Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long, 2011!

I finished one of these two things today, and the fact that you see the needles still in the sleeve of this Wanda Nell is a dead giveaway. I know you had your doubts (as well as I should have) that I would get this cardigan done in time to wear tomorrow. One reason is that I used some of my time this week finishing Little Dorrit! I am so jazzed! I have been trying to read this novel for about the whole of 2011 because I insisted on trying to do so before falling to sleep every night. Well, that's the only time most days when I'm not knitting (I have only knit in bed once in my entire life!), so I thought it would work. Well, it turns out that reading this novel when you're on the edge of dozing and not able to soak it all in is just nearly pointless.

I decided about the middle of last week that if I was going to get this novel finished by today (my goal) I would have to read it on the other end of my night's sleep--in the mornings with my mandatory two mugs of coffee. I cut short my morning routine of looking at photos on Instagram to allow reading five chapters of Little Dorrit each day this past week to try and finish. Boy, did that work out better. I wish I could go back and read the whole thing over again, especially the parts I skimmed in my doziness over the past ten or so months. This all started with watching the 2008 BBC film adaptation in early February and deciding that, heck, I was finally going to read it. I love Dickens and was already heartily familiar with David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. I taught the last two in high school English classes for years. I don't know why Little Dorrit is not more widely read and appreciated. Probably because of its length! Fortunately, I had a copy of it in my Great Books (volume 47), which fools you into thinking it's not so long, with its onion-skin pages and semi-fine print. 

Now I just have to decide what's next. A Suitable Boy? Pride and Prejudice? I'm perplexed!

Along with deciding what's next is figuring out my goals for next year. First, I'll make a list of some things that got done this year:

Five new patterns rolled out for Figheadh--all sweater patterns, no less, and four of them 13-page Fundamentals.
Four new patterns went live with Ravenwood and a new fifth one was released recently (Brackenhill).
I got a sweater design and article done for a magazine, which will be out next May.
My sock pattern is in Clara's new book!
Finally updated my portfolio in Flickr (it had only been a year since the last update--groan).
We started raised bed gardening here at home.
We nixed cable TV and I haven't seen a TV commercial in months.
Fred and I celebrated 10 years of marriage.
I kicked artificial sweeteners!
I let Jillian Michaels into my living room and I feel a lot better for it.

That's just a partial list, of course. I don't want to lose you--this is going long! And as for the list I so bravely set for myself in this post? Well, I am sad to say I only completed a couple more of the 16 items I had set out to finish by the end of the year. At the time of that post I had already completed seven, so this means I am far behind, having only checked off nine of the bunch. I think my downfall was trying to hit too many different things each day. If I've learned anything this year, it is that things get done faster if you focus on one task at a time. You get long novels and whole sweaters finished that way--seemingly much faster than if you try to do too much.

Looking forward, I hope to accomplish a few things in 2012:

Finally add new patterns to the Mirth line--it's been almost two years!
Design two fabulous sweaters for two great freelance jobs already in the works.
Get those glove designs released (sigh).
Finish my mom's knitted blanket.
Renew my passport.
Do some instructional videos.
Pay down debt...way down.
Build a second raised bed so we can plant more veggies.
See family down South!

This list is also partial, of course. Still fleshing it out. I hope you've gotten your own lists sorted out, at least in your head. I wish you much success with those and I wish you the most fun ringing in 2012. I hope to see you here in the coming year and I hope you'll leave your two cents' worth when you stop by. Thank you so much for reading and for joining me in my wacky adventures--yarny and otherwise!

Happy, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Bounty

Was Santa good to you? I hope so. He was certainly generous to me. Let me share...

My Santa always does a bang-up job on the stocking stuffing--too many fun toys and goodies to name. My favorites, though, are the bamboo yo-yo and the Scottish shortbread! Do you think enough yo-yoing could work off the calories in the cookies? I'm giving that a try.
Another favorite is the hand made gifts I received from Natalie and from Jessica and her brood. Sachet, personalized necklace, candle in a tea cup, and little grandson handprinted kitchen accessories. Sweet little hands (I'm sure their mother doesn't exactly agree on that every single minute of every day, though. )
Here's a very much wished for appliance--our new juicer from Natalie and Jesse! Just got back home from Costco with huge bags of carrots and apples to go with some ginger and lemon to make R Thomas' Frosted Champ! Boy do I miss those. If you're in Atlanta, go and have one for me, along with all their great food. Honestly one of my favorite places on earth. Hopefully, I can replicate the Champ and dream of being there, watching R with his birds.
Back to the gifts! Fred got me this wonderful little chest of stationery and every kind of card you can imagine. It pays to leave hints around the house around Christmastime. When the Victorian Trading Company catalog came a couple of months ago, I went through it and circled some wishes and starred some others. I got my wish! Now I can write real letters and send nice cards all year. He even found a wonderful hand made cartridge ink pen like the ones we used in school to learn cursive. I must brush up my best cursive writing to use all this! What's that nondescript brown leather thing in the front, you might ask? My new Kindle Fire! I didn't even wish nor hint for this and Fred used up a bunch of Amazon points and got us both one. This morning I watched a little of Age of Innocence on it for free, thanks to my complimentary month of Prime. Nice!
Mom and Fred both consulted my Amazon wish list and got completely too generous. And they didn't even duplicate--a miracle in itself. Well, not yet, anyway. They both say I have another gift from Amazon coming late, around February. Hmmm...I just read that the Principals of Knitting  that I have been fervently wishing for is being delayed until February. Coincidence?

