Monday, January 20, 2014

The Miracle of Blocking

Day off today, which is funny since I don't work.  The kids have off for MLK day, so I get to stay home. There has been a flurry of knitting at my house.  I have (drum roll please) seven completed items for January. I am loving making small items like hats and cowls and fingerless mitts, using up stash yarn and making very welcome, warm items.

It is going to get freezing cold here again this week.  Temps below zero with lots of wind.  Yeah for wool!

This weekend we watched the playoff games and I knit up a storm.  This knitdown is really making me happy and I find myself planning the next project using up yarn in my stash.  The problem is I keep finding more and more oddiments that need to be destashed.  Here is the winding station I have set up on my dining room table with a few of the skeins waiting to be turned into yarn cakes to use in up-and-coming projects.

This is not, however the yarn I am using for the January Small Knits Throwdown .  That consists of yarn left over from finished projects where more than a skein has been leftover, or a project that has sat in my craft room so long, the recipient has outgrown it.  I am teaming these oddiments up with new patterns.  Although a few new yarn projects may creep in, such as the new hat for hubby since he lost his.  I had to buy a skein of Cascade Aran in grey and I made him a Windschief hat over the weekend.  What a fast knit!  I may have to make this hat for all the boys in the family.  It is good looking and snug like they like their hats.
I think I am going to make the matching cowl for hubby.  He's not so sure he will like it (is it too girly?)  but I think it will be a nice warm addition to his outdoor gear and won't get in his way like a scarf does.

Here are the items I have complete so far that I have not posted:


I have enough of the white yarn left to make matching fingerless gloves using the Koolhaas pattern that will make a really nice set of hat, cowl and mitts.  The Snuggly Cowl and the Magnolia hat used up the leftover
yarn from my Central Park hoodie with this much left over
I wasn't going to make the Elephant hat because it was a little small.  I probably should have made it 4 years ago when elephants were her favorite animal.  She is now into dragons and cheetahs.  However, I have a long queue of fair isle sweaters and hats that I have waiting and I haven't done this technique in a number of years, so I decided to make the hat as practice.  I added an extra row of border between the two elephant motifs and used a size larger needle.   I think I held my yarn a bit too tight with the large elephant motif but by the time I got to the small elephants, I had relaxed a bit and loosened up my tension.  I don't have a before picture, but when I finished I wasn't terribly pleased, as the stitches were a bit uneven and wonky.  As the yarn is a washable wool, I wasn't expecting much after blocking, but boy was I surprised.  The yarn relaxed in the bath and the hat is beautiful.  

Something I am really learning, especially as I use up yarn that has been sitting around for a while, blocking can be your finished garments best friend and make you look like a superstar knitter.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rainy Saturday

The weather people got it right.  We are now having near 50 degree temps and lots of rain.
I had off three days this week, since Jordyn had a dentist appointment yesterday and Daddy picked her from school.  I think because of that I got two more projects completed, Chiara's birthday gloves
and a hat made with City Tweed leftover from my Central Park Hoodie  that I finished in 2010.  Good grief.

I have enough left to make a cowl to match.

The kids are sleeping over tonight, so I probably won't get much knitting done.  With the damp and cold, I have some homemade pea soup and Dilly bread for dinner.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Because we had an impossibly huge and debilitating blizzard in Buffalo in 1977, the weather bureau never uses that term loosely.  So it was a little shocking to hear the term on the weather report last night.  Very cold temps with high winds and snow make a blizzard and we are now in the gripe of one.  
There was lots of warning, schools were open yesterday and the temperatures started going down when everyone was home, including me.  I picked the kids up from school and left the oldest one in charge for an hour until his mother got home and got myself home before the storm hit. 
There was not much more than a few inches of snow on the ground, but when 45 mile an hour wind whips it around, it results in white outs.  Nasty.

It snowed for about six hours today and has just let up a bit.  The snow bands fluctuate so it could be back any time.  Lots of wind and wind chill in the minus 30 degree range.

We have nowhere to go, lots of food and books and knitting to keep occupied.  A friend of mine would always stash a project at the beginning of winter that she saved for a winter storm, which here is usually two or three days long.  It seems that this one will be winding down later tomorrow and by Saturday the forecast calls for rain.  Right now that blows my mind.

I finished one of the fingerless mitts and am working on the second.  I hope to have it done today.  Although I have a book I would like to finish also.
Hard to catch the fury of the storm in my backyard but we couldn't see the shed at times through the snow.

