Monday, January 30, 2012

Lookie what I found...

Two cotton tweed sweaters that have been loved and worn and washed and worn, and then, when they stretched out of shape, relegated to the pile.
As you can see from the top rust coloured one - they are well on their way to becoming yarn again. (Actually, by the time you read this, they are both bags of yarn, rather than knitted sweaters.
These were both knit on the machine years ago, when I first got it. Simple raglan, 3/4 sleeve sweaters, no edging, nothing. It made it very easy to reclaim the yarn. And the nice thing is, the yarn is already washed and softened, and ready to be reknit. (I'm envisioning a colour blocked cardigan - I don't wear knitted pullovers, but I live in cardigans!)
The two colours look great together, so I will block out a pattern with them, and run it through the machine yet again. The Sweater Wizard software will come to the rescue yet again - as much as they say it's for hand knitters - it's a great tool for machine knitters, because it gives actual row count after you input your stitch and row gauge.

Don't think I'm abandoning my hand knitting - far from it. But I'm enjoying the speed of stash reduction, and getting enjoyment out of wearing some favourite yarns sooner rather than later.

Friday, January 27, 2012

what I did last Sunday

And I'm not talking about the blocking (I did that last night...) I'm talking about the actual knitting! Yep, I dusted off the ole LK-150 knitting machine, moved it out of the corner of our bedroom, where it has been languishing as a clothes holder, moved it into my nice bright basement, from which I recently removed about a metric tonne of out grown kiddie stuff, inserted a sorely needed new sponge strip, gave it a quick swipe with some mineral oil to get that carriage moving swiftly again...

...worked up a pattern for a raglan cardigan, using my Sweater Wizard software, and voila!
Thanks to Susan's generous donation of a bag of Knit Picks Shine Sport Cotton-Modal blend yarn, and a husband and son who left me alone, I cranked out the pieces of a sweater. (There are actually two sleeves up there - I block them on top of each other, to ensure the same size...)
I still need to sew it together, and pick up all the live stitches (yes, I know I can cast on and bind off on the machine, but I don't like doing that. I'd rather pick up and knit an edging by hand...)
Luckily, I like mattress stitch, and knitting an edging by hand lets me experiment with adding some interest to a very plain, but very useful sweater.
This machine will be seeing a lot of cotton run through it in the near future - I find cotton a bit hard on the hands to knit, so the machine is perfect for that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

still loving the colourwork

I'm still loving the colourwork, although in this particular case, I probably should have put more forethought into the pattern.
What I want in the end is a cardigan, with this floral motif running around the shoulders. I want it reasonably close fitting, although it will be used as more of a jacket. I just don't want it big and droopy. I did some math, and even took into account that colourwork draws in quite a bit. It's very (VERY!) snug around the shoulders right now, but cutting the steek should help with that. I would also like to add bands of colour to the front bands, increasing the amount needed on the shoulders.

One thing I need to keep kicking myself in the head about is to go easy on the colour when making charts in Excel. Three colours per row looks great on screen and admittedly looks great in the sweater (I think...), but is a real pain to knit. Can we talk tangles?? But I persevered - it was only about 24 rows, so it wasn't THAT painful...

The colours are a lovely rich mossy olive-y green, a little brighter than appears here, and a rich mustardy yellow and bright orange. (that checkerboard part you see is the steek where I will cut it open.) The neck looks larger here than it actually is, and I have vague thoughts of a turned over collar treatment.

You can tell I've really thought this through, haven't I... It's either going to be stunning or an epic fail.

Monday, January 23, 2012

birds and rodents

We have bird feeders in our yard - they are my husband's and we love having all the birds swooping down to the yard off the deck and kitchen.
Our favourite is this 12-perch one - we fill it with Nyger seed, and it is in constant use. There are often at least 12 birds on it, and many more swooping down, pushing off those that have monopolized it.
Though not shown here, we have a cardinal couple that often hang out - the bright red male, and the more brownish toned female, with the bright orange beak. I'll try for a shot of them.
These small songbirds have become so used to us, they don't even move when we open the door or walk by.
However, we also have a circular peanut feeder, because we wanted to attract larger birds like Blue Jays. Unfortunately, what we have attracted are annoying squirrels.
They are rather acrobatic, and can stretch in any number of ways.

