Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Selfish Knitting

I know I said I was going to post about the Wilkes girls' Christmas sweaters, but on the off chance that my mother checks in before then, I won't post them until after Christmas.  I want her to be surprised!  I'll have some Christmas ornaments to show you next week after my exchange recipient receives them.

Speaking of Christmas, new look!  Do you think it's too dark/hard to read?  Let me know and I'll fix it.  I was just noodling around with it the other night and thought it looked dramatic with that star.  Now that Thanksgiving is over, I'm all excited about showing my Christmas spirit wherever I can. :)  I'm watching Rudolph as I type this.  We've even got a tree this year, even if it's currently sitting in my parents' garage waiting for us to have the time to set it up...

Speaking of Thanksgiving, Walker and I just got back from a lovely visit with his family in Athens, GA.  It was sooo relaxing to be able to spend some time with his family and not worry about work or the laundry or anything, really.  They were all so friendly and welcoming and the food, ohmygoodness.  There were THREE pumpkin desserts (cheesecake, pumpkin roll, and pumpkin bread) plus all the other savory goodies Walker's mother made us.  It was heaven.  I am glad to be home, though.  Our kitties let us know just how much they missed us the last couple of days.  It's nice to be missed, even if by furry critters, but you all know how much I love our furry critters.

And since we didn't have hardly any responsibilities while we were away, I had plenty of time to get some knitting done.  I meant to bring the materials to make Walker's replacement argyle socks, but I forgot the gray accent color, which meant I just had to work on some selfish projects for myself--oops. :)  I promise I will have his socks done before Christmas (they're the only project I have left), but now I have a lovely new hat and pair of gloves!

I started by delving into my Palette stash again, this time the Delta and Cream.  I really love a blue and white combination and the Selbu Modern Hat was just the pattern to show them off:

Here it is just barely streetching over the recommended 10" plate.  It was a little too snug before blocking and now it fits over my ears with just a little bit of ease.  It looks a lot harder than it really was.  It's a straight-up fair isle pattern with the longest floats at 7 stitches.  The only thing that (I thought) made it difficult was working the initial ribbing on teeny tiny size 0 needles.  I imagine you could go up a couple of needle sizes or even yarn weight for a slightly slouchier hat without so much blocking and that would make the pattern a little easier.  None of the decreases are particularly difficult.  You just need to be able to read a chart and to strand in the round (way easier than working stranding flat).  The pattern is free and it only required about half a ball of each color of Palette. Give it a try and you might surprise yourself!

My other project over the break was a much-needed pair of thick gloves.  My stranded ones just don't cut it for a cold Maine morning.  What better yarn than Knit Picks City Tweed?  Not only is it beautiful, but it's incredibly soft and toasty enough for the coldest mornings.  The following color is "tarantella."

The pattern is Ringwood by Rebecca Blair and featured in Knitty Deep Fall 2010.  Lately I've been a little disappointed with Knitty's patterns--they've either been a little too boring or they looked a little too "homespun."  Ringwood is just the right amount of classic pattern with some interesting details, like the button cuff.  I've been wearing them to work every morning since we got back and haven't even felt the frost I had to scrape off the car (boo).  I would definitely make these again. 

My only caveat is to check your gauge in the Ringwood pattern before you start.  I thought my stockinette swatch would be enough, but my first attempt on the recommended needles turned out much too big for my dainty hands and I had to rip back to the cuff.  I ended up using needles two sizes smaller than the recommended size. 

Yikes, this is getting a little long.  More Christmas projects/decorating next time. 

What are you doing to prepare for the season?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bad Sewing, Good Knits

I'm almost done with my Christmas gifts, yaaay!  I only have the collar left on Mom's cardigan and I am allll done with Christmas knitting!  After that, it's just edible gifts and figuring out what on Earth Walker wants (grumble).  All of the Christmas ornaments are done, all of the little knitted accessories are done.  I am way ahead of the game.