Here is one that captures the feeling we have, Frankie trying to crawl inside the fireplace.  She settled for laying on the rug in front of the fire.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Little Christmas 2014

All the Christmas decorations are put away in bins in the basement.  The house looks bare, bare, bare. Today the trees come down.  We usually wait for the 6th of January to do this, the last day of Christmas. (if the trees hold out).
They still look pretty good.  Here you can see some of the smocked ornaments I made, quite a few years ago.  Every year I make plans to add a few more, but never seem to get the time or the inclination to work on Christmas ornaments once Christmas is over.  Maybe this year?  I always say that every years' tree is the best one ever, but this year the size and fullness of the tree was just right to show off all the ornaments to their best advantage.

In between taking down decorations, we watched a lot of football this weekend and the games were very exciting.  We also have been watching a BBC series "Orphan Black" which is very good.  We watched all the episodes in the past two weeks and have the series finale to watch tonight.  

I discovered last year, that I am really a process knitter, enjoying the process of knitting, not counting the numbers, not bothered by unknitting or items gone wrong or the number of unfinished objects I have.

However, there has been a perfect storm of happenings that is encouraging me to think differently for January and February.  

The Olympics are in February and talk on the podcasts I listen to and the Ravelry groups I am on, has been about the Ravelenic games, starting a project at the opening ceremonies and having it finished by the closing ceremonies. I have been toying with the idea of making the Must Have aran sweater that I have had in my queue forever, during the games.  
I also cleaned out my knitting room and went through all my yarn, divested myself of more old yarn I have been hanging on to for 35 years.  If I haven't started anything with it yet, I never will.  So now all old useless yarn is gone, gone, gone.  Whew, what a relief.  But I collected all the bits of yarn that I was saving from recent projects and realized I have quite a number of them.

I lost my favorite hat.  The one I knit from Boku that goes with the scarf and every one of my coats.  So now with the wind chill in the negative range, I had no hat that fit me just right.

I got two requests for special projects.  One from Hubby, who wants Valentine socks and one from the eldest granddaughter who wants fingerless mitts that go up to her elbow for her birthday January 24th.

Therefore I am going to try an experiment and see how many of the small items that  I have yarn for, I can get done in January and the beginning of February.  That means finishing up some that are started and starting some I have had forever.  I am not going to push myself, but I am going to concentrate on the small stuff.
Here is a pile of some of the little projects I have selected for this.

I have already finished two items- a cowl to go with the Koolhaas hat I made to replace the Boku hat and the Homework socks that have been on my needles since September.  I have one of the fingerless mitt almost done.  I actually had to re-knit this and add 8 stitches as the mitts were very tight as originally written. I'll make note of the changes on my project page.  I'll keep track of my progress on the blog on Mondays. Should be interesting.

Keep warm and safe in this nasty weather.  I am thinking no school tomorrow with the dangerous wind chills being predicted and maybe Wednesday as well. More knitting time for me!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Thanks

Yesterday we had a very cold, very snowy and windy walk home from school.  There was a wind chill of -11 degrees and it was much too cold for walking little ones home.  The wind chill today is in the -15 degree range so there was no school.  Even though right now the sun is shining, it is a cold that seeps into your bones.  It is suppose to dip down more tonight.  And there is the prediction of snow and even more bitter cold for Monday and Tuesday.

We decided to do some stocking up and went grocery shopping and I went to the library to stock up on a few books to see me through, in case we get socked in.

We are slowly putting Christmas away.  I hate to see things like the twinkly lights on the mantle and tree and stairway and the candles in the window get taken down, so they will be the last things to go.  I turn them all on when I get up in the morning to push back the winter gloom.

I still love my mantle decorations

and the red bows on the icy tree.

Everyone still enjoys decorating the little village made out of graham crackers
although it does seem to get a  little gruesome.  What started out as March of the Penguins, ended up as a penguin massacre, but fun was had by all.
I loved how my Christmas goodie bags turned out.  Everyone loved the Lo-Lo bars so much, I am ordering more.
All-in-all, it was a pretty stress-free Christmas this year.  Early planning and keeping on top of things, plus a few days of not having to get the little one from school which allowed me more time for cooking and wrapping, really helped.

Topping it all off, a lovely New Year's Day dinner of 
a mushroom and carmalized onion topped fillet, lobster tails and a sparkling wine.  Perfect!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Great Palette Knit-Down - A Daunting Task

There are times when I binge-buy yarn (most times).  Before I discovered my wonderful local knit shop, I would spend a lot of time on the Knit Picks site, just buying up whatever appealed to me or what seemed like a good idea at the time.

