Friday, November 4, 2011

And Then There Were Three...

I had all these big plans for a blog post right on the first anniversary of my blog.  Then work happened, and life happened, and here I am a couple of weeks late with a lot to catch up on.

First, the Rhinebeck update.  It. Was. Awesome.

Even though the weather did not cooperate quite as well as it did last year, I had a wonderful time.  The week had started out--well, let's just say, not as good as I had hoped.  I took the whole week off because the second week of October is my favorite week of the whole year.  And the first day, I promptly sprained my ankle. 

Yes, this is a photo of my big, fat, grotesquely-swollen foot. And in case you were wondering, no I do not normally have cankles, and yes, the diameter of my ankle is usually much smaller than the diameter of my foot.

So I spent the week with my foot on ice and elevated, and basically working on my computer from home and doing teleconferences for most of my time off.  So Friday when I headed out to make the drive to Rhinebeck, it was my first day back on my feet, so to speak, and I was a little worried the ankle might not make it through 2 grueling days of shopping festival activities.

I started Saturday nice and early, arriving at the gates just a little after 8am.  I met several very nice people as we waited for the 9am start time, and I spent some time planning strategy with Ann, a nurse from Rochester, and Theresa, from Manhattan.  We debated whether Sanguine Gryphon or The Fold would have the longer line, and we decided to hit up SG.  When they finally gave up and let us in, it was like the running of the bulls, and we were glad we hit up SG first. 45 minutes in line, and we were among the first 30 people in line.  I actually ran into my line buddies from SG all the rest of the day, and it was so much fun admiring everyone's special finds.  My favorite comment--when one person showed me her fabulous purchase of a cashmere-merino blend and I asked what she planned to make--"Who cares?  It's cashmere.  Did you feel how soft it is?"  Yes, a woman after my own heart. 

This year, I got smart(er) and put together a list of patterns I had been wanting to make and their yarn requirements and I fulfilled most of them even thought I planned to only buy for 2 or 3.  But I got some really great stuff and I love it all even though it completely violates my de-stashing rule. I stayed all day Sat. leaving close to five, and spent half the day Sunday as well, and I have the credit card bills to prove it. For most festivals, I like having some company, but honestly, I really enjoy doing Rhinebeck alone.  I think it is because, as one of my co-workers said, this is where I go to be with others of my kind.  It is so much fun to meet like-minded folks and just enjoy the yarniness of it all.

Since this was an anniversary of sorts for me, I also sat down at the beginning of my week off and tried to decide what my final project of the year would be.  I had such plans when I started this all.  There was going to be one-sock week, sweater month, bi-weekly knee-socks, and I just didn't get to it all.  But when I really thought about what that one project I wanted to see to completion more than all the others, one quickly floated to the top.  Something that has been lingering, taunting me, for a long time.  So for my final project, I present the completed third sock, of the purple airplane socks pair.

At long last there are two (or is it three...?)

If you will recall, the first sock was accidentally left behind on the very same airplane where the second sock was completed and it broke my heart that the airline would not even look for it.  I bought some replacement yarn right after to make sure it was close in dye lot to the original, but I didn't have the heart to tackle the third sock.  At long last, this week it was put to use.  I also finished up the edgings on my Helena cardigan, and just for good measure, I threw in an easy pair in the Germany colorway just to nicely round things out.  Year-end total: 36 projects completed + 4 skeins gifted, sold, or otherwise disposed of = 40 skeins no longer in my stash.

So now, all that is remaining is a goal for the upcoming year.  I found myself shopping for mainly heavier-gauge yarns this year, so I am going to declare this the year of the sweater.  My goal it to complete at least six sweaters and six lace projects for the year.  I already have the first one on the needles.

So in the spirit of bringing in things I love, I need to send out something I don't love.  I am offering up a skein of Sandnes Garn Lanett in pale blue.  I bought this when I was trying to match the color of some self-striping yarn for a sweater, then later found something much better and no longer had the receipt to return it.  If you are interested in this skein, leave me a comment with a suggestion for my next sweater or lace project.  I will send the skein to the person whose suggestion I like best.  Okay, I will randomly pick from anyone who leaves a comment by next week then contact you by email for your mailing address.  Check out my stash on Ravelry if you want to see a pic (Ravelry user Kapitry).

Bye for now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rhinebeck is coming!

