Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a winter lament

At the risk of people throwing things at me, I've got to say I'm sort of bummed it's been such a mild winter.  Everyone around here is ecstatic and acting like they're finally getting the kind of winter they deserve, but I could really use a couple good storms.  We've had maybe three inches of snow, total.  And that's being generous.  I'd really like a good ten inches that stays around for a while. 

First, I like winter.  Snow really is magical, the way it transforms everything.  It's special.  It only happens a few times out of the whole year.  I know it's a big hassle to clean up and drive in, and I get tired of those chores after a few months just like everyone else, but we shouldn't let the extra work distract us from the specialness of a good snow.

Second, we need winter.  I'm from California, so I know that a mild, dry, warm winter is not a gift.  It's serious concern, and can actually mean life and death.  Without a snowpack in the back country that will melt throughout the spring and runoff through the summer, the forests and brush be mountains of kindling by September.  And my home and the homes of the people I love will be nestled among the firewood like sitting ducks.  It's almost an animal instinct in me--when there's not enough water in the winter, my hide is prickly with anxiety. 

Third, on a much lighter and selfish note, I want to wear my woolies!  What's the good in having cuddly warm cowls and sweaters and hats if it's too hot to wear them? 

Most folks around here are thrilled that it's 55 degrees in January, and they act like any mention of the Season-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named will completely jinx them, so I've kept my laments to myself.  But surely there are other knitters out there who feel like something's not quite right when you can't layer yourself in handknits in January, right? 

Ah well.  Here's what I have on the needles at the moment.

I love this sweater so far.  It's the perfect blend of miles of stockinette and beautiful lace to keep things interesting.  I can knit it when I'm exhausted and can't spare any brain energy, and I can knit when I'm alert and need something to keep me thinking.  I'm using Cascade 220 that I got in the Webs anniversary sale last year.  It's a purple heather with shades of blue, coral, and pink.  I love it!

I started this thing a thousand years ago.  I made pretty good progress, but then took a break for Christmas knitting, and I lost all my mohair mojo.  It's a simple pattern and I like it, but knitting with the mohair is like knitting in molasses.  I'm in slo-mo.  I just have one more repeat and I could probably knock it out in two nights.  Sigh. 

I'm about halfway done, I think.  It's going to be way huger than I'd planned, but that's okay.  A too-big blanket doesn't exist, and a too-small blanket is the worst.  I think it might be able to fit a twin bed, so if we ever get a twin bed, we'll have something to put on it! 

  • Some home-dec sewing, a first for me.

That's a Heather Bailey print.  I have a couple others to add in my slow family room redo. 

Time to head out and enjoy the sunshine, I guess! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

FO: Butterick 5523

I put down the crochet hook long enough to make a dress in January.  I actually finished this dress weeks ago, but only found the gumption to hem it this week.  I've messed up hems before, and it's so discouraging.  Having a good dress I couldn't wear finally wore me down, and I screwed up my courage and sat myself down at the sewing machine.  Ta da!  An hour later, I had a wearable new dress.

I wish I'd remembered to put on lipstick!

This is Butterick 5523, a pattern I picked up at a Joann's sale for $1 sometime last fall.  I wasn't really confident in my ability to pick a good pattern, since sewing was something I was just getting in to.  So I came home and immediately googled it to see if other sewing bloggers had made it.  Yay!  They had!  The pattern had potential.

After reading lots of reviews about how the pattern ran short, I measured things carefully.  I added six--six!--inches to the skirt and three inches to the arms.  The skirt ended up being a perfect length.  I took a 1.5 inch hem, so I really didn't have too much to spare.  I could have added several more inches to the sleeves, but I like them this length. 

I used a double knit from fabric.com.  My husband says I need to wear more navy, and I agree! 

I didn't add the little tab thing on the back.  I made it, but I wasn't super committed to it.  I guess I still could, but I sort of like it plain.  It is a simple dress with a low drama factor, but it's super comfortable and very easy to wear on winter work days. 

I"m putting this one in the success column!

Friday, January 20, 2012

FO: GAP-tastic cowl

Did I show you this yet?  My first FO of 2012.  (And my only FO to date, because the Granny Stripe blanket has taken over my fingers.) 

This would have been very speedy except that I knit it twice.  I didn't do a gauge swatch, so I accept all responsibility.  (Who else would accept it?)  I tried it on several times, and each time I thought it probably wasn't wide enough.  I kept knitting, thinking it would get wider?  I don't know.  I was halfway through the third skein, so 5/6 of the way through the project, when I decided I just had to make it wider.  I frogged it, CO 20 more stitches, and viola!  Three days later I had the perfect width cowl. 

The yarn is amazing and soft.  It wasn't splitty, even after being frogged.  I ordered it during Webs' year end sale. 

