Knitting


It’s been a long while since I’ve blogged.  My work life got pretty busy in the fall and I’m finally settling back into a routine that’s a bit more balanced.  This probably goes without saying, but I think life is better when I get to have some down time on a regular basis.

In addition to my crazy fall work schedule and trying to figure out how to get everything made/completed in time for Christmas (which didn’t happen, of course – I stink at knitting to deadlines), I was dealing with a sick bird.  Kira’s health had been declining since May, and after a very bad four days in December I asked to have her put to sleep.  It’s taking a while to get used to being without my beloved conure companion of 13 years; I’m probably more efficient at most tasks without a parrot in the middle, but it sure it a lot less fun around here.

I finished a number of projects in the last six months (including a hat that needed a complete re-working of the pattern charts because the instructions were off a bit on the stitch count for alternating rows).  It’s fun to look back at the lovely things I sent along to new homes where they will hopefully be worn and enjoyed.

After nearly 3 years of knitting, I’ve made over 40 projects – only 4 of which I’ve kept.  Given my inability to knit to deadlines and the stress of trying to create things with a date always looming ahead (just like at work!), I’ve decided that 2013 needs to be the year of selfish knitting.  As much as I enjoy making hand-made gifts, I want to be able to make some things for myself – projects that always get moved to the back burner because I need to get something else finished.  Of course, I’ve just completed and mailed out the last knitted Christmas gifts as of Monday so I’m already 3 months behind on making projects for myself.  Heh.  However, this week I’ve finally cast on a cowl in a lovely yarn I bought over two years ago.

Sewing is taking up some of my time again and I’m glad the mojo is back.  A couple of years ago I replaced my rather useless 15 year-old Kenmore machine with a Baby Lock.  Since then I’ve made some box bags, iPad covers, and tinkered with some small bags to hold note cards.  I finally saw a quilt pattern that caught my eye, and last summer I started picking up fabrics to go along with the main ones I wanted to use.  I cut out the pieces, got most of the blocks sewn, then got too busy with the job and packed everything up for a while.  Over the last few weeks I’ve started organizing my supplies (why didn’t I think of doing that sooner?) and this week I converted my spare bedroom into a proper sewing space.  I pulled out my “rainy day” quilt, finished trimming the sewn blocks, and completed the quilt top!  Actually, “tops” is more accurate because I ultimately decided that I wanted something smaller than the twin size I planned for and I split the pieces among 2 quilts (which I will refer to as quilts #1A and #1B).  Still haven’t found backing fabric so I may have to stop for a while and work on quilt #2.  And #3, #4, and #5 which I’m planning for the kids this (or maybe the following) Christmas.  Because, let’s face it, I’m a bit of an over-achiever and why shouldn’t I have half a dozen projects lined up?

Although I’ve just started working on my first quilt in the last year, I’ve been thinking about them for a long time.  The problem was that I couldn’t find the right pattern to get motivated – I admire most traditional quilts, but along with being gorgeous they’ve always seemed a bit fussy to me and I’ve never been particularly interested in making one.  But all of a sudden I’m discovering patterns I like … ones that inspired me to get started.  In February I attended the vendor/exhibition hall at the Modern Quilt Guild’s QuiltCon in Austin and realized that I am squarely in the camp of the modern quilt style.  After a few hours of viewing I was completely overwhelmed and energized; I came home with a ton of photos, one new pattern, and a few yards of new fabric (and much like my knitting philosophy, I have plans for each and every bit of fabric I purchased).  I’ll include a few of my favorite quilts from QuiltCon in case you’re wondering what it was that made such an impression.

As you can probably tell from this far-too-long blog, it’s been a busy few months.  I’ve been motivated enough to attend QuiltCon and to join the Austin Modern Quilt Guild.  I’ve organized my sewing and knitting supplies and finally set up a craft room so I can reclaim my dining table.  I’m knitting things I’ve been longing to knit.  And, for the first time since last March, I took an entire week off from work to do anything and everything I wanted – and it was fantastic.