Here we are in the first week of October.  As the weather turns colder, and the leaves start to change color and fall, I can think only one thought: Rhinebeck is coming!  The NYSW festival has quickly become one of the highlights of my fall, and I am giddy with anticipation just thinking about it.  I am hoping the weather is anywhere near as perfect as it was last year, as the drive through the Hudson River Valley was almost as enjoyable as the festival itself.

Two weeks until Rhinebeck also marks another milestone for me--in two weeks it will be one year since I started this blog.  My original goal was to use up one skein of yarn per week.  I think it is fair to say, I have failed miserably.  I have kept a running list of projects completed and it is not pretty.  With 2 weeks remaining in my little personal challenge, I have used up 32 (100 g) skeins of yarn, given away 3, and sold 1, bringing the "out" total to 36 of 52.  However, during the same time period, I managed to accumulate 48 new skeins.  I do not feel good about myself.

This weekend, I set a goal to fully update my stash in Ravelry.  This was mainly to give myself a reality check to help keep me in check at Rhinebeck.  I have 157 yarns in my stash!  Not skeins, yarns.  So to console myself, I did what any sane person would do.  I searched and searched on Ravelry until I found people with more yarn that I have.  And there are lots of them.  Isn't it funny that somehow just knowing you are not alone helps? I really, truly, do feel better.

I had decided that if I did not meet my goals (and it is doubtful I will use up 16 skeins in the two weeks remaining) I would not allow myself to shop at Rhinebeck.  But the truth is, I enjoy it too much.  I will balance out my spending, and try not to go too crazy, but going through my stash I realize, I have most of it just because it is beautiful and I love it.  Don't get me wrong--I have my fair share of impulse purchases.  Then there is the cheap yarn I stocked up on when I first started knitting socks and thought of them as more utilitarian and less little works of art (what was I thinking!).  And I do like to keep some more utilitarian yarns on hand for children's socks. So I will spend some time purging my stash of the things I do not love--think of it as knitting feng shui--and try to meet at least my October goal.

I already have some ideas for my next year-long goal now that I have been re-inspired by my stash.  So to celebrate fall, I am planning a give-away for next week.  Stay posted...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Food porn

Going through photos of my recent travels, I realized there was a theme.  And that theme is food.  When I got off the airplane in Frankfurt a week ago, the first sight that greeted me was the familiar sandwich shop stocking up for breakfast.

I sat and watched them make sandwiches for the breakfast crowd.  Yes, I did say breakfast.  And these are not egg and sausage sandwiches.  Turkey, salami, cucumber, tomato, cheese, a slice of hard boiled egg, and just a little bit of European butter, which tastes more like cheese, on fabulous bread.  My favorite is the pumpkin seed wheat bread.  I am not much of a sandwich person except when I am in Europe.  This is my favorite breakfast--or snack--on the go when I am in this part of the world.  I buy a couple when I get off the plane or jump on a train, and I am happy.

And of course, no visit to Germany is complete without a visit to the local Bratwurst stand.  This on is the in Bremen city center plaza, and I must confess I stop by at least once per trip and buy a brat with hot mustard from these ladies for a simple dinner.

I also have to post some gratuitous pics of a wonderful bakery we visited in Montreal.  The Atwater market is one of the oldest in the city, and it has an assortment of gourmet delights that is hard to match.  So when I am lucky enough to be in that city, I try to stop by on my way out of town.  On this most recent trip, I brought a friend, and after a cheese and veggie buying spree, we stopped by the Atwater bakery.  Have you ever seen such artful desserts?  Each one is sheer perfection.

Even the vegetables are displayed artfully.

This is my kind of city!  Even the local ice cream shop seems a little classier than at home. 

Okay, now I promise to get back to the knitting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

International yarn shopping

I cannot believe September has nearly come and gone.  I had a lot of travel lined up for September, so I figured this would mean a scad of knitting time.  When I got a good start on my asymmetrical cables in early August, I figured I would easily meet goal.  Instead, there I was, well into the Labor day weekend, and still not finished with the second sock.  My travels this month have taken me to LA, San Diego, San Francsico, then Germany and Switzerland.  My first week was pretty swamped with work, work, and more work.  But my second week, in San Francisco, I found myself with a free afternoon so I visited my two favorite spots: Napa Valley, and A Verb for Keeping Warm, not necesarily in that order.

