January 2013 Archives

2013

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It's that time of the year when everyone is talking about resolutions.  I am not even going to go into my lousy track record with such things.  

But it is the beginning of the year, so I, like many others, have been thinking about new beginnings, starting afresh and taking on new challenges.  Rather than resolutions or goals, I've decided that I am going to have wishes.  Accomplishment of wishes still requires intent (I don't count winning the lottery as one of my true wishes for the 2013, though I wouldn't complain if it actually happened) so there is still some personal activation required.  However, since they are wishes, not resolutions, I think it's easier to let them go if they are hard to realize or if they are realized for a time and then wear out.  Making something a wish gives me easy permission to let it go if life changes and it doesn't fit.  Also, it's easy to accept when a wish doesn't come true.

So what am I wishing for to start this year?

I wish: 

  • To post more regularly on my blog.  Likely this means less crafting and more random stuff.  But it's always been the writing that mattered to me, more than the content.
  • To carve out a little more time for creative projects, and to find ways to include my daughter in them.
  • To find an exercise regimen I can stick with.  I really do love to exercise, but sometimes it gets lost in the time crunches all around me.  
  • To revel in my girly loves.  Through my daughter I have been rediscovering my inner love of girly things long since put away when I started my scientific training.  I don't work in a lab and more and noxious chemicals are not a part of my life.  And really, can you ever have too much nail polish?
I've found a couple of things that I'm hoping will help me with those last two items.  

I love getting new workout clothes... somehow, they always seem to help me get more motivated  to keep my body moving.  What could be more fun than a monthly subscription for new workout wear?  I just signed up for pv.body and built my profile and I'm looking forward to those shiny pink packages!

My other favorite thing right now:  my monthly Julep Maven box.  After regularly buying myself little treats at Sephora, I discovered that Julep has a much better (both in terms of fun and in terms of cost-effectiveness) monthly program.  Like pv.body, you go through a little profile quiz and it matches you up with one of 4 types.  Once a month, you get to see the neat goodies that they think you'll like.  If you like 'em, you can order.  If not, you can pick from the other types, send the box to someone else or just pass for the month.  Its super fun and very flexible.  And I really like Julep polishes and supplies because they avoid a lot of the nasty chemicals that are in many polishes, meaning that they are Ms. Z friendly.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Willow

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Sometimes you spend a long time trying to find the right thing to do with one skein of yarn.  And then, finally, while wandering through Facebook, another friend shows you the answer.

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This skein was a random skein with no name that I purchased at Michigan Fiber Festival from the Fold.  Muted blues, greys, browns and purples.  Totally not my usual colors, but I loved it.  And even better, it was $14.  How could I leave t there?

I think I bought it around the time Zosia was born... so it sat for at least 5 years or so.  The yarn with no name that I loved.

And then Cara at January One posted on Facebook about her wonderful Willow cowls.  If anyone can find good ways to use Socks that Rock, it is Cara.  I had a Eureka! moment and pulled up Willow in Ravelry.  It really did seem perfect for the yarn.  I decided to follow Cara's suggestion (which is in her notes for the project) to start with fewer stitches (140 instead of 160 and decreasing down to 90 instead of 110 at the end.) to create a narrower, less slouchy cowl, which seemed a good call for both me and the yarn -- but otherwise, I didn't change anything in the pattern.

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Willow is a funny thing when you see it like this.    It looks much better on.  But at least you can see the colors.  Very winter water color!

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Willow shows herself to her best when she is worn.  I love the STR Medium weight for this scarf, it adds just the little bit of stiffness (without being stiff) that is needed to keep this cowl from being too loose and floppy.  The picot edges are a brilliant touch to hold the collar bone and neckline edges in place.

Mine also has a little surprise that you can just see a hint of in the picture.  A little girly touch necessitated by running out of yarn a few stitches before the bind off.  

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I chose a soft pink yarn in a similar gauge and washability to complete the knitting, the bind off and to sew down the inner edge with.  A special little secret -- the last splash of pink at the horizon before the sun goes down over a winter landscape.

After a day of wear, it's maintaining its structure and its warm without being cloying.  STR also seems to be one of those yarns that I can wear against my skin without having an itching fit, so that's a bonus, too!  But the best surprise was that it got a thumbs up from my 9 year old niece who seems to be developing a knitting habit.  It would be fun to make a couple of smaller ones if I could figure out the right starting stitch number.
Everything old is new again. 

Which is to say, even I, who hates to knit the same pattern twice, can find a reason to go back to a pattern when enough time has passed.

This fall, Ms. Z started Kindergarten.  The transition from her wonderful pre-school to an equally wonderful Chicago public school has been a good one, but not always an easy one.  We consider ourselves amazingly lucky that Ms. Z has a teacher who is clearly (as another parent aptly put it) "part luminous being".  So, after an incident that required a great deal of parent-teacher coordination to work through, I wanted to do something that would reflect my appreciation:  something that was a gift of my time to say thank you for the gift of her time.  And I decided to knit her a scarf. 

Almost 10 years ago, I knit a lovely scarf for my mother, using Joe's Cross Stitch scarf pattern.  At the time, it felt like it took a long time to make for the payoff (mostly because of moving all those wrap stitches around) and so while I liked the result, it was only theoretically a fast knit. 

