I’ve been a busy little bee these last few weeks, despite not posting in what seems like forever. We had our family Christmas at Thanksgiving again this year as my parents are off on another adventure. Mom got her Shimmer-ish cowl and seemed very happy with it, just pardon her tousled hair. We kept going back and forth on what was the best look. I’m also told the Monkey Blankie was a hit with our niece, which makes me happy. Toys aren’t my favorite, I’ve decided, no matter how universally appealing they might be. I have one more to make for a friend, but there’s no time limit on that one.
Also on and off the needles since last I wrote, the Swirling Petals Cowl for my cousin Nanceys. She’s the one who worked her ass off Rhinebeck weekend and says it was “fun”. I have to mail this off and hope that she’s able to wear it. The yarn is Bernat Alpaca, which is a 70/30 acrylic/alpaca blend. Apparently, their world, ‘alpaca’ means the worst of the guard hairs we can find and probably aren’t even alpaca but llama, instead. I like knitting with the yarn, but I wish the quality were better on the natural fiber content. It makes me doubly anxious since I have more of the yarn in woodsy colors to make Steve a replacement hat and scarf that are machine washable. Fingers crossed.
Did I mention that my Jenny’s Faith Shawl also came off a few weeks ago? I’ve been wearing it every day and I just love it. It really deserves its own FO post considering what went into it.
Right now my big push is to get a last minute wedding shrug for my wonderful friends Becky and Erin done. Make that shrugs. One in lace weight and lace pattern for Becky, which Ginni is generously knitting the panel for, and the other in sock weight, solid stockinette for Erin. What luck that I had the perfect ice blue in sock weight destash yarn! I dyed a similar blue for Becky’s shrug.
I’ll be done with the panel for Erin’s shrug tonight and then I’ll start the seaming and trimming of cuffs and body opening. When Ginni’s done with her panel I’ll take it home and do the same to it as well. Making this kind of handmade gift happen for two beautiful people is such an honor. I only hope they fit well enough. It’s hard to know for sure without fittings, though at least I have measurements!
Pattern: My own version of designs I saw on Ravelry
Yarn: Knit Picks Brava Worsted for the pink and purples, Deborah Norville Everyday Worsted, and Vanna’s Choice for the brown and beige (100% acrylic).
Started: November 7, 2013
Finished: November 20, 2013
Let’s just get it out of the way, right up front. I suck at embroidering faces on dolls. I’m sure that part of my problem is simply a lack of experience and expertise. That said, I’m sure that it’s mostly because I lack patience. So just ignore Little Miss Monkey’s poorly stitched features and instead just look at the whole. On the whole, I’m pretty pleased with how she came out! The monkey will be a gift for my niece whose birthday is a few days after Thanksgiving. FYI: I would have been done over a week ago if I hadn’t run out of the brown yarn and needed to get more.
I took my inspiration from this elephant blanket doll, but I didn’t care for the monkey version with no arms and the solid blanket body, so I winged it completely on my own. The blanket “body” was easy, it’s just a large granny square. The hardest part was using up the right color of leftover yarn in sections that wouldn’t cause me to run out early. I was just a wee bit short on the brown and had to buy another skein, of which I only used maybe 1/10th.
The head was more of a challenge because I needed to figure out how to make the lighter colored face section just so, with the bumps for the eyes, and then grow the rest of the head from there. I’m particularly pleased with how I got the top of the eye brow ridge to look all ridge-y like that. All in all, it came out really well, and the addition of the arms makes a big difference for me. She looks more like a doll, and less like a disembodied head on a blanket.
I would highly recommend any of the many patterns like this on Ravelry for anyone who would like to make a quick to crochet/knit baby gift that’s just a little bit out of the ordinary. It’s quick and easy to make, and best of all a good way to use up leftover yarn. They are pretty unisex too, so you can easily make “boy” versions of just about any of these type of dolls.