I discovered AVFKW when I downloaded the marvellous sock pattern "Sin Miedo" which featured AVFKW's sock yarn, Creating.  About six months ago, I found the Berkeley store and bought up a couple of skeins, one of which I used for my AC socks.  I decided to swing by and see if something else sang to me.  While I was sorely tempted by some Habu silk and some Shibui silk superwash, I decided to save myself (and my credit card) for NYSW, which is coming up in a few weeks.  I did splurge on some olive oils and a wonderful wasabi mustard in Napa, so all in all, a successful afternoon.  I also managed, during my week in SanFran to finish my second AC sock. This gave me a chance to start another project that has been sitting for a while--a pair of flip flop socks for my 15-year-old niece, Taylor.  Sock one was finished somewhere over the Atlantic, and I even got a good start on the second sock.  I have had this skein of Fortissima Mexiko, purchased last winter in a Berlin department store, in my computer bag for ages, and it was great to finally use it up.  The pattern is based on "Cable my big toe", but the truth is, I looked at the picture, glanced at the instructions, and recreated it from memory as best I could.  I am hoping the proportions of the big toe vs. the four little toes is correct.  It seems to fit me, so hopefully I improvised well enough.

Even though there is only one in the shot,
trust me, there are two
The next part of my travels tool me to Switzerland via Frankfurt.  Now, I have been puzzling about something for quite some time.  All of my favorite yarn brands--Lang, ONline, Lana Grossa, Zitron--are German.  Yet, I have never found a good yarn store in Germany though I know they exist.  Since yarn tourism--that is finding a LYS wherever I am and shopping for unique finds--is my favorite travel pasttime, I did some research in the mere 20 hours I had between trips and mapped out a walking tour of yarn stores in downtown Frankfurt.  So I set out from my hotel with five shops on my list, a free morning, and a handful of Google maps.

First on my list was Lana, which I found with little difficulty.  This is a great shop, though very tiny, and the owner, Katia Lejeune, is a real kick.  Every spare inch of space is utilized, and Katia is always wearing something fabulous that she knitted herself.  She had the largest selection I have ever seen of Noro sock yarns, but sadly, no Zitron Unisono (I am hunting for a colorway I could not find for sale in the states) or Lang Jawoll Aktion.

A shopping plaza just up the street from Lana
My beautiful new cashmere
I left with two beautiful skeins of Lang premium cashmere as a consolation prize, but I did not have that feeling of satisfaction that you get when you find something truly wonderful.  Katia had a beautiful tank top made of the same yarn hanging in her window, and I bought enough for a very nice scarf in dark grey.  My next stop was Wolle Rodel.  This seemed to be more of a chain store, and most of the yarns were Rodel's own brand.  Very nice utilitarian yarns, but nothing spoke to me so I left emptyhanded, and still feeling a little underwhelmed.  I got lost on my way to store number 3, and the GPS in my cell phone was not funtioning, so I finally gave up and strolled through beautiful downtown Frankfurt while finding my way slowing back to my hotel.  It was an unbelievably beautful fall day, and I enjoyed the sights of the city as I made my way to the train station to catch a train to Basel.


I hopped my train, but sadly, rather than knitting, I had to spend my time finishing my talk for the next day.  I I hate it when procrastination cuts into my knitting time :)  Sadly, my busy work schedule did not allow for any shopping in Switzerland. 

Three days and most of the second sock later, I made my way to Bremen in northern Germany.  I had about 2 free hours Friday afternoon, so I decided to set out for one last chance at shopping.  Now, I have been visiting Bremen for 2-3 times per year for the past 5 years, but I had never yet found a good yarn store.  In truth, it may have had something to do with the fact that I plugged 'wool' rather than 'wolle' into google.  But this time, with help for a website I recently discovered,, I found a list of yarn stores in the area, and one was listed a mere 1.8 km from the town center.

My new favorite store in Bremen!

The main cathedral, or Dom, in the city center of Bremen

It was a beautiful fall day, and as I set out away from the beaten path, I discovered part of the city I had never seen before.  It was bright and vibrant, full of shops, restaurants and museums, and tucked in a little corner was Wolle + Mode.  And there I finally found the treasures I had been seeking.  The first was some Regia yarn from their world color series, in the colors of the German flag.  Could there be a more perfect souvenir from Germany?  Then sitting on the shelf above it was Camino Alpaca by Bremont.  I fell in love with this yarn at first sight, but I loved it even more when the shop owner explained to me that Bremont was a combination of the names Bremen and (something I did not quite understand), and that the yarn was produced a mere hour or so from Bremen.  I got even more excited when I check Ravelry and found that the only knitters listing Bremont in their stashes or projects purchased it in Germany, Austria, Norway or Finland. 

