Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Gift from Aquiles

We are having a good visit with Matt and Carly. It's the first time we've seen them since they went on a mission trip to Mexico at Spring Break and of course, we've been asking lots of questions about their experience.

The Edmond Church of Christ took over 200 people, many of them OC college students, to the Aquiles Serdan Valley to serve the church there and the people living in Aquiles and surrounding villages. Just thinking about the logistics of getting everyone there is mind boggling. The group drove down from Oklahoma in rented vans, bringing with them food for the week, water, tents and teaching materials.

They set up their tent city in Aquiles. From what I hear, this is a remote village in a mountain valley. The people that live there are subsistence farmers. They have very little compared to us. In fact, they just got electricity about three years ago, but it is unreliable at best.

The group from Edmond was able to serve the people in a variety of ways: construction projects, painting, dentistry, insect extermination and Bible teaching. The people were very appreciative of all the good work done, but it was the workers that received the greatest gift from serving.

One of the highlights of the trip for Matt and Carly was the day they hiked two hours to a village on the top of the mountain and helped to conduct a Vacation Bible School for the children. A guide led the way to the village and a burro was used to carry teaching materials and craft supplies that would be needed.

On the night before the group was to leave Mexico, the local ladies brought out their needlework and offered it for sale. Matt and Carly selected a beautiful crocheted doily for me. It is a nice large size, measuring about 21 inches across. I immediately felt a connection to the ladies of Aquiles when I received this gift. I do not speak Spanish and they do not speak English, but we have in common a language of another sort.

I'm posting a video of the trip to Mexico especially for family and friends of the family that visit this blog, but you may be interested to watch also. Matt is the first person on the video after the opening. You'll recognize him by his red hair.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Optic Waves

My knitting is still focused on the Optic Waves Shawl. It has grown one or two pattern repeats each day, though that might not happen this week since our son, Matt, and his girlfriend, Carly, are here for a visit.

The shawl is seven repeats along in this photo taken on Friday at the beach.

Each pattern repeat consists of twelve rows worked over 101 stitches. Only four of these rows include increases and decreases. And to make it even easier, those four rows are exactly the same each time. The other eight rows are either knit or purl (with a few knit stitches on the edge), making this shawl a good project for someone knitting lace for the first time.

It's been a couple of weeks since our last trip to beach. The sky was overcast and rain was threatening, but I didn't mind. We've been visiting Matagorda Beach for about a year now and have come to love this stretch of surf and sand, no matter the weather.

This time of year there is a lot seaweed that gets wash onshore. I believe it is called Sargassum weed. Here someone used it to help hold together what I think is a support for a makeshift tent.

Along with the seaweed, the tide had also washed up a large number of Portuguese Man-of-War. I was concerned that John might get stung as he was wade fishing, but he never saw any in the water.

As I continued beach combing, I came across a plastic leg from a Barbie-type doll. I don't know why, but I took a picture of it. And since I did, I'll show it to you.

You never know what you'll find at the beach. That's part of the fun.

Friday, April 25, 2008

H is for Hummingbird

I've posted these pictures before, but H had to be for hummingbird--my favorite bird.

Hummingbirds are rare visitors in our yard in the spring, but starting in August, they stop over on their way south. Our last sighting in 2007 was on December 4.

I'm looking forward to their return.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's a Winner

As it turns out, abandoning the second sock did not jinx my baseball team's winning streak. They won soundly on Monday night as I cast on and began knitting my next project. However, last night the team lost, but it was their own fault--this project is a winner.

Baseball Knitting

Optic Waves Shawl from The Knitter's Book of Yarn is a rectangular lace stole with a simple stitch pattern: easy to memorize and easy to execute. Exactly the criteria necessary to qualify as good baseball knitting.

Jumbled Stitches

According to the pattern notes, it is designed specifically to take advantage of the unique characteristics of Brooks Farm Yarn Primero such as inelasticity, drape and weight. So even though the stitches look like a jumbled mess right now, I'm confident they will straighten out with blocking.