Let’s go back over that cowl I made for my mom’s Christmas gift, shall we? She told me she really, really wanted an infinity loop kind of cowl, and I didn’t have anything else to go off of other than that. Mom and I scoured the JoAnn’s Etc. near my workplace but, though their selection is rather large, it seemed every color she liked was in a wool blend yarn… and she doesn’t “do” wool up against her neck by choice. Finally, we found Saturate by Deborah Norville/Premier Yarns. Like I said, it’s basically acrylic fluff suspended in a nylon mesh tube. Beautiful, and exceedingly soft.
I found a pattern that I liked very much and thought she’d enjoy as well and cast on. The Shimmer Cowl pattern was written for worsted weight and my yarn was bulky, but that’s good since she wanted a cowl you could loop over twice or leave hanging down long. It looked interesting, but not too complicated.
The pattern has you start with a Foundation Single Crochet. Now, I haven’t done one of these before, but let me tell you… IT’S AWESOME. What a great way to start a project that has you cast on a large number of stitches! It’s very obvious in a bulky yarn, but I can see it being very unobtrusive in a lighter weight. So, that was fun. I worked half the larger fringe section because my yarn was so large, and then things got weird.
The body of the cowl seems to be made up of some sort of solid linen stitch, but if you follow the instructions as written you’d end up with a netting like filet crochet. Apparently I’m the only one who had this problem on Ravelry, but that’s ok. I just sort of winged it from there on out and I love the resulting fabric. It really works with the long color repeats beautifully. I also winged the upper lace border. I gave the whole thing a good soak and then blocked the heck out of it to get some more width so it would hang longer on the neck.
Now all I have to do is wrap it up and see what mom thinks come Thanksgiving, which is our Christmas this year as mom and dad are snow-birding again this year and won’t be home for actual Christmas. Not a bad two-day’s work.
I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I promise. I’ve just… retreated a little bit once we finally got through the rush and push of Rhinebeck and company during the show. Amy , John, Baby Z and mutual friend Amanda all came up from Viriginia just before the show and stayed with us until Monday morning after it ended. It was wonderful to see them, and to meet the baby for the first time. Amy is such a great mom, and I love how her family of two is even better as a family of three. They were gone too soon, however, and I miss them all.
Rhinebeck was, by the way, fabulous. As in, “oh my god, I can’t believe it went that well” kind of fabulous. It’s overwhelming though, you know? A good problem to have, don’t get me wrong! But I feel like butter spread thin across too much bread. There’s not enough of me to go around and I rebel by planting myself in my recliner and saying “enough!” So, I catch up on Netflix and my WIP list gets attacked with ferocity. The days get colder and trees grow bare. The fireplace gets set up with iron accoutrements and I put my foot down about needing fire to keep me warm. This the wooly time of year.
Despite the busyness of October, I managed to just squeak out that Cotton the Sheep doll I was crochet for Baby Z. Go me! I basically winged it once I got done with the first portion of the head (the face) because I couldn’t see what I was doing due to the boucle yarn I chose. I’m all right with that, however, and very pleased with how the doll came out. I didn’t get to see Baby Z play with it much during Amy and John’s visit, but they told me she’d face-plant herself onto the doll while playing on the floor.
I haven’t finished much else aside from a cowl for my mom for Christmas, started and finished in just two days in a brand new yarn from Deborah Norville called Saturate. Mom picked it out with me at JoAnn’s to go with her new coat. The yarn is a deliciously soft acrylic/nylon blend that’s basically yarn fluff encased in a slightly shimmery netting tube. The colors (grey/pink/wine) worked up in long, slow color changing repeats and since it’s bulky it took very little time to finish. It helped that one of the two days was a sick day, however. I just have to weave in the ends.
The current sock project is getting a lot more attention since I started working on it while I read at lunch. I foresee finishing it up before the end of the month. That’ll give me my last pair of socks for the year, probably. I’ve also started and almost finished a crochet monkey-blankie and a crochet shawl. More on those soon as I feel this has gotten rather longwinded.
May I start by saying happy anniversary to my beloved? Seven years ago today we married each other, for so long as our love should last. We’ve been tested by life and misfortune, and come out the other side. He loves me, yarn and all. I love him, dice and all. I’m proud to call Stephen my husband.