I feel like the first person to bring it across the Atlantic (though I know I could never make such a claim).  I was so entranced with Bremont that I also bought some Sara de Luxe, a gorgeous alpaca, silk, and cashmere blend.  Of course I had to pick up a couple of skeins of Lang sock yarn for good measure as well, even if it was not my beloved Aktion.  My good shopping buzz was almost spoiled when my credit card would not go through--many of the smaller shops have machines that will only accept European Union chip cards--but I scraped through my wallet and pooled every last Euro I had, and it was just enough to cover my yarn purchase.  The sweet owner of the shop even insisted on giving me four Euro back so I would have tram fare back to the hotel.  All in all, the most perfect tourist yarn shopping experience ever.

I spend the next hour making my way slowly to downtown, enjoying the sights along the way, and marvelling that after five years I had finally discovered a new part of Bremen.

The flip flop socks were finished shortly into my flight home the next day, so I eagerly started September project 3.  A new pair of STR socks, that I decided to improvise in a leaf-lace pattern in honor of fall.  But more on that later.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oops, I did it again

So, how did I spend my August?  I continued work on my Asymmetrical cables socks, and I had a business trip to Montreal.  Montreal is one of my favorite cities.  It is beautiful, clean, has a fantastic shopping, and even better food.  It has a very European feel, with all the conveniences of North America. 

I brought a friend with me on the trip, and we had a great time sampling the local cuisine and taking in all the sights.  On our last night, as we were walking through Old Town window shopping, I glanced in a window and saw some really great pieces of art.  It turns out we had happened upon M Galerie d'arte, a wonderful amalgam of gift shop and art gallery.  The owner, Marie, rents out half of the space on a weekly basis to local artists who display their work, then she allows them to sell their work without taking a commission.  The exhibits change once a week, so there is a constant influx of wonderful work by local artists.

I loved what I was seeing, so Marie was kind enough to open up the gallery for me and let me walk around a bit.  As it turns out, the exhibit was set to open the following evening.  I absolutely fell in love with a set of four mixed-media works by Michele McSween.  They are called Origenes, Passage, Evolution, and Esperances, and they are absolutely perfect for the wall above my bed :)  I was so enthralled with them, that Marie called the artist to see if she might be willing to sell before the exhibit opened.  Much to my surprise, she agreed, so I left that night with four beautiful pieces of art having made a much larger impulse purchase than I ever planned on.

I swore before not to buy any more art (my walls are getting full!), but these were too great to pass up.  And, of course, what I like best is that they are one of a kind.  So please go to Michele's website and check out her incredible work.  And if you are ever in Montreal, please check out M Galerie d'arte!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Scarf lady

I have a tendency to fall in love easily. With places, that is, not people. I still remember my first affair--I was 14 and I left the US for the first time after my parents agreed to let me do a mini-study abroad trip to Mexico.  I remember stepping outside of our hotel the day we arrived in Mexico City and falling hard (figuratively, not literally). 

Eventually the strong feelings I had developed for Mexico City were replaced when after college some girlfriends and I decided to tour Europe by train carrying only 1 backpack apiece.  Those of you who know me will know how out of character it is for me to travel sans makeup or hair products.  Thought I had great flirtations on this trip with Paris, Munich, Bamberg, Prague, Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Madrid, Sevilla, Gibraltar, Granada and Toledo among others, it was Barcelona who truly captured my heart.  The coast, the restaurants, and the Gaudi structures--I was smitten for many years.

I was fortunate to find a job that fuels my love of travel, and I have found that when I fall hard for a new city, it is hard to resist bringing a piece of it home with me.  And that piece is usually in the form of artwork.  A few years back, and I had a business trip that left me stuck in Hong Kong for almost a month, and I promptly fell in love again, this time with the most amazing place I had ever seen.  It helped that I had plenty of time to explore with three full weekends and a very solicitous tour guide at my disposal, and I came home with some true treasures including a set of monochromatic paintings I adore.

At that point, I decided my walls were full, so when I fell in love with Berlin a couple of years later, I opted for a traditional Christmas pyrimid over a modern abstract painting.  Since that time when I feel I absolutely must bring back a momento of my latest infatuation, I try to find something a little non-traditional, and of course my A-#1 rule is that I absolutely must be in love with whatever I buy.

A few months ago, I was briefly reunited with my first love.  On my way to Venezuela, I had a short meeting in Mexico City, and as we drove through the streets, I reminisced about the last time I had been there.  Though time was short, I did have a few hours to shop in the international terminal of the airport.  And sure enough, I found the perfect recuerdo--a beautiful brightly-colored, hand-painted silk scarf from the design house Pinela-Covalin.The color and pattern reminded me at once of all that I loved the first time I "met" Mexico.