One of the knitted accessories is a pair of Norwegian-style gloves for one of my coworkers:

The pattern is Anemor 12 from Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitted Tradition by Terri Shea.  I absolutely love this book.  If you scroll back through this blog, you'll see that I've used it a number of times.  There are just so many beautiful gloves and mittens in there!  This particular design features a lovely north start pattern on the hand and a traditional geometric pattern on the palm:

I used my extensive store of Palette for these, Grass and Celadon this time.  I used about 3/4 of the ball of Grass, but only about 1/2 a ball of the Celadon.  If you've got some spare sock weight yarn lying around, stranded gloves are a great way to use them up.  Despite how complicated they look, these gloves knit up really really fast.  Impressive, but much easier than they look.  That could be because I was so in love with the pattern that I couldn't wait to knit the next round.  What a gorgeous (and useful!) knitting tradition!  Hopefully, Mel will agree...

For my other coworker, I attempted to make my first sewn Christmas present.  It came out...tolerably.  Knit Picks seduced me with their project bag sewing kits that included fabric with patterns that resemble knit fabric--really cute.  They still have some for sale if you're so inclined.

I started nice and easy with the reversible project bags.  They were simple enough that my lack of sewing skill went unnoticed and they are currently residing in my knitting basket--success!

However, I then made the leap from "easy" project bag to "intermediate" knitting needle roll.  The finished result is functional, but not entirely straight.  Or pretty.
Okay, the outside looks fine.  Everything is facing the same way and the fact that I substituted a snap for a button goes unnoticed (buttonholes scare me a little).
But then you open 'er up and the crookedness becomes more apparent.
See Exhibit A:
and Exhibit B:
Yuck.  Seems I have a little more practice to do before I try another one of these.  Or I need to do a better job of matching the tread color to the fabric...  I didn't even do the top stitching around the edges because I knew it was going to be ugly.

Honestly, I think this pattern/tutorial/whatever you call sewing kits is an excellent idea for a gift to a knitter--in practiced hands.  Seems I need to go back to project bags for a little while before I tackle those slipcovers (dun dun dun!).

I really have myself stressed out over those things.  I was utterly defeated by Joann Fabric the other day.  I went in with measurement figures for my couch and I was all ready to select the right fabric, but then I started second guessing myself.  I asked the nice saleslady for her advice on the matter, but felt like all the questions coming out of my mouth were so stupid that I left the store without buying anything.  Pathetic. 

I later rallied my courage and ordered some lovely blue fabric online and it should be arriving at my door some time this week.  I will probably be tackling this project after we get back from GA for Thanksgiving.  There are still some unfinished gifts that need finishing between now and then and the cheapskate in me wants to pay as little for shipping as possible :).  Then I might finally post some of the other redecorating efforts I've been working on at home--just want to give you the full effect at once!

Next time: Wilkes Christmas Sweaters



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Christmas Ornaments

In the grand tradition of overreaching one's abilities for Christmas gifts, I am trying to knit little ornaments for as many people as possible.  If I succeed, I will be keeping the gift budget low and using up a significant amount of my Palette stash (really, it's absurd), but I will also be using up a significant amount of my time and sanity.  I will truly succeed if I have it all done by Thanksgiving.  Did you ever know me not to be an overachiever? :)

I'm a little over halfway done now and I have the stocking pattern mostly memorized, so hopefully it'll go a little faster now.  Anyway, here's what I have so far:

Monogrammed Christmas Stockings

I found this pattern on Ravelry as Hogwarts Mini House Sock Ornaments.  That pattern has you knit the whole stocking and then embroider the letters in duplicate stitch.  No thanks.  I knit them in the pattern using a chart from ChemKnits alphabet chart compilation and added some designs from this stocking pattern to the back (not shown).  For those who don't like stranding, duplicate stitch may be for you, but I really hate everything to do with finishing, so stranding was much easier for me.  I still have a whole mess of these little babies to make, but I am really happy with the ones I've finished so far!

The rest of the following stocking patterns can be found in the Knit Picks Holiday section.  There are also patterns there for a yeti and a pickle ornament if those strike your fancy.

 And for the non-knit worthy, lumps of coal:

As far as the rest of my Christmas knitting goes, I only have Mom's cardigan left.  It's a bit of a labor-intensive project, but it is coming along beautifully!  I think I did a better job this year of sorting the knit worthy and the non-knit worthy when it comes to big projects, so apart from little ornaments, everyone else will be will be getting something either store-bought or edible.  No point in knitting something nice for someone who won't appreciate it or who will accidentally felt it in the wash.

Plus, I can sooner get back to some selfish knitting for me :) (I've got some really gorgeous things in mind, too)

Next time: finished co-worker gifts.