Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Crafty Pay it Forward: Part II

Okay, so I still haven't passed these along to their intended recipients, but everyone's been super busy, so I haven't had a chance to see them since about March.  I will finally put the things in the mail this week, though.  I promise.

For Terry, The Nemesis Socks:
 The pattern is by Susan Dittrich and was featured in Knitty Deep Fall 2010.  You can also download it for free on Ravelry.  I really enjoyed this pattern!  I started out rather ambitious and tried Eunny Jang's Bayerische Socks, but they're out of my league.  Size 0 needles and ~a million tiny cables.  I probably *could* have knit them, but they were extremely difficult and required more effort than I wanted to put into this project.  Sorry, Terry, but I wasn't looking to create masterpiece socks here.

Nemesis, however, was quite fun.  If you can read charts and you can knit and purl, you can knit these socks.  The hardest part was paying close attention to the chart and remembering my place.  A row counter definitely came in handy here.  It's a long chart, too, so I never got bored knitting it.  I might knit another pair of these for myself later!

The yarn, however, I did not enjoy as much.  It's Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fina, which I have used in the past to great effect, but found frustrating this time.  It was splitty, prone to tangling, and I had to use both wet and steam blocking--on socks!  The tangling was the worst part.  I had it wound all prettily into a yarn cake, but while I was pulling from the center, it collapsed into a knotted disaster that took an entire afternoon to untangle.  I will be steering clear in the future.

At least the color's pretty.  Hopefully Terry will like them.

For Jennifer, The Little Gems Mitts:
At first, I had no idea what to knit for her, but this came right after I finished that monster of a sweater, Venezia and I had a dozen leftover bits of Palette yarn--perfect for little mosaic mitts! (Yes, all the colors are Palette). The pattern is by Donna Kay and was featured in Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2007.  

These were a little bit harder than the Nemesis socks, but after Venezia, they were a piece of cake.  They look like intarsia, but there's never more than two colors per row, so you can strand away.  And if you don't like the look/feel/process of knitting all the fingers separately, you could also make them true fingerless mitts and knit that all as one piece.

I probably would not knit these again.  They're pretty cute and good for using up some ends of yarn, but there were a lot of ends to weave in for such a little project and it didn't use up hardly any of my leftover colors, just the gray.  I suppose you could fix that by only using one or two accent colors, but then what's the point?  There are way cuter fair isle patterns out there for mitts.  Good to try new things and use some of the patterns that are already in my library, though.  I should do that more, considering I've got roughly 500 patterns at my immediate disposal...

I do like the effect of all those blues in the gray background, however.  I hope Jennifer likes them as well!  Too bad it's about 80 degrees right now and she won't need them until November.  Oh well!  That's just one of the pitfalls of knitting year-round.

Good news: I finished knitting the Aeolian Shawl!  I plan to block it out tonight and maybe, if you're really really nice to me, I'll post some pictures of it blocking...



Friday, June 24, 2011

Green Cleaning

Have you heard of the website Pinterest? No?  You are missing out.  It is my #1 favorite new time-wasting website.  I spend more time there than Facebook now.  Shoot me an email or comment below and I'll send you an invite!

If you've never been there, it's like crafty girl porn: visual bookmarking.  Basically, you see something you like on the internet, pin the photo, link it to a "pinboard" on Pinterest and share it with everyone else on Pinterest.  You can "follow" other people/certain pinboards and have all their new pins show up in your newsfeed, like on Facebook.

I have gotten so many great home decor ideas, DIY tutorials, and delicious recipes from this website.  One recurring idea I've seen is various ways to make your home cleaning routine more sustainable and "green."  I decided to embrace this notion and throughout the month of June, I've been looking for ways to reduce the amount of waste and harmful chemicals in our house.

Pinterest came to my aid for the reduction of chemicals with these two tutorials:

Homemade Laundry Detergent: It really works!

This recipe only has 3 (really cheap and all-natural) ingredients and I still have a ton left over of two of them.  If you have a cheese grater, you can make laundry detergent.  I only use about a tablespoonful of detergent at a time and my laundry comes out smelling fresh and clean, naturally!

Household Cleaners:

Here are recipes for 4 different household cleaners: all purpose, antibacterial, grease cutter, and sink/tile cleaner made from all natural ingredients.  They use everyday cleaners like vinegar and baking soda with a couple of essential oils and Castille soap.  I haven't used the sink/tile cleaner yet, but the the other three, especially the all-purpose cleaner are working great!  No more yucky residues in my house!