Last month, I found another pair of to-die-for scarves in Colombia.  This time by designer Ana-Cristina Bojanini.  Now the thing is, I am not a woman who wears many scarves.  And the ones I do wear are of the keep-you-warm-in-winter-knitted variety, not the cleverly-knotted-at-your-neck-as-an-accessory type.  Maybe I am looking for a change, and maybe I secretly hope to become the type of woman who does wear scarves.  Maybe wearable art is my latest trend.  Either way, look for my scarf collection to grow along with my art collection.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The coolest thing I have ever seen...

The tree of life carved in salt.  More correctly, carved into the wall of a salt mine, complete with a real boy climing on it.

This is in the Catedral de Sal (Cathedral of salt), Zipaquira, Colombia.  Zipaquira is a salt mine with a Cathedral about 1km below the surface of the mine.  I had the opportunity to visit when I was in South America last month.  My tour guides were a wonderful family (this is their son Andreas) that I met through work there.  I will write more about my (mis)adventures in South America another time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A dark, cold, rainy night...

Here in New England, we have been enjoying a very hot, humid summer.  The thing that always surprises me about New England summers is that just when the heat peaks, all of a sudden you have this one day where it starts to rain.  Rather than just clearing out the humidity, there is a little hint of a chill, letting you know that fall is just around the corner.  Today is that day.

I must admit, I am not ready for fall.  The seasons are short here, except for winter of course, and I am just not ready for it to be winter again.

The upside is, the change in weather motivated me to start a new project.  I realized that although my original goal was sock-related, I have not done many socks lately.  So I chose a yarn from the stash and a pattern from one of my new sock books (I recently bought three!), and I cast on Cookie A's Asymmetric Cables from "Sock Knitting Master Class".  It is going a little slow, mainly because my left hand keeps cramping up.  I am having more and more trouble with this as time goes on. 

I started crafting really young, and used to spend hours and hours crocheting with really tiny thread.  I always figured the time would come where I would no longer be able to use my hands the way I would like, and I fear that time is coming.

I am trying out one of my skeins of "A Verb for Keeping Warm" Superwash Sock, and it is not quite what I expected.  First, although it is supposed to be merino, it does not have that silky, merino feel.  It actually feels much more like leicester wool (though not BFL.  More like the rough, boiled wool you think of with sweaters from the 60's), but scratchier than superwash.  Also, the color is bleeding all over my hands as I knit.  I am hoping they soften up with washing, but worry the color will bleed enough that I will lose a shade or two.  Which is too bad really, because the color of this skein is a gorgeous variegation of plums, reds, and purples.  It also does not have very much elasticity.  My ribbing is stretched out just from the knitting and does not really snap back.  I think the lack of memory in the yarn is also slowing up my knitting a bit as I have a hard time inserting the needle into the purl stitches, and that does not usually happen to me.  Besides that, my week of being sick during and after my South America trip really drained my energy, and I just have not had the will to knit much.

I hope to finish up sock one tonight, and maybe sock two in another day or two.  The pattern is easily memorized, so I am moving a bit faster than I did the first day.  At least I have my glorious chilly, rainy day to inspire me.  Hurrah for fall! (Even if it does mean winter is coming...)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's done, it's done!

I first learned how to crochet when I was almost five.  My mother was expecting my sister, and she would sit in the afternoons and crochet granny squares for an afghan.  I always wanted to be doing whatever she was doing, so I harrassed her continually until she gave me my own hook and some yarn and showed me how to do it.  When I became very proficient in the chain stitch, and started chaining my chains, I graduated to single crochet.  The first real project I remember clearly was making a custom blanket/cape for a stuffed dog when I was in the hospital with apecdicitis at the age of 6.  Before long, my mother taught me how to read patterns, mainly because she was tired of having to show me everything one by one, and I was off and running.

Shortly thereafter, I learned how to embroider.  The crewel phase was in full swing, and I still have a box full of framed stitchery, along with some very nice pillowcases complete with crocheted edgings.  There were a lot of crafts that came in and out during this time.  Plastic canvas, origami, sewing, and rag weaving just to name a few.  Over the years, I went throught papercraft, soapmaking, making my own lotion and cosmetics, candlemaking, decoupage, stained glass, and jewelry making.  And of course, there was flower arranging and cake decorating, frequently combined.  I worked in a floral shop for a while, and for a period of time I made swags (it was a 90s thing) for everyone I knew.  By request, of course. 

