Friday, August 31, 2012

A Little Learning...

One of the things I LOVE about the craft community is the constant opportunity to learn. I had a high school teacher who told us that the day he stopped learning was the day he would stop teaching. (I bet every HS friend who reads the blog can name the teacher!) I've remembered that throughout my knitting career whenever I felt "bad" or "stupid" for not knowing a technique. The stupid thing would be to think you know it all and never to learn more, right?

Anyway, Craftsy has been a lovely website for continuing craft education. I originally signed up for a sewing class and did learn a lot (and learned I knew a little more about my machine than I thought). I still need to finish up some lessons from that class, but I find I sew more in the fall and winter so that will come with time.

You can watch the classes at your own speed and wherever you want...I took the product photography class while at the pool in Florida! After you pay, you have permanent access to the class. Recently, I decided with some gal pals to knit the sweater Ravi throughout the month of September. We have been emailing each other via FB and the cast on date is this Saturday. As we each prepared to make the sweater, we have been watching the FREE short rows class on Craftsy (offered by Ravi pattern designer, Carol Feller). It has been a great way for us to all participate as a "group" while each being in different locations. And, we have all agreed that all classes should have a teacher with an Irish accent! This free course takes you through four different ways to complete short rows and several ideas for where to use them in your knitting.

I found that for me, my best tension was the one I have been doing the longest (guess that makes sense). But, my purl side "pick ups" were best on the YO method. She mentions in the video that you can combine two methods for different sides. For the Ravi sweater, I plan to use the Japanese short row method to practice this technique. In the class, she uses safety pins for this portion. Years ago I remember my friend T making a sweater and using bobby pins for the holders. Always wanted to give that a go, so that is the Ravi plan for me. (Note that my swatch is unblocked and I don't really think you would notice the short row "stitches" much at all after blocking--the Japanese section is the second from the top.)

I have plans to take other courses online to learn some new things and confirm that I do other things in the best way possible. Sign up for a free Craftsy account and they send out notifications of class discounts on a regular basis (often 50% off). There are all sorts of crafts, not just knitting and crochet. It is also a market for craft products, including independent designers. Check out the Brownie Knits Craftsy store! Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! Automatic PDF download upon checkout!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beekeeper's Quilt Progress

As I'm working on my own designs and projects, I've been knitting up at least one or two puffs for the Beekeeper's Quilt each day. The original pattern calls for a finished size of 3 feet by 4 feet and 384 puffs. My goal is to make one large enough for all of us to cuddle under it on the couch. I see snow falling outside and the four of us cuddled up watching a movie with the beautiful fluffy quilt keeping us warm. I'm figuring that means more of like a king size and about 800 puffs. We shall see...

So far, I have knitted 17 puffs. I used up a partial skein of Koigu first (thus the 7 matching puffs) and then started on my own custom dye skeins (see those blue ones). I hand-dyed two skeins of yarn in a class from Classic Cable Knits years and years ago. I used our trip to Falasarna Beach in Greece as my inspiration. I think you can see the clear blue ocean and the white clouds and brown sand represented in the yarn. I'm so happy I held onto it all these years for a project that screamed for me to use it. How perfect it will be to snuggle with Patrick with one of our favorite memories represented in the quilt!

Jimmy Beans Wool had a kit for the Beekeeper's Quilt, so I snatched up one in desert (currently sold out). Those are addictive little skeins because you can't wait to see how they look all knitted up!

So far, all the yarn is Koigu (even my custom used Koigu as a base). I am using US 4 needles and I did modify the pattern to use the kitchener stitch as my BO to avoid bumps on both sides of the puffs. Now I can have a perfect right side free of any bumps. Still trying to figure out the "right" amount of stuffing so that they are all sort of balanced. I just love how happy this project is making me. They are like short respites from the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thick & Warm Socks for the Winter

During my trip to Groovy Girl last week, I picked up some Plymouth worsted merino superwash yarn in orange and brown to knit Patrick some winter socks. On Sunday, as Patrick worked on his next book, I casted on the socks and started knitting away. It was nice to knit with "larger" needles and thicker yarn after knitting the sweater and quilt. The socks are moving right along and I hope to have them done before the 1st when I start my new sweater projects.

US 7 needle
Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash in colors 59 and 27

One of my goals with yarn is to work up what I purchase right away so that I don't continue to add to the stash that I am trying to knit and crochet down to a less embarrassing amount! Over the past few weeks, I used up 11 balls of yarn stash and used up two shopping trips of yarn purchases. Must keep up the trend!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beekeeper's Quilt

As mentioned earlier, I really miss not having a blanket on the needles. After searching for a few weeks to determine my next afghan/blanket project, I settled on the Beekeeper's Quilt. I plan to knit up my partial skeins of sock yarn into hexis and then dig into sock yarn stash. Here is the start of my quilt.

