Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections on a Year Gone By: 2011

It's unbelievable that 2011 is done and gone. I remember in the 80s when 2011 sounded like some far fetched idea you would see as futuristic in the movies. In a flash it was here and, although there are a lot of advances, we weren't invaded by aliens or flying in our cars. So what will I remember from 2011?

1. We added Ella Bella to our family in April. She is such a precious little one and fits right into our hearts with Aidan, Jack, and Raleigh. I was both thrilled to have a little girl to spoil with pink and frill and terrified because I had become very used to being an aunt to boys and treasure them!

2. Probably the biggest change for me personally came just days before E's birth. I resigned my corporate job to take the plunge into staying at home and working on Brownie Knits full time. I also switched from teaching to making and designing. This was a tremendous change for me in so many different ways. I missed the interaction with my work friends a great deal, but didn't miss the going into the office and some of the down sides that go with it. I missed the extra cash, but I adjusted fast and learned to use up that stash I've been building for years. I miss (and still do) leaving the house more than on the weekends, but I'm concentrated on the fact that a potential move to Florida in the next two years would make that a lot easier. :) I LOVE being able to knit and crochet each and every day as much or as little as I want. I am forever grateful to Patrick for his love and support of my dream. (Picture was taken during one of my first days after resignation and I love that I look so relaxed already! It was like a weight was lifted and I had already managed to finish up writing the Ella sack pattern, which turned into my best-selling pattern.)

3. This time last year, PK was wrapping up writing a technical book. We went into it with pretty wide open eyes having working in the industry for over 30 years combined. Boy were we surprised when the thing took off like wild fire. It hit bestseller lists and I have a picture of it on the bestseller shelf between Stieg Larsson and Bethenny Frankel. PK went on to write a second edition midway through the year. I'm so super proud of him.

4. Because of all the other changes in our life, we didn't get to travel much this year, which is unusual for us--a definite negative that I hope to remedy in 2012. We did sneak in a trip to my dad's side of the family in September to Ashley's wedding. It was great to see everybody and enjoy the day.

5. A week prior to that trip, PK had to work in the Glenview office so I invited us to my SIL's house for a few days and then we went over to Chicago for a night. I think I will always remember this trip when I think of 2011. I had so much fun hanging out with Meg, playing with Jack, and cuddling with Ella. It was great fun when Pete and Patrick would get home and how will we ever forget the crayfish party!?! What a blast!

I'm sure I have forgotten so many special things to record here, but these were the 5 that jumped at me first. (Now as I add photos to this post, I'm remembering HUGE things I forgot to mention: Easter egg hunt with  Jack, Bloomington visits with my brother/Raleigh/Nicki, a trip to the zoo with Raleigh, dinners with Aidan/Doug/Katie, walks with Katie in the spring, getting accepted to Knit Picks for 3 designs, Raleigh's 1st birthday party, Aidan's football game, lake with the gang, knitting days with the girls, and on and on...thank goodness for pictures!)

Sure, there are some "bad" things from the year, but who wants to live in the bad past!?! Not me...onto to 2012 we go with good thoughts of 2011 to spur us along.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Headbands/Neck Warmers

My SIL requested a headband that could be worn as a neck warmer that she saw on Pinterest. It was a free pattern so I pulled out some stash yarn and casted on one for myself to see if there was anything to change up for Meg's version. Nope. Didn't change a thing! I really like how they turned out. I wear mine more as a neck warmer, but if I were outside playing with kids I would be putting in over my ears to stay warm!

Here they are as they were drying after washing...The pattern is Center Row Lace Headband / Neck Warmer by Mary Shaw.

Meg's was made to match her mittens out of Berroco Vintage I had in my stash. I used a size US 7 needle.

Mine was knitted out of the Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Thoreau to match my fingerless mittens on US 7 needles. I used buttons to match on both. Mine had more stretch to it than Meg's so I took advantage of the fact that you can button it anywhere along the lace section to fit your head. Genius! It is nice and cozy on my neck and I don't have to worry about it falling off like a scarf. On a side note, I was thrilled to get my mittens and neck/head warmer out of 1 skein of the yarn. I have another one left over for some other fun project.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fingerless Mittens

The few weeks before Christmas I got in a fingerless mitten knitting frenzy. I ended up making a pair for my SIL, her SIL, my BIL's girlfriend, and myself. I had a lot of fun knitting them all and adjusting the pattern each pair to improve upon the last.

First, I made a pair for myself. I used a free Knitty pattern by Stephanie Sun: Commuter Fingerless Mittens. I grabbed my Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Thoreau (a club yarn) and a set of size US 5 DPNs. I knitted them up in an afternoon and the following morning. I LOVE that you can wear them three ways!

I sewed my front button on in a slightly different spot than the pattern called to do. I wanted to show off the cable more. I have to say that I am SUPER impressed with how the designer thought of everything with this pattern. Every angle looks finished, no matter how you wear them. So clever!

After I finished up my mittens, I casted on this pair for Meg out of Berroco Vintage, also on US 5 DPNs. I used the free pattern Susie's Reading mittens. I made this pair per pattern except that I used the thumb technique applied to the Commuter Mittens.

