Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Brief Note

Dear Mama Nat (aka Mother Nature)--


I get it. You tried. You made the newscasters act like things were about to get crazy, that roads were about to be slick, and that we should all stock up for the weekend.


Then you came for a brief visit overnight and were gone by early morning. On a Saturday. No chance for an early-out/late-in for work.


Now, I'm a reasonable person. I don't expect you to deliver another winter like last year every year (though I wouldn't complain--I enjoyed it all until about mid-March when it got a little tiresome).


But you can do better than this. I'll tell you what I'd like over the next few days. I'd like the mailman to get here with either my yarn or my new knitting needles so I can get on with the stitchery. And then I'd like you to do something with enough vigor to get me out of work on Tuesday.


And then you can go back to relaxing, okay? I just want one good storm. Deal?

Thanks in advance,
Bee

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Sweater Is No Longer Trying to Swallow Me Whole

On Christmas Eve afternoon I started a sweater. It felt like just the right time--later afternoon, Christmas movies on, tea nearby, a few cookies...


This is the Three Rectangles-Two Triangles Easy Knit Sweater Jacket from Very Pink. It uses a mock rib stitch that gives this fabulous texture on both sides. This is what is supposed to be the right side--


--but I think this could just as easily be the right side if you felt so inclined:


I opted for the first picture to be my right side as I can imagine myself getting those chunky purl bumps caught and pulled on everything. I spent a huge amount of Christmas vacation settled on the couch with bottomless mugs of tea and endless handfuls of these yummo chocolate covered pecan brittle bites, knitting and purling away.


I used Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky in 'Fisherman' for this sweater, and I love the color and the texture it gives. It's one of those perfect winter colors that goes so well with everything.

I made the large size either completely overestimating the size of my bust or underestimating the amount of positive ease in this sweater (or, most likely, both). This sweater came out quite large and boxy as there is no shaping involved. It came out of the dryer so soft and squishy and cozy, and was one of the nicest sweater-seaming jobs I have ever done that I felt so stupid for making something way too large for a whole football team to wrap up in at once. I had woven in my ends nice and neat and couldn't find them again to make unraveling a consideration. I didn't want this to go to waste as I paid a bit for the yarn. So I put this aside to see what would happen. I mentioned at the end of this post that I was considering knitting up a belt, but there was so much fabric that a belt would have looked odd.

I didn't take a before shot, but you can imagine me looking like I was attacked by an afghan and lost the battle. But after some puttering about and consulting with one of my design executives (aka my mother) I knew what to do. I had to remove some of the bulk under the arms by pulling the extra fabric towards the front (as it was sticking out in the back in an odd way, too), so I created a bit of a false lapel and sewed it in place, and added some buttons for a bit of visual interest.


You can see how it lays nice and flat over my rump now. It is super hard to take a clear shot of yourself at a weird angle. I really need to get one of those remote timer thingees.


If I pull it all towards the front it meets up with the edges nice and flush. If I leave it more relaxed it opens to about here:


It was in the twenties here on Saturday and I threw on a scarf and gloves and wore this out to give it a whirl. It is so warm and cozy but without that restrictive feeling that a regular coat has. I keep feeling the urge to put my hands in the non-existent pockets, but I'll have to get over that. I know if I add pockets to this I'll have them stretched and distorted in no time. A lot of the bulk is gone from under the arms, and it's not so boxy looking. If I had made a smaller size from the beginning I wouldn't have had any issues, but I don't think this is too bad of a fix to not waste the yarn or the work.


The buttons looks like old antiqued wood, but they're plastic (washability is key around here). They're totally non-functional and I might need to move them around a little bit, or take one or two off, but they're good enough for now. And since I'm lazy in odd ways they'll probably stay that way.