How did I get so far behind on project updates?  Guess it has something to do with the fact that Kira has been sick.  She picked up some kind of infection and was on antibiotics for most of May and June, but seemed to relapse; the vet ran a bunch more tests which showed she has an an acute chronic infection.  Still waiting on lab culture results to find out what is making her sick and what, if anything, we can do to help her.

So instead of spending most of my down time doing lots of crafty things, I’ve been driving to the vet’s office with bird — and knitting —  in tow with the hopes of working on projects while I sit and wait.  The Steeping Room in The Domain is a favorite place – they don’t seem to mind Kira hanging out with me on the patio, and when Kira was at the vet’s office for a full 9-hour day they were happy to let me sit outdoors sipping tea, noshing on GF scones and clotted cream, and knitting away a few hours.

As for knitting projects, I finished the purple Aria Delicato, have nearly finished the lovely green/blue Nova Scotia version, and cast off the Double Cross Cowl.  Looks like I need to set aside a day to block these finished projects so I can get some final photos and put them away for Christmas.  I also cast on another Just Enough Ruffles (in a yarn made from recycled denim) because I can’t possibly have fewer than three projects on the needles at any given time.

Most of July was spent preparing for the summer-sporting-event-that-involves-international-competition-and-medals.  After the dust-up caused by the USOC’s cease and desist letter that claimed knitters are denigrating the true nature of the games and disrespecting athletes, I have to say my enthusiasm for watching simply evaporated.  Well, that, and the NBC coverage and online viewing restrictions (since I don’t have a TV or a digital cable subscription that includes CNBC and MSNBC).

Since most of my knitting group is participating in the knit-a-long (KAL) for the Color Affection shawl, and we planned to cast-on during the evening of the opening ceremonies, I got the idea that I wanted to make something to commemorate the event (long before I learned that using the “O” word was something only paying sponsors can do).  Project bags seemed like a good idea, since everyone working on the shawl will need to wrangle three balls of yarn throughout most of the project.  I’ll admit to being partial to any/all of Laurie Wisbrun‘s designs and her Next Stop-London fabric caught my eye  as the perfect theme for my “super secret project.”  Earlier this summer I ordered all four of the collection’s designs, went shopping for lining fabric, craft bond interfacing, and zippers, and started the process of cutting out pieces to assemble into 12 box bags.  The plan was to have the bags sewn and finished by mid-July; of course, I finished sewing them the night before my deadline – because that’s how it always works.

I brought the bags to our Wednesday night knitting group as a fun surprise.  Once everyone selected a bag, I allocated one more for a door prize at the cast-on party that Friday night at The Knitting Nest.  And I still have three left to finish – mine of course (what’s the saying about the cobbler’s kids not having shoes?), one that I messed up and need to rip out and fix, and one that simply got left behind because I ran out of time.  My only regret is that I didn’t get a photo of them all together – I created a pretty impressive stack of London-themed box bags (if I do say so myself).

The yarn I ordered from Pagewood Farm came in earlier in the month, and I must say it was even richer in color and softer to the touch than I expected. The opening ceremony / pot-luck / cast-on party (July 27) was a lot of fun – the store was packed with people, food, yarn and needles!  (I assume there were some crocheters there as well, but I only saw knitters in the section where I sat.)  After a dozen or so attempts I finally got the shawl started … and it’s well on it’s way.  No telling if I’ll actually get it finished by the time the closing ceremonies air, but it doesn’t really matter to me – I’m just happy to be knitting.

We hit our first 100°F day this month – a slightly depressing number that serves as my personal benchmark for the official start of summer.  All we have to do now is get through the next four months and hope that we’ll see fewer record-breaking high temperatures and more rain than we did last year.