Then I made a pair in a dark gray for Camilla and Katie. I used the same pattern/needles with the altered thumb. However, I also made these pairs a little longer in the arm section...not by much (a few rows). BUT, these were knitted out of a wool (Paton's Classic Wool) so I was able to block longer when I washed them. I've posted before that for an economical box store yarn, Paton's Classic Wool is not bad at all. I find that it works up about the same as a Cascade wool does for me.

Fingerless mittens are a great addition to your winter outfits and they are GREAT for those of us addicted to smart phones! The designer of the beige/gray mittens grants rights to make and sell these. If you would like to order a pair, hit up my Etsy shop and convo me. We can customize your size and color.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! We will be celebrating with PK's family on Christmas Eve and again after the new year and with my brother's family on Christmas Day. I hope that you get to spend some time with family, friends, and enjoy some good yarn.

This little Santa was whipped up a few days before Christmas. It was a kit sent to me from my knitter friend, Carol. Such fun to make. I used a red and white from my stash so that his red matched the rest of my tree ornaments. I'll use the yarn from the kit for some sparkly mittens! So far he is on the tree and free from little dogs treating him as a toy.

US needle: 5
Pattern from Universal
Yarn: Some Universal Classic Worsted, Miss Babs Yowza, and Plymouth Oh My, and some fluffy Tahki yarn for the beard

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cactus

At Thanksgiving dinner I noticed my MIL's plant near her back window. It was so pretty and I hadn't seen it flower before. She told me it was a Christmas Cactus and that they are super easy to keep alive. I reminded her that this was me...the plant killer! She assured me I could keep one alive. When we set about getting our holiday lights, PK looked for a plant for me but didn't see one in a color I wanted. We got a cheap one via Amazon of all places. I was a skeptical to say the least, but it arrived healthy and with lots of buds on it.

Notice how the buds in the back look like a dark pink? When the plant was first delivered, we reported that we didn't get the right color. The lady assured us that when the blooms opened, they would be red. Sure enough, a week or so later, they started to open and turned a true Christmas red. 

This little guy was added to the festive fireplace decor for the holidays. I planned to re-pot it after Christmas when the flower pot selections were a bit better. However, I went to visit my mom earlier in December because she has to work on Christmas. She found out that I had started collecting Longaberger and was starting to keep house plants. She ran into the kitchen when we got back to the house and gave me a little basket with three pottery pots in it. Perfect! I potted it in this special hand-me down (not pictured). 

I have also discovered that I now have 11 living plants in my home!!!! Maybe I've gotten a bit better at this plant thing. I want to create a plant corner or wall in our home. We'll see how that goes...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Classic Newsboy Hats

I went in search of a pattern for which I could make matching ones for brother/sister Jack and Ella. I came across the Classic Newsboy Hat crochet pattern from Adrienne Engar in Ravelry. I thought it was perfect! After reviewing the worsted weight options in my stash yarn, I settled on this cinnamon color as being suitable for both boys and girls and picked out classic leather-style buttons from my button jar. They will be part of their stocking for Christmas 2011. I hope they both fit well enough so that we can get a cute picture of them together.

Yarn: Dream in Color Classy
Hook: US G
Sizes: 6 months to 2 years for Ella and 3-8 years for Jack

Then, I sat down to pick out what I wanted to make for my nephew Raleigh for his stocking. I knew I wanted to make him two hats and one would be an improvised Mickey Mouse hat. After working up these two hats, I thought I'd make Raleigh a newsboy cap, too. This time I went for a green color to bring out his beautiful blue eyes. He loves his boxer, Hank, so I selected these paw buttons from the stash jar. Although Raleigh is only 1.5 years old, his head measures along the line of my nephew Jack (who is near 3), so I chanced it and went with the 3 to 8 years size. Worst case, he wears it next year.

Yarn: Dream in Color Classy
Hook: US G
Size: 3-8 years but .5 inch shorter in length

For all your crocheters out there, you can purchase a copy of the pattern in Ravelry. It took me a few hours for each hat. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mickey Mouse Hat

My nephew Raleigh LOVES Mickey Mouse. His first birthday party had several Mickey influences and his eyes get big when he sees him. So, I knew for one of his stocking stuffers this year, I wanted to make him a Mickey Mouse hat. I found some sport weight superwash yarn on my recent girls trip in the PERFECT colors. (You would be amazed how hard it was to find these three colors in a washable yarn.) Anyway, I didn't have a pattern for sport weight so I just decided to crochet a hat following my instincts.

Raleigh is only 1.5 years old, but his head typically measures closer to my almost 3 year old nephew, so I went with an 18 inch around with 3 inches of stretch if needed goal. After making a lot of crocheted projects lately, I decided that I don't use enough half double crochet. So many patterns use single crochet, which can make a garment hard and stiff, or double crochet, which is too open. HDC is the perfect stitch. It is close enough together to create the necessary warmth, but not so packed giving it a softer touch. I just went with staggering my increases to the desired width and then crocheted down to an estimated length, figuring the hat could be turned up if it is too long in the immediate future. I changed colors by where I thought it would look best. The ears are simple circle crochets with staggered increases and I held the yarn doubled to add stiffness. They don't 100% stand up, so I'll be playing with starch or something. Either way, it is cute and I hope that it works for him this winter and maybe next.