I swear I can bench press a truck after making this thing as it's quite heavy. It was a fair bit of work, a little bit of money for the yarn, and a slight amount of frustration at the end, but it was very worth it as I really love the finished project. Apparently putting it aside and waiting for inspiration was key. Usually I'd get mad and shove it in a corner and sulk. Could it be I have matured? Geez, I hope not.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sticks and Stitches

Hello there! Apologies for my absence here, but after my last post I'm sure you understand. Things have been a little stressful and a lot busy, but life is moving along as it tends to do, without a care that you might need to stop and gather your thoughts before time marches on again. Thank you all so much for your kind words. And thanks to those of you who have made donations (I feel like that should say 'whom' and not 'who' but I also feel like that would be awkward). I've started receiving some packages in the mail today to be part of our raffle at the benefit we're planning, and they're delightful. I'm so touched, truly. The internet can be a wonderful place :)

I cannot believe it but I have not touched my sewing machine in about a month. I don't have a pile of things to do that I'm ignoring, I'm just not motivated or inspired right now. Plus, it has been bitterly cold here, and it feels more right to be cuddled on the sofa knitting than sitting in the cold dining room sewing. I finished the sweater I was working on. A sweater coat, actually. It looks really nice. The thing is...it's pretty dang big. I definitely should have made it one size down. I don't want to share yet, as I think if I add a belt to it it'll look much better, like it has a little shape, so I'm going to do that and then show you.

I have become really gung-ho about being a better knitter, for some reason. There are certain things I'd like to make (hats and socks, mostly) that require knitting in the round and double-pointed needles and magic loops and really scary sounding things. But you never get good at something if you don't try, so I made a bit of a purchase that looks like a splurge but totally isn't to help me on my way.


That there is fifteen sets of DPNs ranging in size from 0 to 15. I found a set of them on Amazon for a great price (considering how I'm probably not going to use them that frequently) and they arrived today. They feel nice and smooth and not just like a few pencil-sharpened sticks. This is the largest next to the smallest:


I have no idea what you'd ever use those teeny little things for. I swear dry spaghetti is thicker than them. The others look like telephone poles next to them.


Look how they printed those teeny little numbers on there. Sorry, I know they're wooden sticks but the skinny little ones are just crazy skinny little. If I had bought all of these needle sets individually I'd have spent a small fortune on them. I'm hoping they hold up. You can find them here. Needles crossed they're not a disappointment.

I've been working on a shrug the past few evenings. I had bought a ton of silvery gray yarn with the intention of making a sweater, but I've back-burnered it in favor of some quicker projects that don't take weeks and weeks to do. So I found this interesting shrug on the Lion Brand website and am making that instead. It's basically a large rectangle you fold and sew into a shrug.


It was supposed to be single crochet, but I didn't like the fabric I was creating so I switched to a half double and I'm in love. It's just row after row of hdc through the back loop, but it gives an amazing texture that's soft and stretchy without being too open or loose. Which makes the little bit of boredom worth it, because it's a visual and tactile treat.


I got a big box of yarn for Christmas and I've picked out what I'm doing for my next afghan. I tried to get a good picture of the colors but it's not happening in lamplight. I ordered a few more colors I decided I needed to have so when they get here I'll show and tell everything. And then we'll see how long it takes that to get going.

Not much of a post tonight, I know. With a lack of made things to share I'm feeling a little uninspired to write right now. I think I need to just whack into some fabric and go for it. That always seems to help. Starting is always the hardest part.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Hardest Post I've Ever Written

Ugh. I don't want to write this but I need to. It's one of those things where you keep thinking you don't want to say anything, but you feel like you've come to know people and you should. Plus if you keep using 'life' as an excuse for neglecting your space then maybe you should say what 'life' is... OK, here goes.

My sister Rachel (A-train's mamma) has cancer. Do you know how hard that is to say? Probably not as hard as that day she sat in the doctor's office and heard it herself (PROBably not...I have a flair for understatement), but still. Things have been a whirlwind and standing still all at the same time. The day we found out I had Z-man out to dinner when my other sister called me, and spent the rest of the night trying not to be sick in front of him (I was watching him while my brother was at work and everyone else was at my sister's house). We had all resolved not to say anything to anyone until we had all the info. That's quite a thing to keep from people. But the word's out and people know, and I figured I'd share since I'm the worst secret-keeper since Rubeus Hagrid.

So, it's Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and she, thanking-all-things-holy, has a really good prognosis. She still has to undergo chemo and all of the associated BS, but I feel really positive that she'll be A-OK. We all do. But here's the thing. You know how health insurance in this country is in that special place of suckitude, as costs rise and employers want to offer it but affordability becomes a problem? So, yeahhhh.....there are going to be some big bills coming her way.

