Thursday, December 28, 2006

To Macman From Wool Winder

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This is the Christmas gift I began knitting in October for my son, Matt. He is the computer geek in our family and is a big fan of Macs so I knew this design would be perfect for him. I didn't see it coming, but this hat has been one challenge after another.

It all began with an unsuccessful search for superwash wool in black and white. Matt does his own laundry now and I wanted this easy care feature to prevent accidental felting. I decided handwash wool would be fine when I couldn't find what I was looking for. After all, how many college students think to wash their hats anyway?

I knitted up a hat and promptly ripped it out. I was too short and I didn't like the gauge.

My second attempt was better. I went down a needle size. The gauge was good, the length was right, but the circumference was a little loose on my head. I was hopeful that it would fit Matt though, so I went ahead and added the duplicate stitching. It was only after I took the picture above, that I realized the apple motif didn't exactly match the chart. I let the hat sit a few days to see if I could live with it. I couldn't, so I reworked the motif.

On Christmas day, Matt opened his gift. He liked it, but yes, it was a little too big. No problem, I thought, it will shrink when washed. I threw it in the wash and watched it carefully. The hat shrunk in length and expanded in width. The circumference increased by at least two inches. Very strange.

Back to square one. Today I went shopping for more black and white wool. This time I found superwash! I'm going to take this as a sign that this next (and hopefully last) attempt will be a breeze. Wish me luck. Pattern details when I get it right.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A New Toy Under The Tree

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Thanks to my wonderful husband, I am now the proud owner of spinning wheel! It's The Sonata made by Kromski. This wheel folds down and packs away in a padded bag which makes it perfect for traveling or storage. It is constructed from European alder and birch. The double treadle, the folding feature and the beautiful turned wood details are what convinced me that this was the wheel I wanted. The price was a factor too. I thought it was reasonably priced when compared to other similar wheels. The Woolery had the best deal for the wheel and bag combined, offering 50% off the bag when purchased together.

I've spent all day getting to know this wheel. My first attempt at spinning was a bit awkward. In the beginning I was thinking too much--trying to duplicate the techniques I'd read about for drafting. It wasn't working well, so I decided to handle the fiber in whatever way felt natural. Things began to fall into place after that and I got the hang of how the fibers should slip by one another. Eventually my hands and brain began to work together and yarn filled the spool. I haven't taken pictures of this yarn yet so I'll try to describe it: It's single ply, natural color merino, over twisted in some places, under twisted in others, with short stretches of "hey, that's pretty good". My first instinct is to call it ugly, but I think primitive sounds better, don't you?

Learning to spin is going to be a different experience for me than learning to knit. I don't think it's going to be as easy, but with practice, patience and private instruction I'm going to figure it out and have fun in the process.

Friday, December 22, 2006

That Looks Better

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Last night we decorated the tree. Our tradition has always been to do this as a family. Getting everyone together on a night that we didn't have other things to do was a challenge this year, but it was worth waiting for. Matt's girlfriend, Barbara, was even able to be here. We shared a nice supper, trimmed the tree, then sat around enjoying our time together. Matt played his guitar and John joined in on the mandolin.

Our tree is decorated with a hodgepodge of ornaments: a felt bag filled with balsam needles sewn together by John's mother, star burst ornaments made from the spiny fruit of a sweet gum tree, a bendy Santa toy that the kids creatively hang every year, ice skates crafted from felt and paperclips, dollar store finds that look like antique ornaments and peppermint candy canes that can be picked off and eaten at any time. The oldest thing on the tree though is the angel on top. It was given to me on my first Christmas forty-six years ago. It is worn and ragged now, but holds memories of Christmases when I was just a little girl and it topped our family tree then.

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And though I didn't plan on knitting gifts for Christmas, I ended up making a few. Here is one that is safe to show.

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The pattern for this set is in the book Felted Knits. The oven mitt is knitted from Jazz by Artful Yarns (50% alpaca, 50% wool). It's been in my stash for a couple of years. The dark blue yarn is White Buffalo. John has pronounced this oven mitt and trivet "the coolest thing you've ever made". A free pattern for a similar mitt can be found here (for the pdf file and picture, be sure to click the link at the top the pattern).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

At Least There Are Presents

The tree is not decorated yet, but most of the presents are wrapped. Here's a little gift I put together for my neighbor.

Gingerbread Coffee Creamer and Felted Coasters

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Jean shared the recipe for this tasty creamer on her blog recently. I decided to try it and I really enjoyed the spicy flavor. I used it in a cup of coffee, but it can also be added to hot tea. If you like your coffee or tea extra sweet, you will probably want to add more sugar. I liked it just the way it is.

The coasters were knitted from a pattern in Felted Knits. They are worked on circular needles back and forth in garter stitch and then stitches are picked up all around for the border which is also worked in garter stitch.

You can find a free pattern for felted coasters here. They are round instead of square and worked in stockinette stitch.

These coasters are a great way to use up leftover bits of yarn. Also, you might consider knitting one as a test swatch for a larger felted project. Not only will you get a good idea of how well the yarn will felt, you will also have a finished object to add to your list.