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport (1 skein each)
Hook: US G

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ruffled and Ruched Scarf

After a few afternoon sessions, and working between Christmas gifts, I finished up my neck warmer. It was so hard to put down because of the lovely yarn that I ended up finishing it in three knitting sessions. What do you think? Maybe I'll see Carol this winter and we can take a pic of us both wearing them!

Pattern: Ruffled and Ruched Scarf (pattern available in Ravelry)
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage (1.5 skeins)
Needle: US 9

Notes: I followed the worsted weight instructions. Be sure to use at least a 32" circular. For the flower portion, I left long tails and then ran one tail up the CO edge and pulled it tight. That caused the flower to curl up for me. I then stitched it down using my own method from my Sunflower pattern. I seamed it to a pin backing from my stash and attached it to the finished scarf.

After our little photo session, we went to lunch and there was a consignment shop next door. I took a look around and got a formal camel winter wool coat for CHEAP and it is in perfect condition and designer. I still keep looking at it to figure out why it was so cheap. Anyway, it goes GREAT with my scarf. BONUS!!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Ornaments

I saw this idea on Pinterest and made them up in about 30 minutes. I must admit that they were supposed to be a stocking stuffer for Patrick and I didn't even make it to December! I ended up giving it to him Thanksgiving night so that we could put them on the tree this year. 

Gather your wedding invitation or program...

Cut the pieces and roll around a pencil...

Stick them into a clear glass ornament...

Tie a ribbon at the top...for our invitation one, I used the ribbon on the invitation...

I put together four of invitation, one from our program page 1, one from our program page 2, and one of the poem PK wrote and had read at our wedding. Like I said, the idea was from a crafter on Pinterest. Thanks for the inspiration!!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blog Giveaway Winner!

And the winner is...Darlene!

What did she win? A custom order What the Slouch hat. Knitted to custom size and color she selects and a copy of the pattern. Didn't win but want a hat or the pattern? Check us out and send us a message at the Brownie Knits Etsy site:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Matching Neck Warmers

Several weeks back I had the rare chance to spend lunch with two of my girlfriends. Years and years ago when we all lived in the same city and were single (or dragged poor Greg along), we would hang out every weekend...usually most of the weekend and lunches through the week. I look back on those times and wish I had treasured them even more. We had a blast together and those friendships got me through some years of my life that would have been tough and lonely, otherwise.

Now...we see each other 2 or 3 times a year and the moments fly by in a flash. Looking back on the lunch, I think about how funny we must have sounded to those around us because we were talking so fast to try and catch up as much as possible. After lunch, Carol and I made a quick run to the The Village Yarn Shop. We ended up buying a project to make together. The yarn? Madelinetosh, of course!!!

I started knitting mine over Thanksgiving week and thought about how thankful I am that after all these years I still have Carol, Tonya, and Greg as friends and that we added Sam and Patrick along the way.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Story Does Your Christmas Tree Tell?

Every year as we put up our tree, we think about what each ornament says. What story does your tree tell?

This year added the tree of the funny things I will remember about this is that I watched Twin Peaks while I was making it. A new holiday show? Ha! :)

A few knitted ornaments and some knitting-themed ornaments adorn our tree...

There are ornaments with pictures from over the years, ones with years on them, and this little yorkie one from our friend Sarah when Riley was a puppy.

Shell ornament from our Turks and Caicos trip, one from our London trip, and a handmade one from PK.
I hate lots of little things sitting around, so on our trips we often buy ornaments as a souvenir. It makes them all very special to us.

This is our one from Greece. Not really sure it was meant to be an ornament and for all we know it says awful things since the language is unknown. We laugh about that each year.

Our 2011 ornament and our most special ornament on the tree...the one from our honeymoon trip to Venice. Every year you can find this little guy in a special spot of display in the front top center. 

As the kids grow we have some they made us, like this stocking from Aidan...

...and this picture one from Jack...

There are ornaments with our dreams like this one from Florida of the palm tree.

There are ones of special memories...our wedding program...

Snowflakes from my MIL and glass globe ones from a shopping trip with my mom...
Some ornaments from friends, including this clay singer ornament from Karen some 14 or so years ago...

Joke ones like this gnome one PK gave me one year. I loved the "Oh NO! Don't back up!" commercial.

All my precious moments ornaments from when I was a little girl...

Another joke one from PK about my love of crab when we go to visit the Klunk family out east...
Hallmark ornaments from Patrick as a little boy...

This year my MIL gave us her Norman Rockwell 12 days of Christmas ornaments. Aren't they cool?
And like a good alumni, I have an IU ornament or two...

We also have these two little trees that don't really have a story, but they make me smile.

Here is our finished tree...the tree we bought our first year together. I remember telling my mom when we went to get it that Patrick was the guy I was going to marry.

Our stockings that were $1.00 each when we were barely surviving with paying college bills and such. They will always be super special to us...along with our Christmas picture of Riley and Kennedy.