At the age of 8, I decided it was time to learn how to knit.  My mother did not knit, so I checked a book out of the library and taught myself.  I spent a good portion of my childhood knitting and crocheting along with many other kinds of crafting. I used to have what I called "starting moods" and "finishing moods."  I would become very passionate about a project, usually an afghan (I made a lot of those growing up), and I would work on it furiously for days or weeks.  Then my mood would change and I would need a new craft for a while.  I would get the itch for something new, or I would have an idea that I absolutely had to try, and the old project would be set aside, sometimes for months or even years at a time.  After a while the finishing mood would strike, and I would dig out a project and work until it was done.  I have one afghan that I call the five-year afghan.  I only worked on it when I was home sick from work or school, so it took me five years to finish :) (Aran crochet in panels, and to this day one of my favorite pieces even if it is made of acrylic yarn).

For along time, I was all about the crochet.  I did afgans, clothing, baby blanket edgings, baby sweaters and booties, lace, and sold a number of sculptural crochet pieces during my late high school and early college years.  A few years ago, however, I suddenly had an urge to return to knitting.  About a year later, I finally caught the sock bug (I will confess this is mainly because I fell in love with sock yarn and had to break down and make socks to justify buying it), and I have been all about the knitting ever since.  I don't know if it is because I am leaning towards smaller projects, or if I am more focused in my old age, but I tend to finish one project before moving onto the next one now, with a few rare exceptions.  I will admit, if a project is left siting, seaming is usually involved...

About a year ago, I stared my first big piece of lace--Jarod Flood's "Willoughby."  I got about one third of the way around the edging, also known as the really tedious part, and I had to put it down for a while.  Then a while turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and well, you get the idea.  A few weeks ago, I got hit with a burst of "finishing energy"--you know, that mad urge to wrap a project up.  And, if I am perfectly honest, this was also partially motivated by the fact that I really wanted my #6 lace needles for another project.  At any rate, I picked it up, and I worked on it a little, then a little more, and on a plane trip from Bogota to Caracas, I finally made some major progress.  Then from Caracas to Boston, via Houston, I finally finished it.  I am so very happy to have this done once and for all, and I truly love the piece.  Here it is in blocking.  Yeah, me!

Now, the down side is that I found all sorts of horrendous mistakes in the first few repeats of the border, and I am horrified I did not rip them back right when I started.  Normally, I would try to fix them even at this point, but there is no way in--you know what--I am going to take out the whole border.  So I will just remember to wear it mistake-side down.  But it will still always bug me...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baby sweaters everywhere...

I promised some pictures of the FOs from June.  I have been on a bit of a baby sweater binge as of late.  Of course, I do have a lot of babies to knit for right now.  Anyway, here are the bright Maile sweater and the long-awaited Unisono sweater.

Both should be off to their new owners this week.  I have been making a lot of raglans because I hate finishing.  I often will finish the knitting in days, then let a project sit for months before I seam it up just out of sheer avoidance.  I have decided I also hate sewing on buttons.  Not the sewing itself, but trying to avoid knots (and to me it never feels secure enough without a knot) and hide all of those little ends!  How do the rest of you do it?  It seems there is never a neat way to add the buttons and I am far too disorganized to plan knitting them in.  I am considering trying snaps on my next kid project.  Not as many cute options as buttons, but I won't stay awake at night in fear that my cute buttons have become a choking hazard for the progeny of my close friends and family.

I have also been trying to finish things more neatly.  After reading up on finishing techniques I attempted reinforcing my button bands and hems with hem tape.  I love the look, but hate how uneven the hand sewing looks on the knitting.  I am pretty good with hand stitching, and my stitches look like they are all over the place.  I may have to try machine sewing, though I really don't want to see the stiches from the front, and I can't see how that would be avoided.  Perhaps there is a way to knit it in?  I will have to think on this a bit.

My stash runneth over...

Do you ever go through those periods when you just feel like you are failing at everything?  That is how I have been feeling lately.  I can't seem to finish up a project at work, I am not losing weight despite starting an exercise program and watching my diet, and my yarn stash is still completely out of control.

Two weeks ago I had my first dinner party in my new house.  Now, I say new as I have only lived here for a little over 2 years.  Yes, that is right--it has taken me 2 years to get my house in order enough to have people over.  That and to find friends to have over, but that is another topic entirely.