Now for the knitting portion of this week's post:

I did not find Pinterest as helpful with the reduction of waste because, well, if it's not on Ravelry, it doesn't exist.  We're going to try to use fewer paper towels and clean with reusable, washable materials, like cotton dishcloths!

The following were all knit with Knit Picks new cotton line, Dishie: thick, absorbent cotton that is perfect for cleaning.  And for those who dread knitting with cotton, fear not!  While it's not quite as easy to knit as wool, it's spun super-tight for absorbancy and ease with knitting.  Plus the colors are bright and pretty.

Kitchen Towels by Patricia Lily:

Seed Stitch Dishcloth by Devin Joesting

I have been having great success with all of them.  It makes me feel so much better to toss dirty dishcloths in the washing machine, rather than the trash!  This led me to look for other disposables in our cleaning arsenal:

and Loop Stitch Reusable Duster by Sarah Burton

All of the above patterns are free, easy, and available through Ravelry for those so inclined.  However, this Swiffer Duster patten was the only one that gave me any trouble.  I'd never done loop stitch before (because where else would I use it?) and Ms. Burton's description of it was a little confusing to me.  It seemed like I was supposed to wrap the yarn back up and around my right thumb, which made no sense and nearly caused me to throw my knitting across the room.

It didn't help that she called it "Twised Loop Stitch" because when you Google Youtube tutorials for it, you get a different stitch entirely, one that looks more like this: 

rather than this:

If you search for tutorials on just Loop Stitch, you'll come up with something like this video, which helped me avoid a minor meltdown and figure out this pattern.  Ms. Burton's stitch is only twisted in that she knits into the back of the stitch, rather than twisting the loop around her finger, as in the first picture.

I have tried that duster out on our TV stand, which attracts dust like nothing I've ever seen, and it did a pretty good job.  I might just make another one some day :)

For next time, I'm working very hard on Mel's wedding shawl, but I'm getting up into 500+ stitch count, so I don't foresee finishing that too soon--unless I have a lot of downtime at my cousin's wedding this weekend!  Who knows, I may finally post those crafty pay-it-forward projects that are still sitting in my car (not my fault, I swear!).  

Hope you all are enjoying your first official week of summer!

Also, you should join Pinterest.  Seriously.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Thundercloud Cowl

Woohoo!  Hundredth post!!  Yeah!!

To celebrate my hundredth broadcast into the interwebz, I have a pretty little cowl to show you today.

The Thundercloud Cowl by Snowden Becker:

Cell phone pictures don't really do the yarn color justice.  You can see the beautiful undulating rows of eyelets, though.  Pretty, no?

The color looks more like this one from Knit Picks website "Fairy Tale":

 The yarn is a new line from Knit Picks, Aloft, a mohair/silk blend that is amazingly soft and light and has a lovely subtle sheen to it.  I don't knit in mohair very often, but when I do, I will absolutely come back to Aloft.  Soft, springy and honestly, really fun to work with.  A real delight for the fingers.

I loved the pattern, too.  Snowden Becker really did a great job with the smooth curving lace.  One major drawback is that the pattern wasn't that easy to memorize.  It meant that I didn't get bored with the pattern, since I didn't do as many repeats of it, but I had to keep the chart with me at all times.

My other issue was that the original version, available through Ms. Becker's website or Knit Picks, is a huge, loose cowl that one would have to wear around the shoulders or looped twice around the neck.  That was a little too much for me.  I only knit 4 of t he 8 pattern repeats and I think mine came out to just the right size--loose enough so it doesn't choke me, but close enough to my throat that it will keep me warm.

I think I would knit this again.  It would make a sweet Christmas gift for someone in a cool climate (i.e. not my in-laws).  The whole thing only took me a couple of weeks to knit from start to finish and I wasn't exactly being faithful to the project (I have been known to be a knitting slut...).  It certainly wasn't difficult for someone looking to try mohair or beginner plus lace for the first time.  Give it a try!

For next week, I'm cooking up a bit of a hippie post for you, so be prepared :)



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Leftovers Blanket

The day is finally here!  After 14 months of work and leftover bits from 34 different balls of yarn, mostly Palette, the Leftovers Blanket is complete!
That's 13 squares by 16 squares or 208 individually knit squares of sock weight  yarn.  You can see bits in there from just about all the fingering weight projects I've knit since around April 2010, including Autumn Rose, Venezia, Arisaig, Christmas Stockings, Ivy League Vest, and a number of others. 