They are a lot bigger than I thought they would be. After you stuff them, they are nice and fluffy. The pattern is super easy to remember, so after just a few you no longer have to reference the pattern. The designer is right--it is a great take along project. I really like the ease of just the two active DPNs, too.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Patrick's Baseball Sweater

Last winter I started a sweater for Patrick with the intent of it being a Christmas present. Well, that didn't happen. It got put on hibernation. The DK weight yarn and size 6 needles combined with the miles of stockinette stitch to fit his long torso resulted in many many hours of knitting. It is a pieced sweater with saddle shoulders.

Knitted out of two colors of Cascade 220 Superwash on US 6 needles. The pattern is from the book Knits Men Want. I knitted the size 44 with a slightly tighter gauge than 5. I made the torso section 2 inches longer and put in short row shaping across the top back to avoid ride up. The sleeves were knitted .5 inch longer. I also only picked up a 1 to 1 stitch count along the neckline to avoid the rib being too big. (The 140 called for in the book was WAY too much.)

I think it will look great with dark jeans and a blue business shirt underneath. These pictures are also pre-blocking. I'm on to the men's worsted socks in the book. I don't think there is a pattern in the book he doesn't like, so I guess they got that title right!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Trip to a New LYS

While we were on vacay in June, a new yarn shop opened in Kokomo (about 45 minutes north of us). I totally missed this until seeing it mentioned on Ravelry. I looked up the hours and went up Tuesday morning. Opened by an artist and avid crocheter, it is in an old church building. As I pulled up, the yarn bombing outside welcomed me with the cheerful colors and fun arrangements.

The store was decorated with the owner's artwork and crocheted items. Lots of colors and options in the yarns that she stocks. And, most importantly imo, it was cozy, cute, and WELCOMING. From the moment I hit the door, I was welcomed in and it was like chatting with old friends. A friend of the shop came in to have her lunch and play with yarn a bit. She offered to share her pizza with me and the other customer. We talked yarn, blogs, projects, tv, crochet, and knitting.

I settled on some skeins of Plymouth Worsted to make PK a pair of worsted weight socks. (He is going to wear out his sockweight crazy socks before I know it!) Stitches and Scones customers should definitely check out Groovy Girl. It was like going to visit an old friend surrounded by colorful yarn and art.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

House Days

After all the major updates we have made to the house, we are down to smaller projects. A closet here, a wall there kind of stuff. This past Sunday was a "house day". The plan was to paint the master closet walls and ceiling and the ceilings in the master bathroom and bedroom. Best laid plans...we ended up with two different whites. I'm not the easiest person when things like that go awry. I REALLY like things completed and clean lines. Poor Patrick had to deal with my idiotic behavior. So, next weekend will, sadly, include another day of our most hated activity.

I did, however, capture a few cute photos of the dogs "helping" out.

Riley staying close to me and watching the action. 

Kennedy hides under the bed during any changes at the house. She came out on the wrong side and walked under the plastic. She stood there looking at us like she was stuck in the spot. It is shrink wrapped Kennedy! Of course, later she managed to come out this way again and caused an entire drink to spill all over the place.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Planned Knits

So, you didn't think my one and only project could last for long, did you?!? There are big plans in the works, but I am also including big plans on how to complete it all. The Baseball Sweater will be done by the end of August along with another Flowers of Fall Wreath.

After that is all wrapped up, I'll be starting these projects for September:

Ravi by Stolen Stitches
Pattern is available for purchase in Ravelry here

I am knitting this along with my knitter friends who are across the Midwest. I don't get to see all of them on a regular basis, so this will be a nice way to "knit together" and get to talk via FB message on a regular basis. Cast on date is 9/1. Although I had hoped to use up stash for this project, I didn't have any sportweight. So, I ordered Socks that Rock mediumweight in Mossay. I knitted the swatch yesterday and, oh my, what GREAT yarn! Even more excited to make the sweater now.

Deep Water by Winged Knits
Pattern is available for purchase in Ravelry here

When we first came up with the idea to knit something as a group, this was one of the options. I really, really like it, too. So, I am going to challenge myself to make both of the sweaters during September. Cast on day will also be 9/1. I AM using stash yarn for this one (Plymouth Earth Mainland; alpaca/silk). I swatched for this one, too. All set and ready to knit away!

Remember that blanket knitting I was missing? Well, after looking around I settled on the Beekeeper's Quilt from Tiny Owl Knits (available in Ravelry here). I just might have to start a crochet block, too. But, for now, I plan to use up sock yarn stash on the quilt. I expect that it will take me a year or so. 

There are secret plans for design projects for the next 18 months and then there are some sweaters planned for October, but more on that later.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What's On the Needles

For the first time since I started crafting again, which was picking back up crochet when Patrick and I started dating (circa March 1999), I ONLY have one project active. It really feels so wrong and just not natural! Resisting the urge to start something else before finishing this one resulted in the wreath and tea cozy projects, but at least I started and finished them right away.