This is the time of year where I get a little delusional about how much I can realistically get done in a given span of time. That span of time being the month of September through Rhinebeck (third weekend in October). I totally looked at Madrona around the middle of September and said, “yeah, I can DO THIS! I can have it ready for competition at Rhinebeck AND dye ALL THE THINGS between now and then!” It’s a special kind of delusion. Most of you probably only get that way around the holidays, but for me it’s early Fall. Suffice to say I’ve regained my senses and have shelved Madrona for deep winter when I have little to nothing competing for my time.
That isn’t to say I haven’t started something new. There are babies in my life! Babies that need soft, squishy things to love and drool on! Enter Cotton the Sheep, a large amigurumi toy designed after a sheep in a Japanese anime movie called Oblivion Island. I haven’t seen the movie, but the pattern was just what I was looking for as a gift to my friend Amy’s baby. My Cotton won’t have the chest scar, and will have less creepy eyes, perhaps embroidered on like the rest of the face. I had a false start when it came to the body (wool) yarn. I initially chose a white, fluffy yarn that was a disaster to crochet with. I couldn’t tell where the stitches were at all. I’ve since subbed it out for a lovely boucle that’s doing a much better job of it. My Cotton will have to be done by the time Amy and family get here, the Friday before Rhinebeck, and will be a belated birthday present for Little Miss Z.
My Little Miss A also has a birthday coming up, and since I noticed her mama has purchased her some monkey themed clothing, she’s getting a monkey doll for her birthday in November. I’ve never made dolls like these before and now it’s two in two months? Color me surprised. Some aspects of it I really like, while others (making multiple small pieces and seaming) not so much. The upside is that I may finally make that Eeyore I’ve been intending to make for over a decade. I’m feeling rather smug that I never got rid of the booklet, it’s rare and going for much more than I paid initially. I finally have the skills and patience to do it justice, though I’ve read they’re not for the faint of heart.
However, what with all the show prep, I’m mostly working on this right now.
Yup. My Sock Monkey sock that I started at PAX East in APRIL. I only just turned the heel this weekend. It’s kinda sad, but whatcha gonna do? Knit on, one stitch after another.
So, you all know that once late summer hits it’s all about the autumn show season and time to DYE-DYE-DYE, right? I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been dyeing here and there all year, but this is when shit* gets serious. It’s also a money thing. Jersey is a very good show for me and so I take that influx of cash and pour it right back into Rhinebeck. Speaking of Jersey, you can read my show wrap up over on the business blog here. The dyeing starts in earnest this weekend and I hope to be done by the end of the month so I’m not rushing like crazy the weekend before Rhinebeck. Wish me luck.
In the meantime, I’ve finished up some of the WIPs I’ve had hanging around for the last few months. First up, we have the Alethea Shawl (with mods). What a PAIN IN MY ASS this shawl was. I pretty much winged it for the most part. I really, REALLY hate non-charted crochet patterns. Like, with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. If I had the software I’d have tried charting it on my own, but that’s neither here nor there.
I ended up with probably 1/3 of my skein of Afterglow left over. I’m going to put it in for competition at Rhinebeck, even though I don’t think it’s “show stopper” quality. You never know and it’s just $2 either way. This one is a gift, and I have a sneaking suspicion that SOMEONE opened their pie-hole and told the recipient they’re getting it. Maybe. I’d rather it were a surprise but even if it’s not at least I know the person already loves it.
Next up is the Vogue ruffled wrap that I started god knows when. I decided it was long enough sometime last week and that I really didn’t like the squared off, abrupt ending to each side. So, I made a decreased point on the working end and picked up my cast-on stitches on the other. That ended up looking kind of fugly but I’m past caring at this point. I just wanted it to be done!
Luckily, a bath and block helped even out the worst of it. I loved working with this yarn. It’s Yarn Tree, which is discontinued now, I think. I used 2.25 balls out of the 10 I bought years ago on Ebay. I’m so glad I have another bag of a different color for another project some day.
* I just realized I almost never curse on the blog. This is odd because those who know me in real life can attest that I curse like a drunken sailor. One of my super-powers is creative blasphemy, in fact.