We moved it from this "to easy to get to" perch, and hung it off by the basketball net.

Okay, so that didn't work...
But... we are not to be beat by rodents. My son recommended trimming some of the tree branches so he couldn't launch himself at it. That worked for a bit, but then the little beast found that while he couldn't CLIMB down the fishing line it's suspended from, he could SLIDE down (the feeder created enough of a landing area for him. )
As you can see from the above picture, he not only got to it, he taunted us!
We have since moved the stainless steel disc my husband fashioned from one of the feeders to the top of this circle feeder. I haven't seen the resulting squirrel slide, but the peanut level hasn't dropped in two days.
I think we've thwarted him for now...

Friday, January 20, 2012

sock washing day

I forgot to show you this with the leopard hat...

it was sock washing day...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

leopard hat

***for those that were drooling over the caramel-pecan buns yesterday (and drool worthy they are...) the recipe can be found here.
Thank Susan for it - she showed me the way...

I showed a friend at work the tiger striped hat for my nephew (which was LOVED, by the way...) and she went bat-crap crazy for it, except she's more of a leopard girl, as she said. Now, I normally do not knit for co-workers, but A is special - she's that person that without her, this place would fall apart. Seriously. She handles everything. And on top of that, she's that person who is too nice to be true. (And yes, she's pretty as well - I should really hate her...)
So I decided to knit her a leopard hat.

I left it on her desk, and when she came in, she loved it. She asked how much the wool was (I told her), and what about my time? I told her she couldn't afford that, and she got it. She knows it's hand knit, she knows I did her a huge favour by knitting it, and she knew better than to try and offer me money for it. (No one is going to pay $300+ for a hat...) She gave the best possible compliment by putting it on, and showing it off to selected people (those that also know not to ask for one), and NOT showing it to people who would then ask for one for themselves.

For a non knitter, she understand the knitting.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Susan's cinnamon buns!

Susan sent me her recipe for cinnamon buns, and I was itching to try out the new Kitchen Aid, so...
These are SOOOOOOOOO good. I split the recipe into three, baked one pan off, and froze the other two. (One is a birthday gift for my boss, with cooking instructions), and one is for us.) What I love about these is that they are more of a caramel-pecan bun, which is my all time favourite. Luckily, it's also a fave of my husband and son, otherwise I would have eaten the whole pan, and that would be bad. (but oh so good...)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hockey Mom MItts

My brother's wife is a hockey mom. She has little choice in the matter, with three kids that all play hockey at a high level. (My niece is in the Team Canada system, and played int he women's under 18 World Championships last year - she's over 18 this year.) She's also at Brown University this year, on a hockey scholarship, so my brother and SIL have made the trek to Rhode Island a few times to watch her play. She had Team Canada mittens as well as Brown University mittens, but wanted to support her sons as well. They both play in the Toronto Marlies organization (age appropriate levels, not the actual Toronto Maple Leaf farm team). Although, my 16 year old nephew has been in net for the Leafs during a light practice session. I gather he's pretty good...)
So, to show support for the boys, she requested some Marlies mittens. Since Mittens are so easy, how could I say no? A quick play around in Excel to get the chart right, and Bob's your Uncle! (actually, Bob is my uncle, and he's the coolest guy around. He's having some health issues, so if you have a stray good thought, could you could send it Ottawa way for him? Thanks.)

I used some Norweigan Heilo Wool in the appropriate shades of blue and white, and just noodled the pattern as I went (writing it down, so the second mitt would match!) These do not fit me AT ALL, as my SIL has these tiny bird like hands, but they should be perfect on her.

Friday, January 13, 2012

something for me!

I actually finished something for me recently. Actually, this is the time of year when I get a little me-centric with my knitting - the gift stuff is mostly done, so start thinking about ME!