Monday, December 18, 2006

No Tree Over $35.00... matter what the tag says.

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The one advantage to waiting until the week before Christmas to buy a tree is that you can usually find a good deal. This year, because we've been traveling so much, we had no choice but to wait. Our family tradition is to decorate the tree together, so that won't happen until John returns home from his business trip. I suppose it wouldn't be a good idea to leave it undecorated, though I'm tempted to.

Recently at a party we were asked to share a favorite Christmas memory with everyone. We immediately thought of our first Christmas together as a married couple. We were poor college students then and couldn't justify blowing the budget on a tree until we were sure John would be employeed after graduation. The job offer came and we celebrated by shopping for a tree. With only $20 to spend, it was a challenge to find a fir tree (Scotch Pine would not satisfy my Vermont husband) that we could afford in South Texas. We finally found a beautiful tree with only one flaw--the top 1/3 of the tree was broken off! To balance out the missing top, I bought a large plastic doll with golden hair at the dollar store and transformed it into an angel. The only real money we spent on decorating the tree was for the lights. What a sight that tree was! Yet, it will always be our favorite.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Simple Socks

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Pattern: Basic stockinette sock worked on 64 stitches with short row heels and toes.
Short row socks have become my favorite to knit. I use the technique described by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts in her book Simple Socks Plain and Fancy.

Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Multiringel 80% New Wool, 20% Polymid
I bought this yarn at the Stitchin' Post in Saratoga Springs, New York. This shop was a jumble of yarn. I don't think the owner ever threw anything out. Bags of yarn were stuffed in every spare inch of space. I often had to squeeze around the shelves and step over things. The shopping experience could best be described as a treasure hunt. If you dig long enough you will find a treasure to bring home.

Color: 5030
The colors in this yarn are rose, mauve, dark green and dark brown. There was something about this combination that caught my eye, though I wouldn't say this is a color I would normally gravitate to. I love the way it knitted up.

Needles: US 1 double points
Some people like double points and some don't. I'm definitely a fan. In fact, they are my favorite needles to use! I've recently started using Crystal Palace 6 inch bamboo needles for socks. I like the finish and sharp points on this brand. For other knitting in the round I use Brittany needles in a longer length.

Start to Finish: 10/6/06-12/12/06
These socks have been my travel knitting for the last couple of months. Most of the stitches have been knitted in planes and hotel rooms. The first sock was cast on in Salt Lake City and was knitted on in Georgia, Florida, a little bit at home in Texas and then completed in Virginia. I cast on for the second sock at the airport in Maryland just last Friday and finished it today in Salt Lake City--full circle. A new pair of socks will be cast on later today because I'll need some knitting for the flight home tomorrow. The next pair will be for John.

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The weather here in Salt Lake City hasn't been the best. The weatherman describes it as unsettled. We arrived on Sunday afternoon early enough to beat the snow. It snowed that evening and there was a little accumulation left Monday morning. It was a treat for this southern girl. Since then, it's been overcast most of the time, sometimes to point of obscuring the view of the mountains. I ventured out yesterday to visit Black Sheep Wool Co. and today I drove over to Three Wishes Fiber Arts. A little fiber shopping is a sure way to brighten any day. Details later.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Knit When You Can

Once again I'm back to knitting in airports and on airplanes. I'm tagging along with John this week. We flew to Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday, rented a car and have worked our way up to Charlottesville, Virginia. This trip has been work related and there has been little time for sightseeing, knitting or photography. There has been lots of time to talk as we drive and I've been enjoying that. Tomorrow (Friday) we fly home from Baltimore, Maryland. Then Sunday we fly to Salt Lake City, Utah. It's a whirlwind tour!

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My travel knitting is usually a pair of socks, though in this picture (taken on our last trip) I'm working on a hand mitt. It was finished in time to be included as part of a "pamper yourself" birthday gift for our daughter.

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Pattern Book: Heirloom Knitter Heavenly Cotton Soap Socks and More
Yarn: Rowan 4 ply cotton
Needles: US 2 16" circular and US 2 dpns

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Sewing It Up

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I always try to include some sewn blankets with my knitted donations for The Preemie Project. I spent most of the day cutting and sewing ten small (20"x20") blankets for the December babies.

These blankets are simple to make:

Cut two pieces of fabric one inch larger than you want the finished blanket to be. Sew together, right sides facing, leaving an opening large enough to turn the blanket right side out. Finish with some top stitching. I used a decorative scallop satin stitch.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Second Verse, Same As The First

Except this one is blue.

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Pattern: Sleeper Sack
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Dreambaby D.K.
Needles: US 3
Size: Less than 1 lb. (chest circumference: 8", length: 11")

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This set took about ten hours to make and is my last item for Knit Unto Others. It's been a productive two weeks. Items made for KUO and The Preemie Project include eight preemie sized Santa hats with matching booties and two tiny bereavement sets for a total of forty-four hours of knitting.

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