Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Knitting Revealed

Now that my knitted presents have been received, and I have sufficiently detoxed from the winter holiday portion of the year, they can be revealed for all the world to see. A friend got this little flamingo, which was a fiddly as hell to make. At one point I had one stitch on each of three double pointed needles, and was trying to balance them in a little pyramid on my leg as I knit.

The little dude ended up pretty cute though, so it was worth it. The pattern is free, if you need a flamingo in your life.

This next sweater was made for another friend's baby, who was born only 4 days ago. The parents wanted to keep the gender a surprise, so I went with a neutral orange -- turns out the baby is a boy! The pattern is Baby Sophisticate, and it's also free. I did make a lot of modifications to the sweater due to using a different yarn, and in response to a lot of comments saying that the sweater turned out too long and skinny. Details are on my Ravelry page if you are interested in such things.

Finally I made Anchors Aweigh for my brother. I ended up making a ton of modifications to this pattern, and because I was the first person to post a finished project, I put extensive notes on my project page. I also added a windstop fleece lining, which isn't in the picture because my sewing machine decided to hate me, and I had to borrow my mom's on Christmas eve.

I am now basking in the possibilities of non-deadline knitting and spinning, and realizing that 14 pairs of knitted socks is really just not enough for one person to own.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bah Humbug

This year I just can't get into Christmas. I don't care. Maybe it's that we had a busy fall--we went on 2 trips and hosted 2 family visits--or that it hasn't gotten very cold yet, or that it seems like we just had Christmas, but we haven't put up any lights, set up the tree, or baked any treats. I'm only about 3 inches into the third stocking I'm making (I made 2 last year). Really, I just want it all to be over so that I can go to a store without 4 million other people being there. Bah humbug, I know. I don't even want to do any crafts.

It's a good thing I started planning back in September, because 3 people are actually getting handmade gifts this year. Too bad I can't show you, yet. So instead, let's talk about spinning. Ok? Ok.

One of the lovely ladies in my knitting group let me borrow her Ashford Traveller wheel. Because I already had been spindle spinning, it didn't take me long to get the hang of it. It was so fast! I didn't have to stop to wind the yarn on!

Now I have reached the part where I eat my words. I know you've heard me say, "I'm not getting a wheel, they're too expensive! I don't need any more hobbies."

I got a wheel. (Actually Jason got me a wheel. Which he purchased from a link I sent him in an email. Kind of like how my engagement ring was purchased... what? I'm not a control freak, I don't know what you're talking about.) It's a Fricke S-160 double treadle.

Frickes don't win any beauty contests, but they get the job done. If any of you are considering getting a wheel, here's why I choose this one:
  1. Price: less than $400. There are very few wheels in this price range, and this one had most of the features I was looking for.
  2. Ball bearings = fewer points to keep oiled
  3. BIG bobbins (although they are plastic and most don't seem to be 100% level. These are the exact same as the Majacraft bobbins, however, and those wheels will cost you a lot more.)
  4. Delta orifice: no need to fiddle with a hook
  5. There are five, count 'em, five drive ratios! (These are kind of like gears on a bike. The bobbin and flyer will spin faster with less treadling the smaller you go.)
  6. Treadling is smooth, and the wheel is quiet. The only sound comes from the brake band whirring on the bobbin.

That blue fiber that shows up in all the pictures is 8 ounces of merino wool that I'm spinning into a 3-ply fingering-ish weight. It is taking for-ev-er.

Here is a bonus alpaca for anyone who just read that post and had no idea what I was talking about.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Finished: Haruni Shawl

So I knit this shawl, and I wanted to take a picture of it so I can show you my skillz. First I took it outside, but this ended up as a lesson in perspective. I promise my hands are not the same size as my head in real life. (or maybe they are...)

Ok, but you can't really see the pattern. How about a real-life pose?

Hmm. Maybe I'll take it inside and lay it on a white comforter, so the pattern shows up more.

Blegch. It's all weird and dark. How about hanging it up on a shelf?

Ok, we're getting there. So close... ooh, the window!

Yay! You can see it now, right? Just combine all of these pictures in your head, and that's what it looks like.
(Pattern: Haruni. Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in Persia. Needles: size... 4... or 5? who knows, really) This is a contender for my favorite knit yet. Because I have so many uses for knitted lace, mostly.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Home Improvement: Kitchen Progress

I had hoped to post a fabulous "look at my kitchen before and after, which I accomplished for $0 and in only one weekend" post, but since I live in reality and not in DIY magazine land, this is what you get. When we moved in 2 1/2 years ago, the kitchen wasn't bad. The previous owners had already replaced the floor and painted the gross 80's oak cabinets that every builder insists on using. The countertop was off-white laminate, and stained and scratched.