In addition to a fundraising event my cousins have in the works, they've also set up an online funding event here at GoFundMe. Every single teeny bit helps as they all add up to a big bit of something (kind of like how all those stolen calories of cookies and candy here and there added up to my big butt, hahahaha). Anyway, if you feel so inclined to donate the link is right there and I'd be grateful more than you can imagine. If you'd like to donate something for us to raffle off at the fundraiser I'm not going to turn that down, either. Just leave a comment with your email address (if it's not linked to your account) and we'll figure it out. If you can't do either (which, believe me, is fine and understandable--I'm not always so inclined to do such things, either, for what is essentially a stranger--no matter how much we bond over fabric and yarn) happy thoughts and prayers are also willingly accepted.

I don't want to have this be the world's biggest downer of a post. So I'm going to share with you this video my sister Alicia took on Christmas. A-train is giving some very sage advice to my mom, who assures him she understands. Enjoy.

video

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Uncropped Tale of a Cropped Cardigan

Ahoy ahoy! How's your year going so far? I can tell you right now that mine is simply smashing. Starting on the first itself, I woke up with a stiff neck that has yet to twenty-three skidoo. I got foundation on my most perfect white shirt (and if you've ever done that you'll know it's the most impossible sort of stain to get out). And finally, I decided to break my camera. I wanted to take pictures of the sweater you're about to see, and I don't even know what happened but it hit the floor and is nice and kerplooey (the very nice man at the camera repair shop suggested not fixing it but buying a new one as the cost/worth ration wasn't in my favor). I managed to score a very sweet deal on a new camera with which I'm on a learning curve as it's a different brand, but so far I dig it, man. OK, enough about me. Let's get on to the whole point of this post, and that's my sweater. Which is still about me, but different.

OK--let's start off with how I look when I'm slightly nauseated because I just broke one of my favorite things.


A few notes: I'm in the spare room, hence the interesting...decor. Two, there is nothing on my shirt in the tummy area--I have no idea why it looks like I just dropped a powdered doughnut on myself. And third--these pictures are not so hot as I broke my good camera (in case I forgot to mention it).

This pattern is a Lion Brand free pattern (you just need to register with the site) and the yarn is Lion Brand Wool Ease in Chestnut Heather. I'm not fond of it with the black but about half an hour prior to these photos was the aforementioned makeup mishap. I would never have considered making this sweater by viewing it on the LB site, but I saw on their blog a version that I fell in love with. The video tutorial makes everything so much easier to do nicely, and explains how to get a more customized length (I don't do cropped as I feel like a linebacker busting out of their clothes). 

This is a top-down knit raglan cardigan--that made me nervous but it is so stinkin' easy it's crazy. The raglan increases are yarn overs, and give these delightful 'holes' as a design feature.


They're on the back, as well. I did have to rip back a little when I messed up that part as it would have looked terrible in the finished product if they didn't line up.


The only part that made me very nervous was the pick-up-and-knit button bands. The tutorial certainly helped, but it took me forever to do it, just the same. I did manage to pick up a nice straight line, though--


It even looks nice and neat on the inside:


Even with lengthening the sleeves a few inches and the sweater itself by several this was still a pretty quick project. I've never before worn a short-sleeved sweater so it's something I have to get used to (I keep feeling the urge to pull my sleeves down). But it's warm and not heavy or bulky or anything. There is only one thing that bugs me:


See that kind of ripple at the neck? I did block this sweater, so I have no idea why it's there. All I can think of it is that it's the ribbing pulling a little bit. Any knitters out there have any idea on the why and the how to get rid of it? Again we're ignoring whatever is on my shirt (I think it might be a mirror smudge). 

I think I'm on the wane in my sweater knitting obsession. I'm almost finished a sweater jacket, and then I think it will be small projects after that. I got a big box of yarn for Christmas and I can't wait to turn it into an afghan. My sister wants a slouchy hat. And I've got to find a sewing project to get my motivation going again. I don't know how people who never have anything to do can stand it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In With the New

Well, here we are on the last day of the year (but if you live on the other side of the world I guess you're on your first day of the new year). I find myself not dreading the passage of another year, which is extremely unusual for me. I am usually so very much in love with December and all things Christmassy that I could literally cry when faced with the end of it all. Not so much this year. December was a bit of a crazy month, and while I normally look forward to my time off of work I find myself a bit stir-crazy this year and not dreading going back at all. I have no idea what that is all about...

