Archive for December, 2012

Fickle

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

What do you do when faced with casting on either mittens (personal generic warm kids’ mittens pattern) or the Tulip Dreams shawl?

You cast on for something entirely different of course – Marin shawl by Ysolda Teague. Knit end to end, the pattern has occasional small cable twists that suggest ties – a very elegant and easy design element. The pattern calls for the equivalent of one skein of Fiber Optic Yarns Siren Song (70% superwash merino/30% seacell). In the realm of fiber arts projects, this one is a brief fling – a short sweet love affair. I’m knitting mine in the Kentucky Blue colorway, an eye-searing pop of true blue. A cheerful antidote against the snowy white landscape here this week.

Winter Wonderland

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

When our 6 year old asked for a snowball maker from Santa this year, my husband and I were a bit concerned about the usefulness of the idea. You see, last year we had no snow – it was a very warm winter and, in fact, most folks will tell you there was no winter – we went from Autumn directly into Spring. Sometimes, though, when your little girl has her heart set on one particular Christmas gift, there is not a lot of choice – you go along with it and hope that the universe is also listening. And it turns out that it was…

This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland with about 4 inches of snow (that is quite a good snowfall for Cincinnati) just the right consistency for making snowballs! So after the grownups enjoyed a pot of coffee, we bundled the kids up and tossed them outside to play (actually they were hopping up and down begging to go out and have a snowball fight). They’ve been outside for almost an hour, which has given me time to put together a pot of Chicken and White Bean Chili for dinner this evening and write a bit in the blog. I’m starting to really see the advantages of that snowball maker idea…

In the land of current projects, I cast off the never-ending Quick Knit Coin Lace and Cable Wrap (yes, the official pattern title really does include the words Quick Knit – clearly I was not one of the test knitters, right?). No pictures yet since it is blocking – I’ll try and model it for you when it is dry.

The last skein of the Raspberry to Cream gradient is now off the bobbins and the wheel has been cleaned and oiled and is ready to go in preparation for the Knit Girllls spin-along beginning on Tuesday. No pics of the last skein of yarn either – it looks just like the first two skeins. I’m hoping to cast on the Tulip Dreams shawl this weekend. My shawl will be a bit larger than the one in Sock Report since my yarn is more DK than fingering – wondering if I should drop down a needle size?

I’m also considering casting on some red mittens for the little man preschooler to match his existing Jacques Cousteau hat. He is currently wearing hand-me-down mittens knit a few years ago (don’t worry – we always have lots of mittens around here), but he’d like to have mittens in his favorite color. Mittens are one of those take-along projects that are always good for working on during various kid events and I know just the skein from the stash…a worsted-weight skein handspun from Bluefaced Leicester top in the garnet colorway!!

Tree Ornaments

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

These past weeks, we’ve been decorating our Christmas tree with all sorts of ornaments – some crafted by little hands, others handed down generations, and still others gathered as souvenirs from family travels. In the midst of this bleak, overcast week, our tree has been the brightest spot in the house – a gathering spot for kids and games, and lots of excitement and laughter.

Today however, the day after Christmas, it was Mother Nature’s turn to do some decorating. All the trees are now clothed in shimmery ice – all sparkly and silver.


Yes, it’s treacherous to drive on, but it’s also quite lovely to sit down at the spinning wheel by the window and enjoy all the iridescent icycles from the warmth of home. While I was enjoying a spot of tea and spinning the last braid of the Raspberry to Cream gradient on superwash merino/bamboo top, look who came to visit!!

Isn’t he beautiful? He was quite social, looking in the window trying to ponder what I was doing with the fiber and string (maybe wishing for a bit to line a nest?) while enjoying his meal of berries.

