayed Graftification

Earlier in the week, I wrote this: The Lace Leaf Pullover I cast on for 16 days ago? It's done except the grafting (which I hope to do tonight). That sound you heard when you read it was the maniacal laughter of the knitting gods and goddesses. "Tonight" has turned into "all week long."

do the math:

136 stitches on top
+ 136 stitches on bottom
x working the yarn through each stitch twice
x 3 feet of yarn in attempt to do the kitchener with only one piece of yarn
- at least 2 dropped stitches
+ ridiculous expectations about how the time/space continuum works
= copious amounts of cussing and hair-tearing,
not to mention one very obvious seam

Yeah. Looks like I'll be ripping back to about the 10th stitch and starting all over again.
But not tonight.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back When I Still Sewed: a Hat and a Hat

So in June I also made some hats! I feel like that needs an exclamation point because these were very! fun! hats!

Planning for the beach, I had this vision of myself in my bathing suit, a wrap, big sunglasses, and a big beachy hat. The wrap was a bust, the sunglasses got broken, and the wind always blew off my hat. At least my bathing suit was super-cute. But you are so not going to see pictures of me in it.

pattern: Amy Butler Blue Sky Hat
fabric: you guessed it - basic cotton from JoAnn's
black for the exterior and a sweet little flower print for the interior
made: one afternoon in June
modifcations: different prints for exterior and interior - I wanted a black hat to match my black swimsuit, but I didn't want it to look too much like a witch's hat
verdict: this was a fun and surprisingly simple pattern. I did have difficulty sewing through three layers of canvas, though, even with my heaviest needle. In retrospect, I wish I had done the whole hat in the floral fabric. I've decided I don't care for the two-tone look in this hat, plus the floral fabric is so sweet. At least I have enough left over to make a top out of now.
I mean, if I ever use my machine again.

The hat was so fun and came together so quickly that I decided to make another one to match my blue swimsuit. Since I'd had trouble sewing the canvas, I went with heavy fusible web this time instead.

pattern: Amy Butler Blue Sky Hat
fabric: bright blue cotton batik
made: one afternoon in June
modifications: used heavyweight fusible web instead of canvas
verdict: I love this fabric and like that the hat is the same on exterior and interior. The fusible web was definitely much easier to sew than the canvas, but the results were not as good. It has a much cheaper feel to it, and blew off even more easily than the other.

In random kindness news, sweet Mer named me as a

I was honored to be included among the rockin' blogs she listed. Thanks, Mer! What comes around goes around, so it's my turn to name some rockin' girl bloggers. Like Mer said, this has been going around for awhile and it's hard to remember who all has already been tagged, but here are just a few girl bloggers I think rock:

These are just a very few rockin' girl bloggers, and only from the craft world, (and I intentionally left out those who I already know someone else has tagged). But you know, I think all you readers rock, so you should all consider yourselves tagged (guys, too!).