This is how the kitchen looked when we bought the house, with off-white cabinets, silver handles, visible hinges, and black appliances:

Right away we bought a new stove, as the old one was, well, old. About a year later we got a new dishwasher, after the old one started laughing at us and just spat back out dirty dishes rather inconveniencing itself by actually cleaning them. [I should also note that this is the second stove and dishwasher we got, after both were broken when they arrived. This actually worked out to our advantage because they brought us a more expensive, stainless interior dishwasher the second time around, for the same price.]

This summer I got tired of looking at the off-white cabinets and painted them all again a brighter white (Benjamin Moore White Dove). You can see the contrast with the countertops below:

We also took on what proved to be the most frustrating, terrible project ever: replacing the visible hinges with hidden ones. There was no way to level the hinges, so we had to drill holes into the cabinet faces, basically blindly, and hope that the doors were level. If not, we had to start all over again. I wanted to stab myself in the face, and I'm sure Jason did too. But it looks good! We also replaced the silver handles with black knobs (which we got for free from my parents, who replaced theirs with stainless steel knobs.)

Next we ripped out the countertop. This is an accurate description because the countertops had been glued down (!?!?!). Also apparently it had been used as a trash can by someone in 1984 (see Twix wrapper below.)

Now we have black granite countertops and a new undermount sink and faucet! When I went shopping for them, the first salesman I consulted told me that black countertops in a kitchen would be "deadly." He also referred to me as "young lady." Blerg.

Moving forward, obviously the torn drywall and old caulking stuck to the wall need to go. We're going to tile the backsplash ourselves, once I actually make a decision on the tile. I like all of the examples below, so I should probably actually drag myself to a tile showroom to see how much this stuff costs. I also need to paint the black kickboards below the cabinet (I knew something was off but didn't realize what until I looked at the last photo below), frame the window with molding, replace the old vent hood, replace the fluorescent light, and probably paint. Have you ever read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie? I am a home-improvement mouse, and I have been given a cookie.

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finished: 4 Socks

Over the past few months I've finished 4 socks, and by a huge stroke of luck, they match up into pairs! Funny how knitting works out like that, almost as if it has been planned. The first pair is Spring Forward, which you all should definitely knit, because it's a great pattern. And if you can't knit, oh well, sucks for you. [If you don't knit, please tell me, what do you do while you're doing something else? If you watch a movie, do you just sit there and watch the movie? Please explain.] I used Tess' Designer Yarns Super Sock.

Next up are the socks that would not die. I divided the yarn in half by weight, and started knitting from the toe up until the yarn ran out. I'm pretty sure that each night, small gnomes unraveled a few rows and wound the yarn back onto the ball. That's the only explanation for why these took over TWO YEARS to knit. That, and they were knit on size 0 needles. Members of my knitting group can attest to me frequently groaning and whining, "Uggghhh I don't even WANT these socks anymore." I hate you, socks, and will wear you all the time just to spite you. [The yarn is Schoeller+Stahl Fortissima Socka Cotton Color.]

To my brother-in-law, who says I never look at the camera when I take pictures of finished knits: I totally was looking at the camera in every single one of these pictures.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spinning FO: Caribbean BFL

Back in May, at Maryland Sheep & Wool, muchadored helped me pick out my first "real" fiber, something nice to spin after I got the hang of my spindle. This is BFL from Misty Mountain Farm, in "Caribbean". I divided the fiber by weight into two parts, and spun a fairly thin single.

I plied the singles together using my super-awesome and slightly-deadly-looking homemade lazy kate. This piece of high-tech machinery was constructed out of a shoebox and 2 metal skewers. I was hoping the pointy ends would keep the cat away, but apparently she's not as dumb as I thought (or maybe she's dumber than I thought.)

Then, all of my plied yarn was wound onto another homemade contraption, my PVC niddy noddy. (Why do yarn tools have such silly names?) If you were wondering if a 10-foot section of PVC pipe can fit into a Mazda Protege, the answer is "yes." And if you also were wondering if you can cut PVC with a wood saw in your living room, the answer is also "yes."

Ta-dah! I ended up with over 300 yards of fingering-ish weight yarn. I'm thinking about knitting these fingerless gloves. Jason thinks that the next logical progression from spinning my own yarn is raising my own sheep, but he knows that we don't have any grass in our yard. Duh.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Forever ago (one million years in internet time, or 2 months in human time) I went to California. My mom, sister, and I (girls' trip!) looked at many large and interesting items, mostly in Yosemite National Park, a.ka. The Death Trap. There were many completely unimpressive views, like this one:
Yosemite Valley
There were also some really small trees that were frankly pretty stupid to look at. We have like, 5 of these in our backyard at home.