Me knitting is usually sweaters (and there is one in progress - I'm just working out some logistical details on it...) but I started this scarf with someone else in mind, but once it was done, I decided to keep it for myself. It;s the Hitchhiker scarf, and it's one of those rare things - a garter knit scarf with shaping and flair. I can't remember where I first saw it, but I really liked it - enough to buy the pattern. It's straight garter stitch, and once you get the pattern, it's so easy - you don't even need to refer to the pattern. I used two balls of Knit Picks Chroma Worsted, in the Mesa colourway, and while it's not my typical colours, it's really pretty!

And the shape of it means it wraps around the neck quite nicely.
I can see making more of these for the gift box...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

asked for knits!

I've mentioned before how the kids on my husband's side of the family shy away from the hand knits - they'd rather wear a cheaply made acrylic hat with the right "label" than a custom hand knit. Fine. It pains me, but I have given up trying to force feed the hand knits where they are not appreciated.

My brother's kids however, have come into the light. I made my niece a brown silk and mohair hat - nice and slouchy as requested, and brown. (She attends Brown University). She loved it. I seem to have brain-farted as far as getting a picture of it - too bad, because I have to say, it was really quite lovely! I hit all the parameters. Slouchy, but not a beret, no pompom, soft, and a milk chocolate, not dark chocolate colour. I love specifics, I really do.

The two boys were a different story - I hadn't had a chance to talk to them before Christmas, so I came prepared with a pile of patterns, and some wools. We spent a fantastic hour, looking at patterns, and wools, and comparing colours.
One was rather specific - tiger pattern. Could I knit a tiger pattern? So we hit the computer, and I did a quick Ravelry search, and found a tiger chart. He loved it, and then requested BRIGHT orange and black. Again, slightly slouchy, no pompom, not beanie like - a little longer than that, but snug enough to stay on his head.
The other nephew was also specific - blue and white stripes. (He plays hockey in the Toronto Marlies system - Minor Midget AAA) But, while he also wanted slouchy and longer, he definitely wanted a pompom.
So I left Christmas with all these instructions, and by the time we were headed to the cottage, I had materials in hand, (and the tiger hat partially started). The stripey hat was an easy car knit, and by a couple of days in, I had this:

Note - the stripe pattern was not determined until after a couple of rounds of texts back and forth between nephew and myself - I asked if he wanted skinny or wide stripes, he decided random, so I did Fibbonacci striping. We also narrowed down the pompom size via text - not too big or small, sort of medium...

Before we left the cottage, I had two hats, ready for blocking:

Once home, I used some balloons and blocked, and two more Christmas gifts are ready for delivery!
These kids can ask for anything, anytime...

Monday, January 09, 2012

hostess gift

My SIL hosted the whole family for Christmas this year (In my husband's family, we rotate each year between three of us - I get it next year). While we don't exchange Christmas gifts among our generation (it's mostly for the kids and the parents), I always like to bring a hostess gift to whoever is feeding us.

Of course, me being me, It's usually something handcrafted (even the bag!) And before anyone starts accusing me of going over the top (which I know I do on occasion...) sewing a bag out of leftover fabric from a recent sewing project took less time than trying to find a box to fit, and wrap it)

This particular SIL (wife of my husband's brother) and I are quite good friends (by choice, not just because we share a family!), and she had been hinting around for a while for a gnome. Her living room is mostly a mustard gold tone, with brown leather furniture, hence the colour choice - she had said she didn't want a particularly Christmassy one, as she planned on having him sitting around all year. Yes, the hints were that specific!
She loved him, and he immediately found a home on a suspiciously empty table (I think she had high hopes this year!) The funniest comment came from my other SIL (husband's younger sister). She hosted everyone last year, and for whatever reason, decided to serve dinner 3 hours earlier than usual, which meant they ate without us. (we were not going to cut short time with my family to accommodate that - especially since no reason for moving up the time was given...) We arrived to find they had all eaten, and were cleaning up, but had left us plates of food - "oh by the way, the microwave isn't working". So we were expected to eat it cold, all the while being rushed so they could open the gifts - "are you done yet - everyone is waiting!". (and this is the same SIL that brought the new boyfriend unexpectedly this year).
Yeah, there are some issues with my husband's sisters - I just try to ignore it.
Anyhoo, when SIL-1 opened the gnome, SIL-2 exclaimed "I love him! Why didn't I get one last year when I hosted?"