Yarn: Great American Yarns Superfine Merino Wool
Pattern: GAP-tastic cowl
Ravelry page

Meanwhile, I'm still crocheting! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

one track mind

Exhaustion.  Hibernation.  Recovery.  Hermitting.  All perfectly good synonyms for January.  This is because
  • A: It's cold.
  • B: We used up two month's worth of energy holiday-ing.
  • C: Well, I guess really just those first two things.  But it seems like there should be more.
I want to be one of those people whose January looks like the cover of Martha Stewart Living: clean and bright and fresh and new and active.  But instead, I look like this:

  All those big plans I had?  Still there.  Still big plans.  Every night I think, "I should go cut out that dress," or "I should measure that swatch and work out the math for that new sweater."  But then I pull out this basket of super bright yarn and mindlessly crochet the night away.  And really, I think that's okay for January.  And look what I have to show for it:

This was a few days ago, so I'm already much further along than the picture shows.  This is Attic24's Granny Stripe Blanket, and I've already made a baby-sized version for a friend. 

The yarn is 100% acrylic, Stylecraft DK something-or-other.  I only use acrylic for big blankets.  This one is for the couch, and I'm glad to have something that is low maitenance.  I bought the yarn from a UK site, deramores.com.  They have a great package, and with free shipping to the US right after Christmas, I got 17 balls at around $2 a ball.  The colors are just what January needs.  I might not be too far from that bright and fresh Martha Stewart start to the year after all!  Just don't look at the rest of my house. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hello, deep end. Mind if I sit down?

Woah.  Pinterest.  I finally found it.  And kow I know what people have been talking about!  It's simultaneously overloading my brain (so many inspiring things!) and providing enormous mental relief (so many inspiring things that I don't have to try to remember locations of!).  Last night I was so hyped on beautiful images, I couldn't sleep.

One of the things I'm committing to this year is our home.  I'm tired of living in a place that looks like an Ikea yard sale.  We need a style.  We need some color.  We need some furniture, unless you count wooden TV trays and $25 Office Depot printer stands furniture.  But here's the leap I've never been able to make: it costs money to upgrade from "dorm room practical" to "adult style."  Yes, Crate & Barrel has amazing items for every room in the house.  But really, we can only afford actual crates and barrels.  How do people afford to make their houses stylish and still pay for things like ... everything else?

I'm slow at this sort of thing, but Pinterest is speeding up the learning curve considerably.  Example: we need a TV stand/entertainment center.  Do we have $400 for a new one?  No, and they're all uggo anyway.  So I started wondering if we could maybe retrofit a second-hand dresser as a TV stand.  Pinterest, what do you think?

Wow!  Okay, so now I'm obsessed with finding a dresser and painting it.  And covering our brownish couch with a clean slipcover.  And finding more furniture to paint.  And making curtains and pillows.  Looky!

Through the magic of the internet, these are on their way to me as we speak.  
Hmm.  Apparently, knitting is my gateway drug to full on crafting.  I resisted it for a long time, but sewing was a chink in the armor.  Now with Pinterest, I'm all in. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Knitting Plans

I've never made knitting resolutions before, but I've realized lately that I do have some projects and techniques I want to get to.  New Year's seems like a good time to write those things down.

Knitting Goals
  • Complete four successful adult sweaters.  These certainly take more planning and thinking than a quickie shawl or baby hat, but I really would like to have some beautiful sweaters in my wardrobe.  I haven't bought sweaters in years, because I knit.  But I also haven't knit myself any warm, wool sweaters for winter.  I have a need, I have the yarn, and I have zillions of patterns I love.  All I'm lacking is the dedication to 1400 yard projects.  
  • Learn fair isle/stranded knitting.  To me, stranded knitting represents some kind of glass ceiling in knitting, and I've always thought it was for knitters with superior skills.  I'm ready to attempt to break through!  
  • Stash smash!  I am not going to buy any yarn from January 1 to May 30.  I will then reevaluate and see if I can go until October 30.  (I'm reserving the ability to buy yarn for Christmas presents.)
  •  Crochet blanket a la Attic24.  (With yarn I conveniently ordered last week, just before the implementation of Stash Smash.)

Sewing Goals
  • Create a wardrobe palette.  Hopefully, that will help more of my items work with each other.  
  • Items to make: 
    • lined skirt
    • white blouse
    • non-knit work dress for fall
    • start to consider thinking about maybe making pants?
  • make curtains for family room

It will be fun to revisit this list in the coming months and see what I accomplish and how my goals change!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Knitting Year in Review

I may be a little late to the party, but I still want to play.  Here's what came off the needles this year:

7 hats -- 2 baby, 5 adult
3 pairs mitts
3 cowls
2 pairs socks
10 shawls/shawletts
1 shrug
1 baby blanket
2 Danger monsters

3 baby/toddler sweaters
3 tees
2 adult vests
1 cardigan

Total: 38 Finished Objects! 

Final Thoughts
  • I went a little nuts with the shawls this year. I'd never made any before this year, and then once I started, I couldn't stop.  I was one shy of the "11 in 2011" thing.
  • I worked on gauge this year, and it paid off!  Three of my four sweaters fit very, very well.  The fourth sweater is too slacky.  I blame this on being a linen/cotton blend, but it could have been me over- or under-thinking the gauge. 
  • I learned to cable without a needle.  
  • I didn't know it before this year, but I super love lace knitting.
  • I didn't do any crochet this year!  What the what?