These are all excellent books! I want to knit several things in the new EZ book, and this completes my set of all of her books, as does the Vogue Stitchionary 6--I have the first five and love using them. I have Custom Knits the first and am so happy to expand my study of Wendy's fabulous sweater knowledge with this Custom Knits the second. I have been happily reading The Yarn Harlot's latest book in bed every night. I know I am driving Fred crazy giggling while he tries to read his gifty books, but who can help that? I had been trying to read Little Dorrit every night, but switched to reading it in the morning as I get my dose of caffeine. Much better! I think I will finish it by Saturday. That's my plan, anyway.
Also in the plan for this, the last week of 2011 (what??), is to finish this Chocolate Wanda Nell (made with Hazel Knits Artisan Sock and Schaefer Nichole). This spot on the couch is where I have been spending hours every day and evening this week--just ask Fred. I am on the first sleeve, which I am changing to wrist-length for this sample, and am going now to try and finish that one and start the second sleeve today. I hope to be wearing this on New Year's Day! Luck wishes, please! Strong hands wishes as well!


Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday FO #6: Secrets

This close to Christmas weekend, pretty much all I have are secrets. Some are gifty secrets, of course, but some are design secrets.
It's no secret how yummy these cookies and munchies are that Natalie and I finished up last Saturday. She made Puppy Chow (middle front two containers), and we made Snickerdoodles (center), chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, Chex mix, and some little bites that you make with pretzels, Rolos, and pecans (a Pinterest find). Again this year, I was the most pleased with the Snickerdoodles. They and the Chow were the only keepers from last year's holiday baking, and with good reason! Unfortunately, they taste the best just after baking, still warm, with a nice cup of coffee. You want to eat the whole batch!

I have been very, very busy lately with this little stack of assorted hats and headbands in some rustic farm yarns (bottom to top: Columbia/Icelandic from SunFiber Yarns in Kalispell, MT; some wool from Lopez Island; good ol' Eco Wool; and some Kerry Woolen Mills wool from Ireland). You can see some of their linings peeking out, too. Most of the lining material is made with angora that Shelly of Butternut Woolens felted for me. It is bar none the softest fabric I have ever come across and works heavenly for lining hats. We have some very happy folks over here who get to wear these this winter. The pattern will be ready next month, in time to make some heads warm where you are. 

I've also been working on and finishing something for the Knotty Knitters calendar 2013. All I can tell you is that it's 74" x 16" of Baby Alpaca Chunky (#580) softness. This design is a fun knit. However, it will be a really long time until I can say more about that. I just had to give you a little peek!

And super duper secret are these two little bundles made with (left) Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Sassafras, and (right) Mountain Colors Bearfoot. I'm not sure of the color name of this one--lost the tag! It's a black with shots of red, blue, smokey green, and dusty tans. These are going in someone's stocking very soon. Maybe I can get a shot of the Someone wearing them and show you later. Cross fingers.

So there you have it--the reason I've been away. If anyone has written me e-mails and not gotten answers, I've been trying to stay off the computer and get this stuff done--please excuse. Are you still trying to finish up someone's gift? Well, get outta here and go finish!

I'll be back next week to look back at that to do list I set for myself and see how much I really got accomplished. Chuckle.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Enjoy!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Firefly Socks & KBOS

It's a threesome!

One week ago I received my complimentary copy of Clara Parkes' new book, The Knitter's Book of Socks, which follows her bestsellers The Knitter's Book of Yarn, and The Knitter's Book of Wool, and I couldn't have jumped up and down more! Really--I wore myself out. The book hit the shelves in October, but through a series of unfortunate-ish events, I just got mine. Stingy as I am, I did not buy one through the whole long month-or-more of waiting. At one point I did go to the local big box book store to peek at one, but did not buy. Now I have one of my very own and have read almost the whole thing. You might ask why I scored a free copy--why, that's because I have a sock design in this book! I feel especially lucky to be in a book with a bunch of sock designer experts who consistently come up with entirely new ways to knit socks. Me? I just like to stick some cables in 'em. 

Here's my second pair of Firefly Socks. I took their FO picture with one blocked and one squinchy, because you know I can never resist a plug to block...your...knits. It helps them to be what they were meant to be! Nuff said.
And here they are on my feet. I love these socks. I knit this pair with O-Wool Classic 2-ply in Slate on size 2 needles.

Allow me to explain. When Clara contacted me way back in the spring of 2010 about designing some cable socks for her next book, of course I said yes. I had done designs for her first book, and even though my design for her second book got cut, she used it for a free promo, so it got some attention anyway. Clara is very, very nice to work with. She is not only an all-purpose good writer, but designs and writes patterns herself, so she is very nice to us designers.