In 2008 I bought a boatload of KnitPicks Palette, a couple of the sampler packages.   I'm not sure how many there were at that time, but I think at least 50.  At least I didn't buy it now, there are 150 colors!

And there they sit in a clear bin mocking me.  One skein is 231 yards.  Enough to make one sock.  Sigh.

I think the idea was to make a lot of  Fair Isle socks, mittens etc.  That hasn't happened.  So when my husband asked me to make a pair of Christmas socks for him, this is what I came up with.  
I hesitate to use the Palette for socks since it has no nylon and isn't machine washable but for limited wear socks, like holiday themed, I figured it would be fine.  We are now choosing patterns for knitting Valentine and St. Patrick's Day Socks.  Hmmm maybe an Easter or Memorial Day or Thanksgiving themed pair of socks. Food for thought.

I have decided to declare this year the Great Palette Knit-Down.  It means a lot of Fair Isle knitting, but this is something I have wanted to try, probably since I bought all this yarn.  I took out all the yarn necessary for the Palette Fair Isle Sampler Cardigan which Kathy Taylor designed.  I have never steeked so this is going to be the year for attempting that technique.  I also have the yarn for two other sweaters that Kathy designed from her book Fearless Fair Isle Knitting. I just love Kathy's patterns.  She is such a genius.

I took out yarn from the box of Palette to make three other items, which I will post when I start the projects.

That leaves about 30 or more skeins of Palette to find suitable projects.  Plus this is what was left of the two skeins I used for hubby's socks.  How will I use up the small leftover amounts?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year in Review 2013

I went to my post for the first day of 2013 and find most of the resolutions I have there I didn't follow through on and they seem to be the same old, same old I was going to resolve this year.


Let's see if I can do better this year in keeping up the blog, at least.

Books I read - 70 total books read.  Not quite the two a week I had planned.  My resolution this year is to read at least the same amount and maybe try for a few more.  One thing I did was PUT DOWN books that just didn't grab me.  This is very difficult for me to do.  I always have forced myself to finish every book I start, but giving myself permission to walk away has been a very positive experience.

Some of the new authors I have found and loved are Julia Spencer-Fleming. Rhys Bowen and Alafair Burke.
I have rediscovered Stephen King, not his latest books which I have been reading, but his really old short story collections which are amazing.  I have continued with old favorites J.D. Robb ( which are always wonderful), Lee Child, Louise Penney and Nevada Barr.  I wonder what new authors are going to pop up in 2014.

As for knitting, I wanted to knit a dozen pairs of socks using different patterns.  I made 7 pair with three on the needles now in various stages of completion.  I did use 4 different patterns but not the complex ones, like CookieA or any from the books I have earmarked.

But here is what I did knit:

7 pairs of socks
7 neck things, cowls or scarfs
4 sweaters, 3 for me 1 for hubby.  There were two other sweaters I finished and hated and totally ripped out.
8 bags
2 head things
2 pairs of slippers
6 washcloths
3 bats
and of course the black dragon scarf, which a little girl wears around her head in school like a Ninja.  You got to love her!
While this seems like a lot of knitting, I have so much yarn to get through, it seems like a drop in the bucket.
The question is how do I knit more without injuring my hands.  
I would like to complete more color work knitting.  I actually have the yarn for three fair isle sweaters and several pairs of socks.

Also there are at least three afghans that need to get made.  I have wanted to complete a special afghan for each grandkid and I really think I need to get started on this.

So I am going through yarn today and sorting it out (again), prioritizing projects and seeing if I can really get a handle on knitting through the stash.

TV and Movies- Mostly TV shows.  We were really disappointed in Homeland this year and Downton Abbey's third season finale was a real downer. Also The Killing was forgettable.  The Walking Dead seemed to take awhile getting started, but the final few episodes were well worth the slow start.  New programs that we really got into thanks to Netflix and binge watching were Longmire, Arrested Development, Mike and Molly, The Bridge and we are currently going through Orphan Black two shows at a time.  I have been catching up on American Horror Story.  Hubby doesn't watch with me, but I have caught up with this season and am working through season one. We do like our TV dark.  But then we pop in a comedy half hour before we go to bed just to lighten things up.  Best shows this season?  The Good Wife and The Blacklist. A show we are just watching because we want to see where it goes is The Hostages, could have been good if they could have limited it to maybe a mini-series.  Best recreated show is The Mentalist.  Finished up Red John and it is now reinventing itself.  Awesome!