I bring this up because that means 2 weeks ago my house was company ready.  And part of the company cleaning was hiding away all those little items that become every day clutter.  I left only 2 small baskets of yarn out on my shelves because like most fiber hoarders, I find it kind of decorative.  And do you know what my guests said?  Every last one commented "Gee, you sure have a lot of yarn!"  And they saw only the tip of the iceberg. 

Saturday I was hunting for a particular color of yarn, thinking I surely must have it in my stash.  So I started piling all my sock yarn on the floor.  Then I decided it would be good to get reorganized and re-inspired at the same time, so I went into all the nooks and crannies where I had stashed my yarn pre-company.  Folks, the result is not pretty:

Yes, my gluttonous ways are still Way. Out. Of. Control.

I am starting to feel overwhelmed.  The pressure and guilt of this many unfinished projects is starting to get to me. Am I in danger of being the subject of a future episode of "Hoarders"?  Of course, yarn seems a much more pleasant thing to be buried in than old newspapers or junk.

Now the upside is I am engaging in some true stash-busting.  Hiding in the bottom of one of my yarn baskets was four lovely skeins of J. Knits superwash merino DK in a beautiful purple/lavendar colorway called New Jersey.  I remembered buying this yarn on closeout and buying it specifically to make a Helena sweater for my friend who was pregnant at the time.  I do believe that child is a toddler now.  I am happy to say Helena is close to 2/3 completed, missing only the sleeves and edgings after a day and a half of pretty intense knitting.  Sadly, my hands are cramping and I am feeling some burning in the tendons, which means I will have to give then a rest for a day or two lest I overdo, but I am excited to have Helena on the way out the door.  Even though I did the 2 years olds size, I will only use up 3 skeins, and will be left with a little orphan skein.  At least it is one more thing out of the stash, though.  Right?  And I must say, the JKnits yarn is fabulous.

I also discovered a whole lot of Hempathy.  2 batches of 10 skeins each, to be exact.  How long have I had this?  The price tag says $5.00, if that tells you anything.  I have white and aqua blue.  I think I may have to make a Strafford Tee this month as well, if my hands don't give out on me.  And 2 batches of four skeins each of Rowan Kidsilk Haze.  I think there was a butterfuly dress in mind at one point.  It would look awful on me, but it is a cool pattern and looks fun to knit, so I was going to do it anyway.  You see, this is why I have a stash :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

May and June catch-up

When I started this blog, I was so anxious to post I had to limit myself to twice a week.  Now I am lucky to get in one per month.  I don't know if it is just that summer is my busy time of year with work, particularly May and June, or if I have the lazy bug these days, but here is my catch-up post for May and June projects.

I started May strong with a quick pair of socks.  One of my dear friends gifted me with a skein of Tofutsies yarn.  I have never knit with this before, and I had it stashed in my computer bag when I found myself on an airplane with no project.  I remembered a simple lace pattern and started knitting away.  When I looked through my books later, the pattern is close enough to "Dead Simple Lace Socks" by Wendy Johnson, that I will credit that pattern even though I do them top-down with a slip-stitch gussetted heel.

I also had a very fun visit to Maryland the first weekend in May to celebrate my birthday with old friends and also to visit the MD Sheep and Wool festival!  I am a sucker for festivals, and this is one of my favorites for many years now.  My former roommate lives a mere 7 miles from the Howard County Fairgrounds, so every year I find an excuse to spend my birthday with my good friend and enjoy the festival at the same time.  This friend actually introduced me to the festival.  We were babysitting a neighbor's children for the weekend, and she mentioned there was this sheep festival down the road she thought the kids would enjoy.  When we got there, I said kids?  There is YARN here!  So now I go every year sans children, because it is much more fun that way :)

Of course I again overspent, stocking up on Tess's designer yarns, STR, and I splurged on enough Sunna for a new sweater for me.  So my yarn basket still runneth over, but I am feeling good about the number of projects out the door.

My other big project for May was a baby blanket for a dear friend who is becoming a first time father in July.  I made a second version of the Cot Blanket using 6 skeins from stash, but had to buy another 3 skeins to finish a border.  Since the bulk did come from stash, and the stash portion was completed in May (border yarn arrived first week of June, and was finished shortly thereafter), I am hoping it is not fudging to count this.  Here is the product in progress (top) and finished up (center, bottom).