Brooks Farm Yarn Primero

Primero is 100% kid mohair with a smooth finish and a nice sheen. I do not know the color name of my particular yarn. It is only labeled MW R5. The overall color is blue, but look close and you will also see waves of purple and green.

At game time you'll find me cheering on my team with one eye on the ballgame and one eye on my knitting. It's a winning combination.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Simply the Best

A simple sock is often the best choice for self-patterning yarn. So that's what I chose for my last skein of Online Supersocke 100 in Summer Color 793.

This sock flew off my needles! I started it on Friday and finished it on Sunday.

It was the perfect project to knit while watching baseball on TV this weekend. And, it perhaps brought my team luck.

Superstitious baseball fans would say that since I was knitting this sock and my team won every game that I will have to keep doing this or risk jinxing the team.

Never fear, I will keep knitting. Though I wonder if it will tempt fate to start a new project instead of continuing on to the second sock?

I'm about to find out.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Colorful Stripes

I've traded in my cupcake knitting obsession for the time being to obsess on another favorite of mine--preemie hats.

How I Knit a Basic Hat for a 3-5 lb Preemie

Yarn: Worsted Weight
Needles: Size US 7 (4.5 mm) DPNs
CO 48 sts.
Divide stitches evenly on three needles. Join in the round.

K1, p1 for 5 rounds.

Knit each round, changing yarn as desired to create stripes, until hat measures 4" from CO edge.

*K6, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round.
*K5, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round.
*K4, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round.
Continue in this way until 6 stitches remain.

Cut yarn 6" long and pull through remaining stitches.
Pull tail to the inside and weave in all ends.
Top with pom-pom.

Using yarn from my Cotton Ease stash (discontinued colors), I was able to come up with several combinations of colorful stripes.

Cherry Red and Vanilla

Bubble Gum and Strawberry Cream

Vanilla, Mint, Popsical Blue and Sugarplum

Candy Blue, Banana Cream and Blueberry (? missing the label)

Pistachio, Ice Blue and Strawberry Cream

As you can see, the possible combinations are many, limited only by imagination and yarn. And so far, I still have plenty of yarn; imagination is only slightly used up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crazy for Cupcakes

Or, just plain crazy. You decide. Some people get hooked on sock knitting or lace knitting, but I'm addicted to cupcake knitting.

I found a great new pattern. It's my favorite so far. The cake and the wrapper are knitted separately. I love that!

The pattern calls for Aran weight yarn, but I had the perfect chocolate colored yarn in DK weight, so I used that instead and adjusted the needle size to compensate.

These cupcakes are knitted flat and then seamed, but don't let that scare you away. Seaming is an important skill to master and these little cakes are perfect for practicing mattress stitch. They are large enough not to be fiddly, but small enough to sew up in a jiffy. It's easy, really--a piece o' cake.

Pattern: Cupcake by Bee
Yarn: Various Brands of Acrylic DK Weight
Colors: Chocolate Brown, Yellow, Pink, Purple, Cream
Needles: US 5 (3.75) Straights

Monday, April 14, 2008

Socks by the Seashore

Look who's wearing new socks.

This is lifetime pair number 25.

Pattern: Primavera Socks
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino
Color: Moody Blues
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm)
Modifications: Short-row heels and toes
Notes: A nice stitch pattern that knitted up quickly once I got the hang of the sixth round.

I finished this pair in 10 days (a record for me), but many of you could do better than that. I'm not the fastest knitter around, but I'm persistent. And, I now have a drawer full of socks to prove it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Knitted Cupcake

Why knit a cupcake?

It's cute.
It's quick.
It's seamless.
It's just plain fun.

Pattern: Cupcake
Yarn: Bernat Cottontots
Cake Color: Pretty in Pink
Icing Color: Easter Parade
Cherry Color: Strawberry
Needles: US 5 (3.75mm) DPNs

Knit in the round from the bottom of the cake up to the cherry on top. There's not a single seam in the whole thing. The stuffing is added near the end and the last few rounds of knitting close the top.