We stayed overnight in Curry Village. I was a little bit nervous about staying in a canvas tent because bears love me. If Yellowstone was about a 7 on a scale of 1 to "definitely you will die of a bear attack", Yosemite is a 10. (But only signage wise. Actual bear murder-wise, Yellowstone is currently ahead 2-0 this year.)

The next morning we got up early to hike the Mist Trail. If I give you only one tip for visiting Yosemite, it's to get up early. We were up and down by the time the stroller/flip flop/funny hat crowd started in. The trail is kind of odd. The first segment is fairly wide and paved, and continues up to a bridge below the first waterfall, Vernal Falls. After that, things rapidly take a turn for the rugged, which is nice, but is not really posted anywhere. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but many people seem to saunter up the paved portion and think, "no problem, I'll keep going. And take this stroller, tripod, backpack, and small travel refrigerator with me."

Then you come to this: a stone staircase, about 4 feet wide, with a sheer drop off at one side. Because we were here in June, water was pouring off the waterfall like a torrential downpour, and the stairs were slick. There were portions where I hugged the wall a little as I climbed. My sister and I were both completely soaked by the time we reached the top.

We decided to come back down via a secondary trail, and that was a good decision. We got to see Vernal Falls from above, as well as avoided having to walk down the slippery staircase on the non-wall side. The only downside to this trail is that it is several MILES longer than the straight-shooter trail up.

We drove out via the Tioga Road (towards the east), where there was a ridiculous amount of snow for it being late June. (I know this picture doesn't show a lot of snow, but it was still piled several feet deep along the edge of the road. I had to stop and touch some, because for some reason I expected it not to be cold. I don't know why. It was cold, of course.)

Our next stop was Lake Tahoe. I was expecting it to be more of a sleepy mountain town, but it was more like Vegas-lite. While the lake was beautiful, it was freezing cold. I mostly stayed on the beach in the shade as not to mar my translucent complexion. My sister tells me that it's much more crowded in the winter, when all the coastal Californians visit to enjoy the snow. If anyone wants to come to my house during winter and "enjoy" the snow, you're welcome to, as long as you dig out my car.

We rounded out the trip with a visit to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose (completing a giant 700-mile circle.) If anyone ever accuses me of having a home remodeling addiction, I refer you to to this house. The owner, Sarah Winchester (also 4'10", a fact that the tour guide really played up as if she was some sort of freak show, when I was standing right there being 4'10" the whole time) built on to the house for 38 years, adding staircases that went nowhere, doors that opened out to a drop off, 47 fireplaces (but only 17 chimneys), and 160 rooms. It's basically a maze inside, and pretty neat to tour if you get the chance.

Aaaaand then I came home. The end.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scarf Parade

A while ago I realized that I was a slow knitter, and that if I wanted new warm things to wear in the winter, I best get started while it's still warm out. That logic makes sense, until you get the part where it's 100 degrees outside and you're stuck with a lapfull of wool. So, no sweaters here, but it's looking like my neck will be warm, at least, and protected from vampires!

First up is the Cotton Seeds cowl, if I can even call it that. I did cast on the proscribed number, but after about 10 rows I gave up on 205-stitch rounds of seed stitch. Even though I tried to keep at the stitches straight when I joined in the round, I ended up with an unintentional double-mobius. Oh well, it's hard to tell when it's all scrunched up anyway. The yarn was a gift from a friend (and a non-knitting friend at that!) and is Manos del Uruguay Wool Classica. This is what it looks like looped twice around:

And three times around:

I would show you 4 times around, but no one was around to revive me after I fainted due to constricted blood flow to the brain.

Next is the Boneyard Shawl, which I actually finished back in (coughcough) February. While those dinky shawlettes that are all the rage in knitting-land can be cute, they don't really cut it when it comes to actually providing warmth. I used two whole skeins of Cascade Heritage Paints sock yarn.

And stylishly thrown around my neck like all the kids are wearing scarves these days:

Finally, there is the Greyhaven cowl, which is eating my face!

I survived. It's made out of Berocco Ultra Alpaca that I bought in Little Rock. I also did an extra repeat for maximum scrunchability.

All of this should not be taken to mean that I actually want it to be cold. I am so OVER cold. I am over snow. But apparently the climate does not take my wishes into consideration (although it should), and so I will cocoon myself in knits until I emerge, pasty white, sometime next April.
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