The original blanket has three of the six squares containing some sort of heart motif.  I eliminated two of the heart squares and the plain square, and designed a sailboat, car, and argyle square in their place.  This was my first time actually sitting down with graph paper and mapping out the pattern (pathetic, I know. I make up a lot of stuff, but I usually wing it and play with it in my head until I get it to work out without writing it down).  I was surpised how long it took.  I spent a couple of hours just graphing and re-graphing the designs until they looked right.  In the end, I was really happy I did, though, so I won't have to go through the painful process of trying to re-create what I did from memory or photos.

In June, my baby theme continued.  I had a beautiful skein of STR I picked up in MD in May in a colorway called "Dreidel" (pictured above sitting on the completed squares).  As I arranged the squares for my Cot Blanket, I could not help but notice the colors of the yellow, dark and light blue, and even the olive green were a perfect match for Dreidel.  So I decided baby needed a sweater to match his blanket.

I got my inspiration from a new issue of Filati Infanti for a cute collared jacket.  I followed a pattern (mostly) for a ribbed jacket, but I changed a lot of things.  I knit as a one-piece raglan and added some length to the body and sleeves since I was using heavier yarn that called for in the pattern.  I added a ribbed button band after the body was knitted, and lined it with some groisgrain ribbon before adding some very cute airplane buttons.  I actually had some very cute sailboat buttons I used as the inspiration for the Cot Blanket squares, and they are nave blue and a perfect match for the sweater.  Unfortunately, I only had three, and could not find three more in a similar blue to match, so I had to find some new buttons.

My modifications also meant I ran out of yarn just after joining the sleeves.  Blue Moon only makes Dreidel over the holidays ('cause blue and yellow are sooooo Christmas-y??) so I jumped on ravelry and searched until I found a kind soul who had some in stash that they were willing to sell me.  Thank you KimS!!  The good news it, this counts as two skeins consumed :)

I also did a quick baby sweater for my new niece, Isabelle.  I met her for the first time in June, and she is sure a cutie!  I had this awesome skein of green/pink in stash, and my sister loved it, so I made a Maile sweater.  The bright colors reminded me of the tropics, and Isabelle's mom lived in Hawaii for a while, so Maile seemed a perfect match.  I will post a photo as soon as I sew the buttons on.  The yarn was an impulse purchase last spring during a work trip to Cape Cod (an awesome work trip, I might add).  It is called YaRn Studios, and was hand-dyed by the nice girl who helped me in the yarn store in Falmouth, MA.  It is also 100% superwash merino, so that should be soft for baby and easy to care for. 

My last baby project of the month was another simple raglan for another co-worker (2 co-workers, actually) who just had a baby boy.  This one out of Zitron Unisono, which I have decided is my new favorite yarn!  I will post photos of these last two shortly. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I needed an easy project to get things going in March since I was such a slacker in February.  Plus with MD S&W looming, I needed an excuse to use up my stash so I could shop unrestricted :)

The first project was an easy pair of STR socks.  Started on the plane ride to Frankfurt, and finished on the train from Frankfurt to Bremen (yes, the train theme continues).  I bought this originally thinking the colors were perfect for a baby project, but it patterned so beautifully once I knit a swatch, I had to finish it as socks to keep the striping pattern.

I am calling them my rose garden socks, because the colors with the pinks/purples alternating with greens/browns remind me so much of the beautiful rose bushes in my yard in MD.  It sat in my herb garden, and the lavendar was close by, and the mingling of colors was beautiful.

I have these in mind as a gift for my friend's wife.  I made the foot a little shorter than I normally would since she wears a size six shoe, but I am not sure I can part with them.

I started Jared Flood's Willoughby on the first of March as well, and had these two projects going on in tandem.  I have wanted to knit Willoughby since the first time I saw the pattern, and I am completely in love with how the lace presents in this piece.  Jared has such a beautiful eye for lace, and I find his patterns very mathmatical. I think that is why they appeal to me so much.

For Willoughby, I chose a beautiful green cashmere from my stash (Cashmeres by Kate, purchased at the 2008 NHSW).  At 200 yds per 4 oz skein, I am counting this as "sock yarn" even though I would never make socks out of 100% cashmere.  Cashmere/merino/nylon blend maybe, but not pure cashmere.  I increased the number of repeats to 25 per side, since 20 looked a little short to me.  I am very happy with the final length pre-blocking.  In my opinion, scarves cannot be too long in the cold New England winter.

In the end, just short of four skeins consumed, so I get to count this as 2 100 gse.  Even though there was a lot of overlap between February and March with the whole diagonal-rib sock debaucle, I am counting this as goal completed for March.  Here is Willoughby in blocking, and some pics of the finished product (above).