You can make this into a paper weight, use it for a pin cushion, surprise a friend on her birthday or give it to a child for a toy.

Everything about this project was fun for me. It's nearly impossible not to smile when knitting a cupcake. Try it and see.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

G is for Garter Stitch

Knit every row. What could be simpler? Garter stitch was the first stitch pattern I learned as a new knitter.

My Very First Stitches

Five years ago I taught myself to knit and like many beginners, my first project was a garter stitch scarf.

I still remember being unsure of what I was doing and hoping I didn't mess up, because I had no idea how to fix my mistakes.

I think it took me about a week to finish this scarf and by the end, I had perfected the knit stitch and learned how to cast on, bind off and change yarn colors. But more importantly, I learned something about myself: I love to knit!

It all began with garter stitch.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Every Sixth Round

The key to executing the sixth round of this sock has everything to do with the round before.

But let me back up before I get too far ahead of myself.

First, I want to thank Karen of Weathertop Farm for the gorgeous yarn. I won it in a comment contest on her blog, along with an Amy Butler skirt pattern and a few other goodies.

The yarn is Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino in a mix of deep blues called Moody Blues. I wanted to find a simple sock pattern for this yarn, but not a plain one--something I could knit without having to concentrate too hard on what I was doing.

I found that with Primavera Socks. The stitch pattern is alternating knit and purl columns with increases and decreases worked every 6th round. Very easy to memorize.

The sixth round sounded simple enough: p2, m1R, k2, p3tog, k2, m1L, p2. But, when it actually came to executing these stitches, I was surprised to find out it was difficult for me.

I expected to slow down a little on p3tog, but not on m1R. My stitches were so tight, I could hardly pick up the strand of yarn between. I began to dread round six which became a fight with yarn and needles.

I almost abandoned this sock completely, but then I smartened up and began to loosen my tension on round five and now all is well...every sixth round.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Twice As Nice

The good thing about knitting the same project back-to-back is you know exactly what to expect and how to improve upon your first attempt.

This time I was prepared to spend about half the total time on the finishing and because of that, I enjoyed the process much more. Expectation management is the key. That was what I was trying to express in my last post.

I don't want to scare anyone away from this project, because even though there are a lot of pieces to sew together, it's still a quick project to complete: 2-3 hours for knitting and 1-2 hours for finishing.

As for improvements, the second time around I used a woven stitch to graft the head to the body instead of a whip-stitch. It looks so much nicer this way that I went back and restitched the brown bear even though the ribbon hides the sloppiest of sewing.

I also changed the ears a bit. The instructions say to fold the ear in half and stitch. The direction of the fold is not specified. The first time I folded it in half to match a photo in the book. This time I folded it lengthwise which I think is a better shape. You just need to play around with it to find what you like best.

Teddy Bear
Source: Simple Knits for Cherished Babies by Erika Knight
Yarn: Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool
Color: 98 Natural
Needles: US 3
Size: About 8" tall from ear to toe

I think this bear would look great knitted from handspun and I have plenty of natural roving that would be perfect for it. So next time I need a baby gift, a spinning wheel may be involved.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Toy for Baby

What was I thinking???

That's what I said to myself when I got to this point of the project.

But a spritz of water, a lot of steam, and a few pins later and all pieces were blocked into submission. What was once a mess was now manageable. And though the sewing up takes time, the result sure is cute.

Teddy Bear
Source: Simple Knits for Cherished Babies by Erika Knight
Yarn: Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool
Color: 126 Nature's Brown
Needles: US 3
Size: About 8" tall from ear to toe

The challenge of this project is not to become impatient with the amount of time it takes to sew up something so small. Start out knowing you won't just "whip it up" and you'll be fine.

The pattern isn't exactly clear about what method to use for sewing until you get to the arms. Use backstitch for the entire body for a neat and sturdy seam.

I hesitated momentarily before I cast on my next project. I almost talked myself out of it...but here I go again.

This time in a different color.