Here is the project I am working diligently on to finish up for DH:

It is the Baseball Sweater on the front cover of Knits Men Want. This is a fantastic book that I picked up last year (TONS of gauge and size options for every project in the book). When Patrick first picked out the sweater, I knitted the back. Then, I got distracted. Now that I am back on the case, I have the back and 75% of the front done. I hope to have the front and part of the sleeves done this week so that I can finish up the sleeves and seaming next week. The yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash on a US 6 needle. I am knitting the 44 inch size as instructed except that I am increasing the length in the torso and arms to fit Patrick's frame. My gauge is actually between the 5 and 5.5, but I really needed a 42 so it should all work out. Of course, my Rays loving hubby, picked out two shades of blue for his Baseball sweater. I can't wait to see him wear it this winter as I think it will really bring out his eyes. : )

I do find myself longing for a blanket project. Most people are a certain type of knitter or crocheter. Most people will answer with, "I'm a sweater knitter," or "I'm a hat knitter." Me, well, I'm odd. I love to make sweaters and adore making hats. But, I think I must admit that I love making blankets. Blankets were one of the first things I crocheted and knitted and I still love to make them. I just might have to dive into another crocheted block blanket.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quick Tea Cozy

As the cooler weather moved in, I found myself wanting more herbal tea. I have a rather large (for one person) teapot in a winterberry pattern. It is just perfect for the winter setting, but rather odd to see the pattern the rest of the year. I decided last year that I wanted to knit or crochet a tea cozy for it. After finishing my fall wreath the other night, I casted on this little guy during the gold medal men's indoor volleyball game and knitted it into the evening. A few minutes on it the next day and tada, it is all done!

The pattern is free from the Lily/Sugar & Cream site. It is super easy (knit two garter stitch squares and seam them together). I used size US 7 needles and a leftover partial ball of MadTosh Tosh Vintage in Tart. (The top picture color is more accurate.) I went with such a simple pattern because my teapot is taller than most of the short and fat ones. This pattern was easy to manipulate to the height and openings I needed. This is a GREAT first project if you are looking to teach someone to knit. Smaller than a scarf and you could easily sew buttons or flowers over any mistakes that come up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flowers of Fall Wreath

We had some rain and cooler weather move into our area over the weekend. I felt inspired to create a wreath for the front door for fall. I fell in love with a brightly colored crochet wreath on the Attic24 blog earlier this summer that used dk weight and lots of flower patterns from books/such. I thought I'd give my own take a try. I changed it up quite a bit (heavier weight of yarn, different sized wreath, different stitch count) and designed my own foliage and used the Brownie Knits Sunflower pattern. Here is the final result. I think it will look great on our front door in a few months.

The pattern for this wreath, Flowers of Fall Wreath, will be released in September. It is 100% crochet, but doesn't use any stitches more complex than a double crochet. Don't crochet but you want one? Contact us at to place an order.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Shalom in Red

I wear my Shalom sweater more than any other sweater I have ever knitted. A few weekends ago when the floor was being installed, I was ready to pull my hair out. I was sequestered upstairs with two anxious dogs who were none too happy about the situation and made sure to let me know. I couldn't bring myself to work on the socks I had started, so I went to my stash in search of some yummy yarn to knit on larger needles. Out came this red Quince yarn and it jumped into Shalom form. Like before, it was a super fast project...the yoke was done that Saturday and I finished up the sweater the following week in between house projects and sock knitting. Great, right?

Knitted on US 10.5 needles
I did use my mods from my other Shalom (see Ravelry project for notes).

Well...not so great. Even though I used my mods from the last Shalom and got the same gauge (and the other one still fits), this one came out HUGE! I was so ticked off. The only thing I can guess is that the yarn weight (in ounces not thin/thick) was too heavy and pulled and stretched more than I thought it would. I put it aside while I worked on the farm. I decided that I could a.) give it away b.) rip it out c.) try to salvage it. I went with option c, which meant to steek it. Um, scary!!! 

After talking to some trusted knitter friends, I went with a crochet line instead of using a sewing machine. You can see the two lines here.

The cutting was scary...

I took out about 1.5 on each side...

A nice center line...

But not the prettiest end result on the inside...

A button from my button stash...

Such pretty detail on the yoke of this sweater...

Although the inside isn't so neat and tidy, the outside is.
With any luck, I did it all right and it will not fall apart on me!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Central Park Hoodie

My CPH is done!!! I'm so happy with the final result. The stitch definition with the Cascade 220 really came out well. I just couldn't bring myself to put it on for a photo shoot in 90+ heat, so I took photos on Berta (my dress form). The sizing came out nicely even though I worried about it the entire time I knitted the sweater. It really draws in a LOT during the knitting process between the rib and the cables. But, in the end, it blocked out to fit me.

