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.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

For all practical purposes, 2011 was the year without a Christmas.  I didn’t put up any decorations, I didn’t send cards, I didn’t listen to Christmas music, and I didn’t watch my favorite holiday movies.  I wasn’t anti-Christmas – it’s more that I lacked interest.  In spite of the absence of holiday enthusiasm I spent the last couple of months working on Christmas knitting. (Since I haven’t mailed out all the packages yet I feel compelled to post only about the gifts that have been received so I don’t spoil any surprises.)

My primary concern was to find suitable gifts for the nice and nephews because I know that kids aren’t fond of receiving IOUs under the tree.  They love technology (as do I) but I can’t compete on the level of giving Nintendo 3DS and iPod Touch and Nikon cameras, so I try to focus on finding unique and/or handmade gifts. I decided to make box bags with fabric I purchased from Spoonflower (for more geeky fabrics, check out Studio Fibonacci‘s offerings) and added a hand-knit item to each bag.  I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the positive response I received from my niece, nephews, and sister-in-law regarding the handmade gifts.  They all loved their box bags – and nephew #1 immediately filled his with all the technology gear he received from Santa.

For the boys, I made storm trooper hats – with a band of color that coordinated with their bags to help identify the owner of each hat.  After a frustrating few weeks of employing the Goldilocks Method of knitting  (i.e. first hat was too tight, second hat was ginormous), I finally hit the right tension for the stranded motif and successfully made two hats that fit.   I have to admit that when they opened their gifts and tried on the hats, I exclaimed “Yes!  They fit!” — an outburst that must have delighted nephew #2 as he kept reciting my quote to me the rest of the day (although I was disappointed that he didn’t re-enact the accompanying fist-pump).  What surprised me most is that my brother offered to take the hat that was too big for the kids – and it fit him perfectly.

For my niece, who asked me back in October to make her something for Christmas, I made a black bag with bright polka dots and included a Just Enough Ruffles scarf in purple with flecks of bright colors and a sweet crocheted lamb that I made from a Planet June pattern.  She wore the scarf for the next few days so I’m assuming she liked it.  My sis-in-law kept commenting on how much she liked that scarf, so I think I’ll make her one for her upcoming birthday.

Finally, I knew that nephew #1 wanted a scarf of his own and my original plan was to wrap one up with the hat.  Alas, the hats took so long (since I had to make 4 of them) that I ended up wrapping everything else and working on the scarf before and during Christmas.  I managed to finish it on the evening of the 25th and gave it to him the next day.  He was delighted to receive a scarf of his very own with plenty of orange – his favorite color – and wore it around the house for the next two days.

Christmas 2011 isn’t quite complete as I have a few finishing touches to put on some projects that need to be mailed out.  I’ve alerted my friends that Epiphany gifts are all the rage this year – and do hope to get them boxed and mailed this week.  I’m looking forward to sending out my first round of hand-knit items and hope that they will be appreciated — I love the process of choosing materials and patterns to suit an individual.

Guess I’m off to gather boxes, labels, and postage.  Perhaps I can get most everything in the mail by Friday morning <fingers crossed>.  Then I can start planning for Christmas 2012!

There is absolutely no way I’m going to write a novel this month (it’s NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month).  Even if I a) had the energy to write 2,000 words a day and b) had an idea about which to write, I am absolutely convinced it would be the dullest novel ever written.  I fear that it would rank up there with the textbook for my Academic Library Administration class — it put me to sleep every single time I attempted to do the assigned reading — and no one should be to be subjected to voluminous dull prose.

That said, perhaps I can manage National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).  I’m not dedicated enough to commit myself to posting a blog a day, but perhaps I can manage a blog a week.  Frankly, if I can write 2 blogs before Christmas I think I’ll tie a personal best. In any case, even if I write something boring and awful, each post will be relatively short.

Knitting is the best way to pass the time before a book signing!

I’ll start by admitting that I had a little bit of fun in October.  Perhaps fun is a bit strong – but at least I got out and about and wasn’t miserable.  I began with a brief “I deserve it!” delusion and decided to celebrate my promotion by scheduling a facial.  Two hours of pampering was wonderful – by the end of the day I convinced myself that I should indulge in a spa treatment every few months.  My blissfully relaxed state must have lasted a few days because I also decided to brave the crowds and attend a book signing later that weekend.  I arrived two hours early, met some very nice knitters, saw some friends, and didn’t break out in a cold sweat when the bookstore finally acknowledged the need to hand out wristbands.  The reading itself was delightful and I’m really glad I made the effort to attend.

October was a good month overall, and I’m a bit sad to see it go.  However, since November is usually my favorite month of the year I’m sure I’ll adjust to the idea of Christmas being just around the corner.  With any luck we’ll get a few more cold fronts to convince us it really is fall.

What’s in store for me this November?  Well, I think a little reality might be a good start.  After taking part in the ritual first-of-the-month-bill-paying-extravagana, I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that additional spa days are not in my future and splurging on an Amazon order wasn’t necessarily in my best interest.  It’s just as well – an empty checkbook means sitting at home – and I need to sit home for at least the next three weeks as there is much Christmas knitting to be done.  On that note, I shall set aside the keyboard and pick up the needles….