As of today, I have finished plying these:

(210 and 230 yards of n-ply) and I’m currently spinning the last braid

in hopes of making a Tulip Dreams shawl in January (yes – the fiber came out of the stash – stash for models but still stash). I know you are thinking I should be working on the Quick Knit Coin Lace and Cable Wrap since I was hoping to have it finished by now. While I love working on it, it’s reached the ‘black hole’ size where no matter how much you knit, it doesn’t seem to get any larger. It now measures 63 inches in length and I still have 2 more skeins of yarn. I see no point in posting another picture of it until it is finished, since it looks pretty much the same…long…rectangular…cables…brown. Just a bit longer than last time I told you about it. Speaking of which, this is already 3 inches longer than the pattern calls for (60 inches long after blocking), but in the interest of using stash, I’m going to keep knitting until I run out of yarn!! I’m a little tired (exhausted actually) of working on it, so it’s in the thinking chair for a day or two while I finish spinning something light and bright…and not brown.

Besides, I need to have my spinning wheel free and clear come January 1st since this is the day that the Knit Girllls spin along begins – I’m hoping to spin up 2 skeins of the Rouge-Violet-Cerulean as a couple prizes to give away during the spin along. If you would like to win one of the skeins, stay tuned to the Knit Girllls’ podcast to hear how to enter. Did you catch that? By giving away the spun skeins, I can add them to the stash reduction!! Tricky, huh?

Rain Turning Over to Snow

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Today is miserable outside. How’s that for the beginning of a blog entry?

Yes, it really is that dark as of 10am this morning! It’s raining and cold and 40 mph winds are supposed to come in this afternoon before the rain turns to snow this evening. Definately weather to huddle down and stay warm!!

While the kids all had to venture out in this mess to go to school (albeit with warm handknit wool hats, mittens, and scarves), I’m staying put. Today’s agenda is making Carol Huber soup, crusty French bread and a nice salad for dinner to help melt the chill from everyone’s bones this evening. Don’t ask – I’ve never met Carol Huber. She’s an old friend of Toni Neil’s (of The Fold) who knew her many years ago.   Carol Huber became well known for this soup (it’s very easy to make, loaded with lots of veggies, and everyone from my preschooler up through the ranks to me and my husband love it). Toni walked me through the making of Carol Huber soup when we were out in Lake Tahoe for SOAR 2012 this past October.  It had snowed a couple feet and we were vending out in a tent under the trees and it was downright cold – by the time we returned in the evening, we were both chilled and this soup was just the ticket!

Carol Huber soup is a bit different every time, but that’s one of it’s charms. Basically you saute ground chuck (however much you have on hand – generally 1-2 pounds), drain it and put in a stock pot with beef broth (or chicken or vegetable broth – whatever is handy), onions, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, green beans and whatever other leftover vegetables you have. Then we add something that will thicken it a bit – macaroni or dumplings or lentils – again whatever happens to be hanging out in the pantry (today it is lentils). Season to taste with garlic, Italian spices, salt and black pepper. Simmer all day long so the house smells of soup when everyone gets home!!  Easy peasy way to get warmth and lots of vitamins into loved ones!

On other chill-chasing fronts, I finished the cashmere/silk Faberge Cowl this week.  I kept meaning to post some in progress pictures, but it was such a fast knit that it was completed before I really even knew what happened! 

The yarn was so decadent and luxurious I didn’t want to put it down. We just got some more 50/50 cashmere silk top yesterday and I’m already dreaming about all the colors I want to dye up on it – rich, intense, warm colors to chase away the bleakness of the day! The pattern is clearly written and easy to understand.  Definately go with the size 5/0 seed beads though if you are using worsted weight yarn to make this cowl.  It seems like there shouldn’t be much difference between size 6/0 and size 5/0, but it makes a world of difference.  Yarn that easily went through the holes of size 5/0 beads absolutely refused to be coaxed through size 6/0 beads.  Placing the beads on the yarn using a crochet hook means that the bead actually goes over a loop of yarn so there are two strands of yarn which have to go through the hole – this is why the size difference is so critical.  Besides the extra sparkle factor of the larger beads makes it look more elegant and festive – I’m such a magpie!