Because you know what? It’s MESMERIZING. Seriously! I thought for sure working a washcloth in fine yarn would get old really fast, but I find that I’ve been very much enjoying it. All weekend I click-clicked away at it and my only trouble was remembering if I was on the Wrong Side 1 or Wrong Side 2 version of the working row instructions. Get it right and the result is this utterly charming fabric you see here. Get it wrong and you’re tinking back lots of little stitches to make it right. I saved myself a lot of hassle when I remembered to keep a coin by my chair that I flip as I finish each row. Basically, you either K1, S1 to end, or you K2, S1 to end. Knit right side rows. Simple.
And yet… look at that fabric! I liked it just fine in the photo from the pattern website, but mine looks lacier, more like a honeycomb. I think it has to do with the fact that I’m using fingering weight yarn and size US5 needles. I wanted a light, drapey, elegant texture, and boy is that what I’ve gotten. Even the back-side of the fabric looks pretty. I keep petting it as I work on it.
Steve suggested that I was almost done since s of yesterday the fabric was almost square, but I think I want to make it more of a rectangle, like a hand towel, than a washcloth. Since I’m enjoying the making of it, why not? That does mean I’ll probably only make one, however. I’m ok with that though. I’m not sure if they’ll ever get used by the recipients, so I don’t want to go overboard.
I wish you could feel this yarn. It’s dreamy.
I’ve been knocking out the gifts items lately, which actually has been a theme for this year. I’d have to look back at my project notebook on Ravelry to be sure, but I think I’ve made a lot more gifts this year than I normally do, and certainly I’ve not bucked my norm and haven’t waited for autumn and “holiday knitting” to do it. I think it’s mostly to do with my new baby relatives. Actually, I’m sure it’s mostly to do with them.
Some have turned out better than others, but my recent gift projects have all taught me something valuable. For instance, this Ten Stitch Twist baby blanket in Aran weight yarn from JoAnn’s. Definitely a pattern I’d do again, but next time I’d like to do it in a brighter color with higher contrast color changes. You know, like Noro, but baby friendly. I also feel like it needs some kind of border. What do you think? Perhaps an i-cord? It’s a very bulky yarn, and acrylic, so that doesn’t really lend itself to lace. I won’t see the family it’s for any time soon, so I have time to figure it out. For now, I’m calling it done.
While I worked on the blanket I also worked up a couple of washcloths that ended up more like pot holders. They were supposed to be for my brother and his wife, who have recently moved to Minnesota, but now I’m not sure. The idea was to send a package with the washcloths and some nice handmade soap. I couldn’t find natural colored cotton yarn locally in anything lighter than worsted weight, and since they’re crocheted, I think they came out rather bulky and ungainly. I’m pleased with how they came out of the wash though. They were a little coarse as-is, but since the yarn (Bernat Handicrafter ) is 100% cotton, I had a feeling it would wash up nicely. They’re soft to the touch now, but I have no idea what to do with them now. Anyone want them? I’d happily mail them out to the first person who thinks they’d give them a good home.
Take two will be made out of this MUCH softer, finer, and more elegant yarn I got on a recent visit to Trumpet Hill. I nearly pounced on the last two of three balls she had left in Cream. The yarn is Bamboo Pop, by Universal Yarn, and it’s fabulous! The blend is cotton and bamboo, which gives the yarn a silky, buttery feel. It seems to be plied individually which means if you look very closely at the yarn you see how the color takes differently in the cotton and bamboo strands, and there’s a bit of shine. I’ve cast on for a knit washcloth pattern that is more traditional in shape and has a light texture. It’s the second option out of this set, the green one (Chinese Linen stitch). I already want to make ALL THE THINGS out of this yarn, but unfortunately it only comes in tropical/baby friendly colors, and not the muted and jewel tones I prefer. Still, baby gifts? Oh yes.
