Tuesday, April 25, 2017

We Sold Our House!

Whew! Sorry for being away so long. 
I have an explanation, and it's a good one, and maybe you can be helped by our experience this past year.

After 16 years for my husband and almost fifteen years for me, we left our sweet, big house to the care of a wonderful little family of three. We considerably downsized and are now living in a 711-square-foot apartment. 

This all turned out to be a year-long process. About this same time last year we began doing some upgrades to prepare the house for sale. First we replaced most of the old aluminum windows with some vinyl energy-efficient ones. Then we had the carpet ripped out of our living room, dining room, and main floor hallway and replaced with LVT flooring. We repainted the living room, dining room, and hall--trim and walls--and we had crown molding put in the living room and dining room after the "textured" ceilings were removed. We also had the clay hearth tiles replaced with slate ones and painted the firebox. It looked so much nicer!
staged for selling!
In the kitchen, we had a new garbage disposal installed and the accompanying air gap that was sorely needed, as well. We had the basement bath upgraded with a new sink and shower stall and we painted the whole bathroom white. Then we went ahead and painted the basement bedroom white, too. The basement is all finished and even has a little kitchen, but it can seem dungeony if not brightened up.

We then had the patio refreshed by replacing the cover and some mostly-rotten posts and having a big crack in the patio floor repaired before having it all painted. The back yard fence and stoop were all painted a dark grey, and we refreshed some of the exterior window frames. I also painted the front door and we had the mailbox and house numbers replaced. We painted the front stoop the same as the back, as well.
back yard with snow!
During all this craziness we were also majorly decluttering. I cannot tell you how many trips we made to the dump, the recycling center, Goodwill, Value Village, etc. I also shared lots of possessions with our awesome neighborhood Buy Nothing group. We had way too much stuff, y'all, and it was tucked into every corner and cupboard of that five-bedroom house. That house had tons of storage,  and that was our fiercest enabler. A lot of the stuff just had to go!

We were aiming for an August 15 list date, but as August loomed near, we realized that not only was the work not going to finish on time, but that we were getting cold feet about the whole business. The work continued, but we decided to wait about selling.

Flash forward past fall and all the holidays and many discussions and deep thinking and by January 12, we finally had the house on the market. Inventory is low here, so we had our first offer pretty fast. It was a tricky one, however, because it was from an investor who was going to use the house for sort of a rental for a couple of years. We did not want to see that happen, but we wanted to sell the house even more, so we entered into the process anyway. They offered too low, we countered, they accepted pending inspection, and after the inspection, the investor backed out. But he allowed us to have a copy of the inspection report, which was quite nice and quite informative! We also found out that the investor had put offers on several properties and weighed them all against one another before deciding on one. We were actually glad that they backed out of buying our house, because we had always hoped that a family with small children would buy the house. It's in a quiet, safe neighborhood that's two blocks from a really great park and is in walking distance to all the best schools in the area.

Armed with the inspection report, and glad to be past that little hurdle, we began addressing a few of the most important details, like upgrading the electrical outlets and tidying up some plumbing. Later we realized we should have waited, because the very next day after we found out that the first deal fell through, a young couple was shown the house, fell in love, and made a full-price offer! We accepted, and they had their own inspection done. They responded to the inspection by asking for things to be done other than what we had just completed, so we were at it again with the fixes, which included more electrical, some repair of the carport structure, and a new water heater! I say more electrical. It was major! The main breaker box had to be replaced, for one thing, and that alone took until right up to moving day. Yeah, we were trying to get the last of it done with the power being turned off quite a lot. 

Oh, and we both got sick, too. First Fred got a really rotten cold and had to take to the bed while I tried to finish packing and having Goodwill come and haul off big pieces of furniture. Then I got sick for official moving week, but there was no way around it. It had to be done. The last day when we had to clean and get the last of our stuff out was not my best day. But dagnabbit, we did it!

That night we met with the new owners and their little boy so that we could hand over the keys, and we were even more glad after meeting them that they were the ones moving into our sweet former home. They really love the house and we just know that they will have many, many wonderful years there raising their family. 

This was a huge transition for us, but we have settled in nicely. We are trying to pare down what was left of our possessions that won't fit into the little apartment and are taking up far too much space in a local storage space (yes, there's too many boxes and bins of yarn in there). Wish us luck with that. Because we are doing this all to save money to buy a little farm in the country so that we can get a bit off-grid and raise a large portion of our own food. Let it be soon! I've been reduced to a few small pots on a tiny balcony for growing anything and it's spring and I didn't get to put out snow peas nor start my greens and marigolds. Sigh....