Two beats of silence, then I answered. "You didn't host us, remember? You ate without us".

She had the decency to look abashed. SIL-1 hid the giggles (she was appalled at what happened last year, and even sat with us while we scarfed what we could). It was probably the only mar on a great Christmas Day, but as my husband said after - it wasn't really a bad thing - his sister needs that kind of reminder.
Either way, another gnome has found a new home, and it's a happy one. That's the important thing.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Christmas dessert

My SIL asked me to bring dessert to Christmas dinner - since she was doing the turkey dinner for 14 (sorry, make that 15 with the unexpected boyfriend...) I was happy to help. I had some sugar cookies, some peppermint bark (thanks for the recipe, Stephanie!), and some fruit, but my favourite part was these Santa Hat Brownies.

 (Idea totally stolen from one of Robyn's Monday Link Loves). So easy - I baked a pan of brownies, cut them out with a circle cutter, piped some butter cream icing on top, added a fresh strawberry, and topped the berry with a little pompom of icing. Simple, yet so ridiculously cute! And really well received. I had also sent some to the boy's school for the last day party - again, well received. I can see doing these every year - not only do they look cute, the flavour combination of the fresh strawberry with a touch of chocolate and vanilla icing was delicious!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

teacher gift

I finished a gift for my son's teacher, just before school ended. Originally, it was just going to be a pair of socks for Mr. L, but it morphed into something for his whole family. He let drop the fact that he and his wife were expecting their second child, and well, I get so little opportunity to knit for babies, I just had to whip something up. So I knit a Baby Surprise Jacket, out of Katia Jamaica in a long dead colourway of blue, turquoise, lime green and white. (The baby is due in June, and this is sized for a few months old, so it should be perfect for the fall.)
But then I realized I couldn't ignore the remaining two family members - that would be kind of rude. (especially his wife - she's the one carrying the baby...) So I dug into the gift box, and found a pair of toddler socks that had never been gifted, and chose a rainbow hued scarf.
It may seem over the top, but this is one great teacher. A terrific role model for my son as well as others int he class - he really puts EFFORT into teaching. We have been extraordinarily fortunate with teachers at my son's school - pretty much all of them have been great - really great. It makes me proud, as a parent, to see the influence they have on my son, and their efforts have definitely helped shape him.
And as many of you know - knitting something is often easier than shopping for something!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

Sorry about that - I seemed to have ignored the blog for a while. Don't take it personally - I ignored a lot of things lately. It just seemed easier to concentrate on family and friends.
So there is a lot to catch up on. I'm going through my camera, and finding pictures of all kinds of things, so I'll be telling you about those things (mostly knitting stuff...)

We had a great Christmas - our family, my family, husband's family. My Mom and my in-laws are terrific, and the fact that they are all in their 80's (or close - my Mom gets there in March), means we are very lucky. My heart goes out to Marie in this respect, who lost her own Mom over the holidays, but if you want to read about how to "truly live before you die", go read. It's inspiring.

There were some interesting parts of Christmas (in this family, there always are...). Like my SIL deciding to introduce her NEW boyfriend to the clan. Unexpectedly. Like, just bringing him to dinner, while my other SIL (who was hosting) and I scrambled to find a spot at the table. Did I mention that my husband's family is large, and there were already 14 of us? Talk about trial by fire! I can't even tell you if he's a nice guy - he was trying too hard to impress. Really, he should have just stayed quietly in the background, but it was entertaining to watch.
And one of the best parts was me opening a huge box from my husband and son and finding the KitchenAid Pro Series I've been lusting after! I have the best guys in my life...

Now, we are at our favourite place in the whole world, spending New Year's with our friends at the cottage.
It's a pretty good way to start a New Year. I'll be back soon with knitting and other stuff.