Knitting projects are coming along, albeit as slowly as usual.  I decided to work on two smaller projects this month, but much to my chagrin I spent the better part of a week casting on and trying to getting started.  Seriously.  I kept asking myself “how hard is it to cast on 53 (288) stitches?” and the answer — after looking at the end result of my attempts — would invariably be “hard enough to not succeed this time – try again.”  Fortunately, after hours of fighting with broken needles, stitches sliding off too-slick-for-the-yarn needles, inconsistent tension, and all manner of klutz-ery, I managed to get both projects started.

My Aria Delicato no.2 (in a purple silk blend from White Bear Fibers) is finished, although I have yet to get it blocked and packed away.  Began no.3 in Hand Maiden Sea Silk in colorway Nova Scotia.  The color depth is amazing – no doubt due to the silk content – and once again I feel of wave of indulgence every time I pick it up to knit a pattern repeat.  I hope to finish this one and begin no.4 (for myself) before the end of summer.

I also started a Double Cross Cowl in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in colorway Hazy Blue.  This yarn was purchased for a cowl of some sort, but it languished in my project box for over a year until this particular pattern inspired me to cast on.  I’m enjoying this pattern quite a bit, especially because it’s a great project to bring along to knit night — meaning that it’s uncomplicated enough to knit accurately while drinking a peppermint hot chocolate and chatting with an animated group of knitters.

Hoping to finish both of these projects before casting on my Color Affection Shawl at the end of July.  Also planning a wee surprise for my knitting buddies are joining in the fun of the knit-a-long.  I should have plenty of time to complete the work involved, but then again I always underestimate the time it takes to do anything, so maybe I’ll crash and burn before it’s all over.  I’m spending the weekend doing the prep work, then hopefully I can spend the July 4th holiday doing crafty things.

So far, I’ve spent most of this year working on gifts.  While I’m making good progress on my Christmas knitting, I’m becoming motivated to make something for myself.  A few weekends ago I met some friends at The Knitting Nest and talked about wanting to make a Color Affection shawl … and shop-owner Stacy thought it would be a good project for a KAL (knit-a-long).  She developed a plan and recommended Pagewood Farm yarns – all of which are gorgeous.

The yarn sample ring from Pagewood Farm arrived this week, and a friend and I made a trip to TKN to check out the selection.  Oh my.  I wish I would have taken a photo of the entire yarn ring … so many tassels of yarn tied onto what must be a 14″ brass ring … it was an incredibly fun opportunity to look at the yarn up close and test out color combinations.

It took a while to narrow down the color choices, but I finally went with a colors very similar to what I originally put together in my head a few weekends ago while knitting in view of the store’s yarn selection.  The yarn colors I chose are navy, grasshopper, and plum.  A bit of a bold color choice for me, but I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of the finished shawl.  Can’t wait to see how the yarns work up together.

I’m really looking forward to the Summer Olympics KAL.  If you’re in the Austin area, come join the fun!

Navy, grasshopper, plum

Well, there went spring break.  I knew it would go by too quickly, but yikes.  I spent several days at home, several out and about, and managed to have a lovely week off.  In between the usual chores of cooking and cleaning I got a few things crossed of my to-do list.

Spring break accomplishments:

  • Finished my Big Giant Sweater; it’s now blocked and put away in the cedar chest.
  • Started Brooklyn Tweed‘s Autumn Leaves stole – a lovely pattern that is a joy to knit.
  • Un-cabled and dusted the dead TV – and the now-useless VCR and DVD player – and finally got rid of all the VHS tapes.
  • Spent many hours being entertained by the audiobook of  Dragonfly in Amber, the 2nd book in the Outlander series.
  • Went to my first yoga class in a very long time (and discovered that I still have 12 classes on my pass – yay!).
  • Took Kira out for breakfast before her annual checkup.  I had tea and gluten-free scones, she ignored her bit of scone and just yelled at the outside birds.
  • Knit in public twice at Starbucks – once with friends, once by myself.
  • Started sewing up some box bags of my very own – I figure I need at least 2 to hold knitting projects.
  • Finished 2 baby pumpkin hats and mailed one off to a friend in Canada.
  • Hooked up the old TV tuner to the laptop so I could finally watch CBS Sunday Morning.
  • Watched Dr. Pants stream a concert from @TheBloggess ‘s bathroom.  Fine music for a Sunday afternoon!