After I gave Clara a resounding affirmative, I set about working up three sock designs, because I like to give folks choices. Clara picked the simplest, most classic one. Boy, was I glad, because actually when I did this project I was also going through a pretty stressful time trying to get ready for my first (and most probably last ever, ever) STITCHES event. I won't go into detail about that here, but I'll just say I did not have my whole entire brain function on, so it was nice to do a traditional, top-down sock design with a simple cable involved. I added a little variation on the cable at the cuff edge to make it begin with 2/2 rib for a gentle flare effect there. I do not have dainty, small ankles nor calves, so I am always attentive to giving folks room at the top of their sock cuffs. I hates bindy sock cuffs!

I originally had it in mind for the Firefly to be boot socks. I swatched it with this O-Wool, which is a sturdy, somewhat heavier fingering. Clara wanted to do the socks in a finer gauge, so she sent me a lovely denim-hued BFL. I knit them up and sent them on with the pattern. Later on, the yarn had to be changed for the book, because that yarn supplier stopped producing, so Lorna's Laces was apparently called upon to provide some of their lovely Shepherd Sock in Bold Red. I was so glad to see that, because I love Lorna's Laces. I have made a couple of pair of socks with that very same yarn and they wear very well.

You will see in KBOS that the eventual sock provides a snug, delicate fit, but I love my pair in O-Wool. I can't wait to see how they wear and (hopefully not) tear. Oh, and I can't move on without thanking the editor(s) who brushed up my pattern draft and made it correct and more sensical since I was not at my best when writing it. After working the second sock of my pair to the pattern in the book, I don't believe there are any errors. I won't swear to that, because I do miss things from time to time, but as far as I can see, it might be perfect!  

As for Clara's writing, it is perfect, and no "might" about it. She just gets better and better at this. Let me say that Clara is a scientist and her books are like textbooks for us yarny fiddlers. Each one could supply study for a college course in fiber. If you have yet to acquire any of these "Knitter's Book of" treasures, start at the top and get all three. You will be so much more informed about how to choose the best yarn for your knitting or crochet project (because crocheters use yarn, too, huh?) Yes, all three books have only knitting patterns included, but a great deal of each book discusses the structure and use of yarn--the first features yarn in all its fiber varieties, the second focuses on just wool in its myriad forms, and the third studies sock yarns of all types. Clara talks about fiber content, how it's spun, what to do with it for best results and how to take care of it once you turn it into something functional.

You might be thinking that the sock knitting thing had just about worn itself out. I mean, there's a whole convention for it now, right? But before you even form the thought in your head that surely there are already enough sock knitting books out there and surely it's all been said by now, grab a copy of Clara's new book and you will see that you would be wrong in forming that particular thought. All kinds of wrong.

Now, I'm off to look at this beautiful book some more and try my best not to be tempted to cast on for another pair of one of these fabulous sock patterns. I gots too much knitting to do already!

See you soon! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

December's Here!

Yes, I know it's been here for five whole days, but I am just now blogging it. I wish I could mind-meld with my computer because I do  posts in my head almost every day! Most days, though, I have to make myself stay off the laptop so I can actually accomplish something--darned timesucker techno-thingy! And lately there have been gifty knits on top of the regular knits, so time gets gobbled up even more. Sound familiar?

I have also been allowing myself days here and there, usually with my daughter Natalie, to dabble with other crafts--it broadens the senses. Any time is a good time for craftiness, but the holidays just beg for it. Last week's craft day I made paper snowflakes while Natalie sewed little snack bags. I'll try to get a picture of those next time she makes some. They're so cute!
I can show you my snowflakes, though.You should try this if you have these coffee filters lying around but no longer use them (like us--after the death of the fourth coffee maker, we now use a French press). Just flatten some out with a warm iron, fold each one in half and then again and again as many times as you can and start cutting out parts. Have fun with it. I stuck these to the windows with a glue stick. I tried starch, but they fell down. Natalie assures me I will be able to widget them off easily when I'm tired of them being there. I love them!
Today I am wrapping presents. I have not actually bought wrapping supplies for years now, but prefer to use materials that can either be recycled, are reused, or that would normally be thrown in the trash. That's no problem with plenty of newspaper, paper bags, cardboard, string (and yarn!), some rubber stamps, hole punchers, and maybe some fancy scissors around.
I made these gift tags from a beer six-pack holder.
I think it all looks even prettier under the tree than that shiny, expensive stuff.
And to give the house a holiday aroma, I made some granola. Here's my favorite recipe. I use dried cranberries instead of raisins and I usually half the recipe and store it in a Mason jar once it's cooled. My favorite way to eat it is with a little fat-free milk in a bowl. It's also yummy with fat-free plain yogurt and a little maple syrup. Healthier than oatmeal cookies, but just as delicious!

Next time I'll be back to show you a very special pair of socks and have a book talk. In the meantime, make some granola for yourself. You deserve it!