I realized this afternoon that I had picked up a few bits here and there that I never shared with you. I'm a big fan of folk art and almost can't help myself when faced with it for purchase (and only do so when the cost is really prohibitive). So here are a few acquisitions that didn't break the bank (but at the same time leave people asking "Did you really need that/another one?"

I told myself I was not buying more nesting dolls. And then promptly forgot about that promise. There was something about the colors of this set that drew me in.

This one I wanted purely for the sweet little faces. And because it seemed like a more economical choice than the $130 alpaca shawl that was hanging near it....

Again with the sweet little face. And the cute teeny knitting. The vendor must have thought I was half-gone as I spotted her, walked up, pointed at it and said "I want that." Not "How much is this?" or anything a normal person would say, but one step away from walking up and taking it. I couldn't help it. I was excited.

I certainly do not need a thermometer/barometer Bavarian chalet. But I neeeeeeeeded it. Mostly because of the deer and the mushroom.

This last bit I shared a snippet of on Instagram this morning. Every year my grandma insists on sending us all a little bit of money, no matter how much you plead with her to just spend it on herself. Usually I cash the check and spend it on everyday things. But this year I thought "I am going to Joann's and see what I can find for me." And I found this:


It's a flower loom set. Ages and ages and a few moons ago my mother made oodles of loomed flowers for her first Christmas tree. Every year, when decorating the tree, I examine them and say "I can't figure out how you made these..." This year she decided to pipe up with "Oh, I used a little round loom." So when I saw this on the peg at Joann's I snatched it up and marched to the cashier. My mother saw it and said "Yeah, it was pretty much like that." So this morning I used up some scrap yarn from a questionable bird ornament I crocheted and got the process down.


There are a few different ways to darn the centers securely. The white one was my first attempt--one go-around with the yarn makes a very open flower. The pure red was my second attempt going around twice. My backstitching in white was a hack job so it's not too tidy. For the red and white one I used the smallest circle, and used two strands held together. I then followed the directions for how to backstitch these and it came out just right (fancy that--reading the directions...). Good thing I ran out of yarn at that point because once you get into the swing they're kind of addictive. You can use yarn, ribbon, raffia, I guess any long bit that can be wrapped around the loom.

So that's that for now. I want to wish you all a very happy new year! Just think of it--a whole year's worth of days spreads before us, with no mistakes in it yet...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Merry

Is it really Christmas? What happened to December? I feel like I've missed it. I wait all year for it and it blew right by me. Ah, well. The beauty of it is that it comes every year, right?

I've been a bit naughty as far as blogging goes--there has just been so much going on and then the general Christmassing that must be done that I haven't really made anything or done anything worth sharing. Work was crazy for a few weeks, so yesterday I practically skipped out the door, not to return until next year, and have been getting my relaxing on.

This morning my big plan was to weave in the ends on my finished sweater (once it's washed and blocked I'll share--I love the details on it!).


Then there was an unwrapping frenzy...followed by a rewrapping frenzy. Don't worry, we found the "missing" gift, hahahaha.


My dad's new computer decided to spontaneously turn on this narration feature, so every time he did something this annoying "guy" would talk about it. Finally figured that out...


Isn't she sweet? At our work Christmas party one of my co-workers said "I have something for you" and she dropped this off at my desk the next day. Don't you just love when people think of you for no reason other than that they know you love something?


I've been feeling a little less...elfish than usual. The lights, the scents, the songs, have just not been doing it for me this year. Everything has seemed so busy that I've been missing out on quiet moments.


But right now the stockings are hung, Elf is on, and I've got some cozy knitting on the needles. I've finally got my quiet. So I wanted to take a moment and wish you all a merry Christmas. Amidst the frenzy the beauty of it all can escape us, but if you take a moment and really look for it, it's there. The glow of a candle, good will in a stranger's smile, the chills you get when a certain song is sung a certain way during Christmas mass. So step back, take in the madness and the merriment and revel in it, no matter how imperfect it may all seem.


Like my pizza-taco-road kill Scandi 'bird' that I crocheted. The sad part is that it does look just like the picture. But I love it just the same.

Merry Christmas!


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