I know it will just make us appreciate even more when we have even a small house on a few acres. Right now we are living urban life with all its adventures, but also with all its noise. Construction goes on a block in every direction and at night we sometimes hear catastrophic sirens going off in all directions, and our upstairs neighbor clomps around sometimes like the building is on fire. But the apartment is cozy and has everything we really need...for now.

This past month I have been back at work on the next Figheadh pattern, which will be a men's cabled cardigan! I'm so excited about that, because it's been at least eight years since I designed a men's sweater. About time, right?

I promise I'll be back soon with info about that, and about something else exciting that starts in May! Stay tuned!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sixpence Hat

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

I'm here with a little gift for you. It's been over six years since I released a free pattern, so let's make up for lost time! I am so grateful for each and every one of you who has purchased either one of my Figheadh patterns or Mirth patterns. I mean, grateful every time I see a pattern purchase--and PayPal lets me know each and every time. I always utter a little prayer of gratitude whenever this happens, because I am truly grateful that it still happens! I hope it continues.

Now on with your gift!

The Sixpence Hat came from wanting to use just two little cables to make a simple, classic beanie. Once I developed the idea and had my first try, I saw that it had six coin cables stacked on top of one another. That's why the name. The sixpence coin was once used in Great Britain for six pennies, or pence. Although the coin was retired in 1980, the term is still floated around.

Bare Naked Wools Kent DK

Here's the beanie style of the Sixpence, showing how the crown decrease forms a little flower on top. That takes some maneuvering, because the integrity of the cables and twists is maintained throughout. The pattern has charts for each section and detailed written instruction for round-by-round execution of all the techniques involved. 

You can find it in my Ravelry store here, or you can go straight to our site version here.
Cascade 220 Superwash

I hope you'll try the Sixpence Hat either for a gift or for yourself! It's a unisex design, so make one for anybody and everybody!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Scrappy Sock Experiment: Yarn Sample Cards!

Over the summer I cleared out and stored away some of my yarn to get things a lot neater around here. I also went through all my designing books and files and notebooks and did some pretty serious decluttering. It took a bunch of trips to the recycling center and some shredding, but I feel much lighter for it! I also feel much less distracted by not having everything out and in my face. I'm trying to focus. Give me strength!

Among the clutter there were some old yarn sample cards that, although I won't use again, I just could not part with. Some ideas came to me about how to use them instead of just trashing them. First up was an entire set of samples from Claudia Hand Painted Yarns. I once set up a wholesale account with the company and ordered a fair amount, a lot of which I still have, but that was six years ago. Knowing I would not use the yarn cards again, and knowing they were out of date, I started disassembling them. Once I took the strands out, I could see that most of them were a yard long each. I could work with that!

First I tried tiny granny squares with a few of them, but I soon saw that joining those into one piece or even using them to embellish another piece was about to get really fiddly.

Then I had a eureka moment and wondered if the strands could be worked into scrappy socks, my most recent obsession. I grabbed a partial skein of Claudia's Shells on the Beach colorway for my neutral and knit up a toe using Judy's Magic Cast On. Then I grabbed one of the yard-long strands from the color card and found that it would knit two rounds of the sock perfectly! Using the Fair Isle joining method, I just kept going, joining a new strand every two rounds until I got to the heel. Fortunately, there were two of these yard-long strands for each color, so I just set aside the second one for the second sock. 

It was so much fun watching the colors interact with one another. It was also fun choosing which color would go next and which would go next and...boy, were these not boring socks to knit!

On the first pair of socks, I used the same neutral colorway chosen for the toe to knit the Fish Lips Kiss Heel and then the 2/2 ribbed cuff at the end.

Once the sock was complete, I just turned it wrong-side-out and tidied up the strands. After pulling a little on each one to make sure there were no slouchy areas, I snipped the ends a little. Ultimately there were only two ends to weave in--the one at the cast on and the one at the bind off.

Sock pair number one is the first one that I knit. You can tell that I started with the more muted, natural hues for the foot and then got into some lighter, more playful colors for the leg. I also did not manage to match both the socks in pair number one as well as with pair number two. It took the second pair to get my system down. With sock pair number two, I was left with all the really bright colors. For the second pair I used Claudia's Stormy Day for the toe and the cuff, but used her Caribbean Blue for the heel to keep things more colorful.

So between these two pair of socks, you have just about all the colors from Claudia's 2010 color selection. She still has a lot of these colors available (some have been retired but some new ones have been added) and is now calling her fingering weight yarn "Addiction." Go check out all the beauty!