And yes, I’m still working on the Aleatha Shawl; also a gift. I’m into the modded “let’s make the leaves grow out of the spine more organically” part of the project, which means I’m in uncharted territory. And have I mentioned it’s not charted? I know, free pattern. I shouldn’t complain. I hope to have this done in time to submit as a dark horse to Rhinebeck. It’s not going to be a show-stopper, but I really don’t have much to submit this year, unfortunately. We shall see.
I’d like to say, first and foremost, that it was deeply satisfying to be back at Wiawaka for WOOL this year. Fate conspired to get us there, but then threw us a monkey wrench along the way. I guess you should expect a little sour along with your sweet?
The weather really only cooperated on Saturday, with Thursday being hazy, hot, and humid. It rained all day on Friday, and a little bit on Sunday morning. It’s a shame, because usually our time there is so sunny and gorgeous. I did come home twice as dark as I started out (huzzah!) between Saturday and Sunday afternoon. I tell you, I missed that dock.
Our group was composed of mostly regulars, though most had never been to Wiawaka before and one was completely new to the retreat. Jane drove 10 hours to join us, one way! Everyone was a good sport given the new locale, and I can’t thank them enough for their grace, friendship, and sense of adventure.
And talk about grace under pressure. Wiawaka booked an outside “healing seminar” for Friday, spanning from breakfast until mid-afternoon. During which time we had literally no place to stay. Not a porch, not a living room, not a gazebo anywhere on the grounds wasn’t being used. The dock was set aside for us, but wouldn’t you know… it was raining. I’ve already spoken to the staff and sent a letter off to the board. That definitely could have been better planned. We couldn’t even get into our rooms without disrupting classes on the porches! Nonsense. I’ve already made my thoughts known to the management and expect better next year, that’s for sure.
Still, nonsense aside, we had fun. The food has definitely improved, and Wakonda (the newly renovated and opened lodge) was a rustic step back in time. We loved our livingroom and kitchen to ourselves. There’s still work to be done in there (the bathrooms are… interesting), but I’m glad we gave the old/new digs a try.
The highlight of the weekend, for me, was knocking back Woodchuck while Ginni wow-ed us with her show and tell shawls. Which she then offered to us, all 15-20 of them. “Take them,” she said, “you’re doing me a favor! I need the room!” It was like Christmas and your birthday all rolled up into one! I came home with *coughfourorfivecough* several after trying not to be too much of a pig. Each of us went home with at least two or three, and there were still leftovers for her to give away to others.
On Sunday, three of us joined Beth at her house further down on the lake for lunch. What a gorgeous home! We ate, talked, Megan kayaked, and it was a lovely end to our weekend away. Thank you, Beth, for being such a generous hostess.
So, that was this year. It could have been better, but it could have been worse too. We laughed, knit, crocheted, embroidered, spun, kayaked, ate, and drank ourselves silly. Well, we didn’t drink ourselves silly, but you get the point. Good times were had and I’m looking forward to next year, where we may (or may not) have decided to move back to my beloved Lake House. Either way, it’ll we fun.
All right, I’ll be honest, my brain has been mostly checked out all week. Why? WOOL! As in Weekend Out On the Lake. It’s a happy-making thing. You might remember that up until a couple of years ago, when my guests decided they didn’t want to pay the increased rates, we were happy as clams every August up at Wiawaka. Our interim location, Winter Clove, was nice and all, but I never stopped missing the lake. Circumstances conspired to make it so that we’re now heading back to Wiawaka and I can’t WAIT.
My bags are packed. My vending bins are stowed away in my trunk. My wheel is safe in her bag and riding shotgun. I’m so beyond ready to head up the Northway, eating up the miles as I race towards my long weekend with friends. Our group is once again growing, despite a few unfortunate life-issue cancellations, and I can already see the smiling faces and feel their hugs. Things are finally getting better all ’round and I feel like my heart is lighter as I step out to grab this, our 7th WOOL, by the tail.
Some of the people coming are new to WOOL and/or Wiawaka. Some have been coming for year. All of them are genuinely sweet, kind, and fun people that make my heart happy. They’re my fiber family! We’re going to laugh, eat good food, make great stuff, and have an all around fan-damn-tastic time. See you on Monday, folks!