I knit those balls of yarn down to their very last yards and sewed them all together into this blanket.  I didn't even have any extra squares--I had 208 on the nose! 

Now all that remains of my Palette stash is one half of the Asphalt Heather that I used for the icord border.  I had hoped it would finish that off, but I suppose kitties will be getting some updated cat toys instead.  Oh well!

I used a tutorial by Shelly Kang found here.  Her version called for knitting each new piece by picking up stitches from already existing pieces, but I preferred to knit each individually.  My way was more portable, but made for a lot more finishing at the end of the process--about a week's worth of sewing.  But now it's done, yay!  Here's a close up of the little mitred squares:
 My way also meant that my little diamonds don't all point in the same direction.  There really isn't a reason for this except that I was lazy and didn't think Branwen would care.  Should you decide to dive into this project and wanted to sew everything together at the end (not recommended on either count), there's no reason why you couldn't sew them all in the same direction. 

 In all it was a very easy project, but it was also majorly time consuming.  If you don't have an extensive collection of sock yarn bits, you should probably stay away.  However, it was great for using up some useless stash of mine and as a long-term project with no real deadline. 

My other big reason for knitting this blanket was as a distraction for Little Kitty.  For some reason I'll never understand, she loooves to knead handknit fabric.  This is a major problem for anything I might want to give away or wear later--no snags kthxbai. 

But now she has her own designated kneading blanket that she can enjoy without destroying more projects.  I've already found her kneading it a couple of times and she sure likes to lie on it.
She looks happy, right?  Enjoy it, Little Kitty!

Now that that crazy project is done, I can focus on my other WIPs, like Mel's shawl, a cowl for me, and more in my dishcloth series.  Next time, if I finally manage to give them away, I might have my crazy pay it forwards to share!

Car news: I have a new car!!  I decided to go with the Mazda3 and I'm already in love!  It's red and shiny and has all the new toys my Protege lacked (I mean, that thing didn't even have power windows!).  Very happy, yay!



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Royal Wedding: A Book Review

Sorry guys, I don't have any pretty new FOs to show you today.  I'm getting really, really close on that blanket.  I know it's been at 95% for ages, but I'm actually nearly done with sewing all the little pieces together and then I don't imagine the border will take me very long.  Little Kitty will get her new blankie very soon! 

I must admit that I'm not very close on the 4 (yeah) other projects I'm working on...Oh well.  You can check out my progress in the cool Ravelry widget I have going in the sidebar!

However, I do want to share some Royal Wedding geekery with you.  Now, I didn't get up at 5am to watch, but I did have a little viewing tea party with some friends.  We got dressed up, sipped champagne, and watched the new royal couple exchange vows in Westminster Abbey.  Now don't hate--I got to wear a pretty dress and use my wedding china that's been sitting in a box in my mother's attic for a year and a half.  Plus Kate and Pippa's dresses were totally drool-worthy.  There are pictures of our party somewhere, but I don't have them.  Sorry.

"What gives?" you must be saying.  "This is not knitting related!"  Wrong.  In my travels across the internet, I found this darling video of a knitted royal wedding party:

So cute.  I can't get over how adorable the queen and her little corgis are.  I had to find the patterns for these sweet little dolls.  And Lo, I found them.  This book by Fiona Goble arrived in my mailbox just last week:

I haven't knit any of the patterns yet, but even if you don't knit, this book is worth a read.  There are little stories and mini-biographies (okay, really mini) for each of the characters and in the back pocket is a cardboard cutout for recreating the scene on the balcony!  It has the Queen, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Harry, corgis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, footmen, and of course, the Royal Couple. The instructions are more detailed than any other knitting pattern I've ever seen, complete with suggestions for embellishments, like flowers, sequins, and lace.

The only problem is that the book was written before the wedding took place, so if I do knit anything in there, I will have to make some costume adjustments and add Pippa and the grumpy bridesmaids!  I wouldn't say it's the best $12 I ever spent, but totally worth it--well written and utterly adorable!

House update: we're putting house hunting on the back burner for a little while.  My job isn't looking as secure as it could be, my car needs replacing, and we want to be able to pay for Walker's schooling out of pocket.  We'll still look for great opportunities, but until Walker gets his CPA (projected for January 2013), we aren't going to look very hard.  However, this does mean that yours truly gets a pretty new car.  I haven't made any solid decisions yet, but by my next post, I might have a nice new ride!

Something pretty for you next time, I promise!