Now I am looking at some of my other old yarn cards and wondering what I can do with them. I'll show you if anything comes of it. 

Happy Yarn Scrapping!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Knitting the Top-Down Raglan Cardigan, Part Four

We've finally arrived at the button and buttonhole bands of the cardigan. If you've been knitting your own cardigan along with reading these posts, I know you're pretty glad to have an entire sweater sitting before you--with no seams! 

And that's one reason I chose the picked-up button bands for this sweater. There are other ways to construct a button band, one of which is to knit the band separately and seam it to the front openings. To keep this cardigan seamless, let's work it with picked-up stitches.

The pickup ratio for any part of any sweater (when adding an edge to the side of the fabric) usually goes like this--for lightweight yarns, a pickup ratio of three stitches for every four rows, and for heavier weights, a ratio of two stitches for every three rows. That's for knitting Stockinette Stitch perpendicularly onto the same stitch pattern. But we are working with two different stitch patterns and those two have different gauges. It gets even more complicated than that. 
Stay with me.

The body of the cardigan is worked in Stockinette stitch, but the button bands are worked in 1/1 rib. Of course those two have different stitch gauges!

My cardigan knit with Schaefer Nichole on size 4 needles has a stitch gauge of 6 spi (stitches per inch), but 1/1 rib with these materials has a gauge of 5.75 spi on the button bands and 7 spi on the body edge and cuff. Why the difference?

You can see in the above picture that the ribbing on the cuff is more contracted than that on the buttonhole band, even though they are the same type of stitch. One reason is that the rib on the cuff is worked directly onto the sleeve at the end of the Stockinette stitch sleeve--it is knit in the same direction. The rib on the buttonhole band is knit along the edge, or perpendicular to the Stockinette stitch. They each serve a different function and behave differently according to that function. The rib on the body edge and the cuff (especially the cuff) need to hug that area of the body. The rib on the buttonhole band needs to lie smoothly along the front edges and hold the holes for fastening the buttons. The opposite button band needs to lie smoothly along the other front edge and hold the buttons themselves. 

Okay, back to picking up stitches.

Before I started, I placed a marker two rows below my last neck edge increase so that would know where to stop picking up stitches. I did pick up three stitches for every four rows because it felt like it was behaving well that way. You will need to do what feels best for you.

In the picture above, you can see that for every three stitches there is a slight gap where I skipped a row.

Truly, the only way to know is to just pick up stitches, knit the band, bind off all the stitches, and lay it flat to see that it doesn't pull in too tightly or get all wavy because it's too loose. If you don't like it, rip it and adjust.  If its too tight, pick up more stitches, and if it's too loose, pick up fewer stitches. 

When working the button bands on my 3-spi version of the cardigan, I started by picking up two stitches for every three rows (as shown above) and soon determined that it was going to be too tight. I switched to three stitches for every four rows and it came out fine.

Once the button band was complete, I used markers to decide where to place my buttons. Then I replaced each marker with a button sewn on. This is all made easier with the use of ribbing to help you read the stitches. In this case, I was able to make the placement fall so that there were six knit stitches between each button (in other words, 13 stitches between each) and I attached the button to the next knit stitch. The lower button was placed six stitches above the lower edge, because I like for that lowermost button to fall in the middle of the body rib height. The topmost button was placed 14 stitches below the top edge because the very last stitch column is where I will pick up for the collar, making it disappear.

To knit the collar, pick up stitches at the top of the button band (one for each row of the band), more stitches along the right neck edge at the same rate as the band, all the stitches at the top of the right sleeve, all the stitches along the back neck, all the stitches at the top of the left sleeve, the same number along the left neck edge as the right neck edge, and then one stitch for each row of the buttonhole band. 

Yes, you may have noticed that I made the buttonhole and button band "backward." I say, out with that silly antiquated notion! Put the buttons on either side as to preference (or because you weren't paying attention). Will the planet stop spinning?  I can attest that it will not. 

Bravo to you if you have knit your cardigan. Bravo to you if you are thinking about knitting a cardigan. Any of the Figheadh Fundamental Top-Down Cardigans is a good place to start, as are any of the Figheadh Fundamentals. Each pattern has multiple sizes and instructions for knitting all those sizes in any of four yarn weights, which means you could use them for any yarn in your stash!

Thank you for following along on the top-down cardigan party. I could honestly just knit from this pattern forever, but I guess I'd better get back to some scrappy socks! I'll show you that next time.

Happy Knitting!