I did put an extra inch and a half on each side front in the St st sections. I also opted out of the buttons. However, I did sew on a button on the inside behind one of the cables and attached a crochet loop to the other inside. This will create an invisible button that I can use if I get cold. A great pattern with a sweater that I will wear a lot.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Finished Farm

Here it is! The finished Spud & Chloe farm that I made as my Olympic challenge for myself. I will always remember knitting this for E and watching the US women's gymnastics team win gold, zillions of volleyball matches, lots of water polo that I still don't understand, some close soccer matches, and many a swimming final that I had to rewind because I was knitting an animal foot.

Here are is the entire gang. Total number of pieces knitted: exactly 100! Everything except for the barn and hay was knitted on double-pointed needles. I used Spud & Chloe Sweater (a worsted weight) for all pieces. I opted not to make the mice (yuck) and hen/chicks. I also only made one pig due to a yarn shortage. However, this pig is bigger than the one in the book because I used worsted yarn instead of fingering weight.

The sheep (Spud) and the Little Lamb both used a twisted loop technique that was not difficult, but took some time to do. Another technique to put in my head as I design blankets and hats. Could be a fun little dreadlock hat number.

I spent a good deal of one evening on Chloe's hair. I wanted it "just right" so I patiently threaded each strand onto her head and then got it all arranged into a ponytail. 

I think the Brown Cow is my favorite animal. I really thought it was going to be Spud, but the cow won me over. He is so cute! One of my goals in this project was to use up all the bags of fiberfill I had laying around. I ran out with half the cow and the pig and lamb to go. Determined not to buy another bag of stuffing, I stuffed the remainder of the animals with yarn snippets from various projects. It worked great! Might have to do that for future projects. A perfect use for all the yarn ends that knitters trim off of projects. (I have a thread/yarn snippet "trash bin" that is made from fabric and hangs off the table or arm chair. You just pop the threads in it as you go so that they don't gather on the sofa. It is a super cute sunflower pattern, so it doesn't look like a trash bin, but instead a cute decor item. I found mine years and years ago at a quilt store in St. Louis when my SIL lived there, but I'm sure you could find them on Etsy.)

After buying the book for the patterns and the nice yarn that it called for, I didn't want to spend any extra money on this project, so I didn't use embroidery thread for the facial features. Instead, I used the skein of black that I bought to make Little Lamb.

Riley keeps looking at them all like he is jealous of the time I've spent with the "other animals"! I suppose at some point I should knit a few of these up for him and Kiki as toys.

As always, Susan did a FANTASTIC job with these patterns. The way that the different elements were thought out was genius. I especially enjoyed that the fence was a combo of i-cord and a magical crochet hook finishing technique instead of what could have been feet of DPN work. And after all these years of knitting, teaching, and designing, I FINALLY tried out double knitting on the barn sides. Still trying to get my head around the technical side of it. I plan to play with it for some kitchen cloths and a maybe a block blanket. If I was still teaching at a LYS, it would be thrown on the schedule!

If you have little ones in your family, here is a link to the book on Amazon. You could easily opt for lower priced yarn than called for (although you will LOVE Spud & Chloe if you invest in it). Would be a great project for a family of knitters to do as a knit along.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Little of This and A Little of That

We have been getting the house ready to put on the market at some point. We wanted to get it all updated in time for us to live in it and enjoy the changes, too. Throughout the process, we keep saying that we should have done it all long ago. Shoulda, woulda, coulda...

Thanks to Patrick's family, we have a beautiful new floor downstairs to go along with the new flooring installed last fall upstairs. It was a long and hot weekend, but the boys got it all installed over two days. I find myself sweeping it each day and using the special floor cleaner where the dogs walk. It is super clean and the dogs will either walk along fine or they stand up and struggle to walk. If they struggle at first, then it is like watching them walk on ice.

We also got a new counter in the kitchen, painted all of the downstairs and trim, and rearranged furniture throughout the house to stage the living room and turn the yarn studio into a guest room (sniff). In the midst of all of these updates, there were days when I was sent off to keep the dogs out of the way and safe. While doing this, I would think about how we were going to organize things. I went online to Etsy (of course!) in search of a few kitchen things. I love that you can find cute and inexpensive items to help your sanity.

No more having to guess if someone opened the dishwasher to pull out one clean dish without putting the rest away. Now we just flip the dial!

Storage for all those ugly plastic bags that can take up lots of space. Just pop them in here and pull out from the bottom when you need one. (Note, we only get a few each week to use for our recycling. Otherwise, we are good consumers and use market bags.)

Cute and colorful decorated pins for bag clips. 

Go know you want to run over to Etsy now to check out what you can find!