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How was your week?

I’m mostly happy to report that I finished my project for the Loopy Ewe 2012 First Quarter Challenge and the Aria Delicato scarf is blocked.  I have to admit that I’m not completely happy with the blocking and may soak it again (or steam it) over the weekend to see if I can improve on the ends a bit.  The scarf itself is quite lovely and it was exciting to hold the finished project.  That said, I’m a bit disappointed that the project is over … the pattern was well-written and the yarn was gorgeous and I’m a little bit sad that I don’t have the ability to pick it up and work a few repeats before bed.  For the first time, I understand.  When the yarn and pattern are such a perfect match, it can be hard to let go – no matter how lovely the finished product may be.

     

I get the feeling that it’s time to shift my focus away from the creative for a while and work on something practical.  I’m trying to free myself from some of the stuff I’ve accumulated in the last 5 years (as well as stuff I moved here but haven’t used), and I’m once again motivated to delve into projects that require tough decisions.  I want to prepare for the reality that I may have to down-size to a smaller apartment – it’s time to find good homes for things I no longer need.  So far I’ve attacked a closet and a bookcase and it feels great to have some breathing room.  Thinking about putting a few things on eBay, too – I would love to earn enough from things I no longer need to fund some new knitting needles.

Next week is spring break.  With any luck I’ll find a comfortable balance between relaxing, crafting, and cleaning.  Can’t wait to see how that goes.

So I finally finished knitting and shipping 2011 gifts.  Egads, I’m bad at this.  I’m pretty good at making plans – I mostly suck at the execution of said plans.  The hand-made projects turned out OK from my perspective; I just hope the recipients are as happy with the results.

With the stress of holiday knitting behind me, I’m lining up fresh new projects for 2012.  Part of my goal for the year is to keep a small portable project on the needles so I can have something to carry with me as I run errands.  It’s funny how knitting in public – at restaurants, doctor’s offices, conferences, coffee shops, salons – opens the door for people I’ve never met to engage me in positive and lively conversation.  For whatever reason, people seem genuinely interested in what I’m doing and want share their own experiences with knitting or knitters.  Thus I’m encouraged to continue to carry around a project and knit when the mood/situation seems appropriate (i.e. anytime I’m not driving and have to wait). 

In addition to a few small projects I save for travel, my first significant project of the year is off to a good start.  After a year of wanting to take part in virtual knit-a-longs (but unable to keep up with even the group projects in my knitting class), I joined the Loopy Ewe First Quarter 2012 Challenge: knit something with a yarn that contains silk.  With the help of the intended recipient, I picked up some scrumptious Sea Silk (made of plant fibers: 70% silk, 30% seacell) and chose a lovely KnitSpot pattern.  Have to admit that I’m loving every minute I spend knitting this gorgeous design with this soft and luminous yarn. Yes, I know that there are so many lovely yarns to try, but I think I’m going to have to splurge and make another project out of this – it is definitely luxurious.

Already looking forward to taking some time off at Spring Break (a mere 5 weeks away), as I keep piling up projects to start (and finish).  Finally picked up the odds and ends needed to complete a few more sewing projects – I really should address that pile so I can reclaim my dining room table.  And I have a handful of half-finished knits that need a push to get off the needles — so I can start something new, of course.  Taking a day trip to an exotic location (Fredericksburg?  Comfort? San Antonio?) is tempting, but with gas prices steadily on the rise and my savings account needing to be … established … I am leaning towards staying home and trying to be productive here.  Perhaps I’ll check out some DVDs and spend a week time traveling with the Doctor.

I’ll leave you with a photo of Kira, who is dutifully checking out my stitch markers.  She seems to approve of my choice (and at least her beak can’t hurt the crocheted sheep).

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