As I started to cast around, as it were, for something for Ms. Z's teacher, I remembered this scarf, but I couldn't find the pattern.  And when I started dredging through my old email and blog archives, I turned up a critical bit of information that made knitting the scarf faster: do the wraps on a bigger needle (a US 8, for instance) and only do two of them. 

Suddenly a slog became a lightning fast scarf with a beautiful pattern stitch.

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Joe's Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf
Yarn: Claudia Handpainted Yarns Fingering Weight
Colorways: Bearded Iris and Honey (1 skein each)
Needles:  US 5 and US 8 (for wrap rows)

Ms. Z's school colors are purple and gold (think Minnesota Vikings) so I wanted to reflect that in the scarf without being too over the top about it.  

I had some extra yarn, so I did an extra half interval of the pattern so that the scarf would be symmetrical and begin and end with the same color. Since my gauge was probably a little tighter than what Joe described as optimal in his pattern, this extra interval also gave me a bit more width.  This scarf is a little shorter than the pattern describes as well, but it is also a bit denser, which, hopefully, makes it a little warmer against Chicago winter weather.  

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This is the pattern stitch after I blocked it.  I love merino superwash yarns, but even though I blocked this out and stretched the crosses out a bit more, it reverted back to what it wanted to do and created a denser fabric.  Ah well.   At least this means Ms. Z's teacher won't have to go through any special blocking rituals to maintain it.

Of course, I finished the knitting on this scarf in late November and didn't manage to get it blocked until the end of December and then it took me until last weekend to fringe it.  Now it just needs a care label and a note of thanks before I wrap it up and slip it into Ms. Z's teacher's inbox. 

Whenever I knit something for someone I know on a more professional than personal level, I get a bit more nervous about sending the gift on.  Not because I worry about the quality of the gift (I believe it is beautiful and well made) but because I worry that the receiver would have preferred something else or that the making of something might be perceived as too personal.  So I'd love to hear from any teachers (or anyone one else in a field where you might get gifts from people you work with) amongst my readers on this subject.  What would you think about receiving a hand knit scarf?  Too personal or appropriate?

Precious Little Things

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Not much of my knitting is very photogenic at the moment, but I do have a few lovely little things to share.

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In November, Julie and I went to Vogue Knitting Live when it came to Chicago.  We didn't go to any classes. Instead we went looking through the vendor section to see what interesting things we might turn up.  One of those interesting things turned out to be handcrafted hexagonal needles.  

I am always interested in "new" knitting needle technology and I'm a sucker for handmade things, especially when they come from my home state of Michigan. Indian Lake Artisans makes handcrafted hexagonal knitting needles (it's a lot easier to see that hexagon shaping on their website... these needles were just too tiny to get a good picture of that).  I took them for a spin and really enjoyed the feel and liked how the hexagon provided a bit of extra grip.    Even better, they will make them out of a variety of hardwoods, all sourced from Michigan.  I don't truly "need" any more knitting needles, but I do enjoy adding special sets into my collection when I find them.  I love black walnut and I placed an order with them for US 3 (3.25 mm) needles -- it's so hard to find hand crafted lace weight needles in small sizes!  They arrived this week (along with a handwritten explanation for why it had taken a little while for them to get to me) and they are beautiful.  They are smooth and the joins are almost undetectable when you run your fingers over them. The size of the needle is branded into one of the points, so I'll always be able to tell what size they are (they also can be sized with a conventional needle sizer).  The cable will have to be warmed and relaxed, but that is fine by me.  

I have a lace weight cowl pattern all ready to test them out on.  So as soon as I finish up another project I'm working on these needle will get a work out.  I will probably invest in a US 4 and US 5 soon as well.

The next set of acquisitions occurred after I realized all of my little stitch markers were sitting in ongoing projects (note to self: time to get knitting...). So I headed on over to Etsy and treated myself to a few new sets.  Etsy is one of my favorite places to find stitch markers since there are so many vendors and so many different markers to be found.

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The markers on the top left are from Exchanging Fire.  They are markers with "mood ring" inserts -- now I will always be able to tell what mood my knitting is in!

The markers on the top right are from The Twice Sheared Sheep.  They are amethyst beads with a "moebius" ring that will fit needles up to a US 4 -- perfect for the fingering weight projects.  Amethyst is my birthstone (and I love me some purple anyway) and with my birthday coming up, I thought they would be a nice little treat.

The bottom markers are from Strawberry Lane.  Ms. Z and I both love butterflies, so these were hard to resist (clearly I didn't!).  I may have to start a project with these soon, if only to prevent them from flying off to some place in my daughter's room....

I consider pretty knitting tools, like nice workout wear, motivation to knit and create.  While the standard jump rings work well, I love the little treat I get that comes from knitting along and encountering a special marker or running my fingers over beautifully made needles.  

What are your favorite knitting tool treats? 

Have a Heart

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Perler Bead Heart by Ms. Z

I learned about Perler beads from my sister-in-law last weekend.  They are really wonderful, especially if you have a child that needs to work on her fine dexterity. It's crafty goodness that helps with motor skills.

Take one template with tiny pegs on it and one bucket of cylindrical plastic beads.  Give them both to a child and let them create.  Ms. Z just likes to mix all the colors.  When the child is done, cover the project with parchment and iron.  Voila!  You have my plastic heart (although Z would like to give this one to her school art teacher).

This is equally fun for the parent, since I love to play with color and pattern, and it seems to make my child happy when I sit and do it with her.  Finally a fun craft activity that we can do together that isn't messy and isn't hard to clean up.

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