I selected gold foil lined glass beads and the gold shines off the midnight blue and reminds me of an enameled Faberge jeweled egg. There are enough beads left over to knit another one – I’m thinking of using a skein of Fiber Optic worsted weight superwash merino in the Bordello (deep rich blood red) colorway with them. Not as luxurious as the cashmere/silk, but still pretty glam for everyday wear!!!

12-20-12 Talley: 0 pounds 14.1 ounces Fiber/Yarn lost on the stash diet!

Fair Trade

Friday, December 14th, 2012

So what do you get in exchange for a basketball practice, knitting night with friends, a band concert, a basketball game, and a choir concert?

It turns out that in addition to wonderful memories, laughs, and proud-Mom moments, you get 30 inches of the coin lace and cable stole done.

That, my friends, is half of the stole.  I would say that is definately a fair trade.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say it is a bonus since even without the knitting, I had a fabulous time at all the events this week.  It always confuses me a bit when folks say they don’t have time to knit – their lives are simply too busy.  The implication is that I have time to knit because I do nothing except sit at home eating chocolate truffles and champagne…and knit of course.  I’ve long since given up trying to explain that knitting, by it’s very portability, allows you to work on it while out and about at all those events that make your life so busy – folks, it’s not an exclusive decision.  You don’t have to choose between (watching) basketball and knitting – do both!  (If you are actually playing basketball, you may wish to abstain from knitting – running with pointy sticks and all that).  For heaven’s sake, it’s not like you are practicing belly-dancing up there in the bleachers – it’s knitting.  A little care not to poke your neighbor with one of your knitting needles and an easily memorized pattern is all it takes.  Really.  Another good week of ferrying kids to various activities and I should be all set to cast off and call this stole a done deal – hoping for around 1.5 pounds of stash reduction.  Woohoo!

One of Those Days

Monday, December 10th, 2012

So, on Friday I found out in the Fiber Optic Fans group on ravelry.com that not only is our very first ad in the winter 2012 edition of Spin Off, but there is an article in there that mentions some of our pencil roving as well. Of course, my copy hasn’t arrived yet. In fact, near as I can tell, just about everyone’s copy (but mine) had arrived to it’s destination by Saturday. So yesterday afternoon I thought that buying a copy at Barnes & Noble, sitting in the store’s Starbucks, and browsing through the new Spin Off would be a lovely (and quiet) break away from the three ring circus of my home.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my family dearly. My husband is supportive of all the craziness that my career choice brings into the family. We have a couple dozen bins of fiber inventory stored in the living room that need to be relocated to make room for the Christmas tree (hanging lights and ornaments off the towers of bins in the living room didn’t make the vote among the younger family members). My kids are happy, creative, and wonderfully amusing. I love my family endlessly…but they are also quite loud (no surprise with 4 school age children). So a nice quiet break away with coffee and some fiber reading seems like a day at a spa.

Do you ever want something so badly that when it is denied, you feel like stomping around throwing one of those temper tantrums that only a 2-year can really pull off with flair? That’s what I felt like when, after rifling through the magazines – twice, there was no sign of the winter 2012 edition of Spin Off. I hunted down the poor woman at the information desk. I then waited patiently, while she went and looked through the craft section of the magazines. I wasn’t too concerned because I was pretty sure she was going to say something about going in the back to get me the current issue. Instead she came back and said, ‘See that tall stack of boxes over in the corner? Those are the new magazines. We’ll put them out in the next 2-3 days when we get the chance. If you come back on Monday there is a good chance we’ll have them out. You might want to call before coming over to make sure though.’ Yeah – major fantasies about temper tantrums.

As knitters and spinners, we all know how to self-medicate during insanely frustrating moments like these – with yarn and fiber. First I cast on:

This is the Faberge cowl. I got three whole rounds knit, when I went to add the first bead…and had the first inkling that the universe was toying with me. Now I already have two sets of beads for this – first a set of glass pearls with holes much much too small. Then a set of 6/0 glass silver-lined beads which I found out, shortly after casting on, were also too small. Sigh…it helps to read the instructions and helpful hints in the pattern, btw, where it clearly states that 6/0 are not likely going to work well – you really need 5/0 beads. I have now ordered the 5/0 beads – definite start of a bead stash.

Not to be detoured, I cast on:

It’s the Quick Knit Coin Lace and Cable Wrap and was a bit of a spur of the moment decision. I’m knitting it out of Naturally Sensations yarn (70% Merino and 30% Angora). Nothing like a little angora to ease away the uglies. It’s soft and warm and will be wonderful to wrap up in when headed out and about in January.

Just to be sure everything would be ok, I also started spinning two braids of this:

Raspberry to Cream gradient dyed on 50% Superwash merino 50% bamboo. After spinning like a gerbil on an exercise wheel (trying to work out the residual irritation), I ended up with this:

which is destined to be a 3-ply yarn to knit up Tulip Dreams. Now I feel better.

Hats For Everyone!

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

While digging deep into the stash, I came across a couple skeins of fingering weight that were half used with about 50 g of yarn left in each. They were left over from one project or another and neither had a yarn band. One was a royal blue and the other a teal. While there was not enough of either to complete a project, held together they produced a worsted weight yarn with enough yardage to make a Jacques Cousteau hat. Nothing fancy – just a warm wool hat. Our family loves this hat – it’s sort of magic. I always knit the smaller size and the same hat fits everyone in the family – from our preschooler up to my husband. It’s stretchy and comfortable and one of it’s best features, aside, from easily fitting everyone, is that it has a 4-inch fold-up band, which keeps the wearer’s ears warm.

See how happy the recipient is? Yup – warm ears. Watch out! If you stand still long enough around here, you’re likely to be fitted with a hand-knit hat in my continued determination to bust the yarn stash.

12-6-12 Talley: 0 pounds 10.1 ounces Fiber/Yarn lost on the stash diet!

Another Drop in the Bucket

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

A little bit more of the stash whittled down! Even better is that warm hands will be had this winter at the Baldwin household. The mittens are complete!

The pattern is my go-to generic pattern for warm mittens and uses worsted weight yarn knit tightly on size 1 needles so the fabric is very dense, keeping out the cold quite effectively. They are knit out of the same handspun yarn used to make the Meret hat last week ’cause when you are a 10 year old girl, it’s all about the matchy-matchy. The mittens weigh in at 4.1 ounces, bringing the stash reduction total to 6.7 ounces – pretty piddly. At this rate I’ll be dead several years before I make my 20 pound total!!!

On other fronts, the pearl beads finally arrived for the cashmere/silk Faberge cowl. After much anticipation, there was the little package in the mailbox a couple days ago. So exciting – I ripped open the package and poured out the little glass pearls, holding them next to the blue hand-spun skein of yarn to see how the color will work (beautifully, as it turns out)…then I noticed that the holes seemed very small. Much smaller than the 0.8 mm claimed in the product description. See what I mean?

On the right is the pearl bead against the deep blue yarn so you could see just how itty-bitty these holes are – the bead on the left is a size 6/0 bead for comparison. In fact, the holes on the pearl beads are SO SMALL that after trying several lighter weight yarns with the beads, it’s fairly challenging to get a lace weight yarn through these beads. Sigh…no way whatsoever that my DK/Worsted weight yarn is going to fit.

Looking on the positive side, I now have beads for some future lace weight project. Now it appears I’m accumulating a bead stash. Hopefully I won’t be trying to do a 20 pound bead stash reduction next year! Heading off to the bead store with my skein of yarn to see what I might find in the way of beads with larger holes.

12-1-12 Talley: 0 pounds 6.7 ounces Fiber/Yarn lost on the stash diet!