Thursday, December 30, 2010

FO: Grandma's Shawl

My grandmother is always freezing, so I wanted to make her something for Christmas that would keep her warm. She generally wears sweaters around the house, so I decided that a shawl she could drape over one of those sweaters would add a nice extra layer of warmth.

My grandma is a little difficult to knit for- she has a tendency to declare things “too nice to wear.” I wanted to make her something nice that she would still wear, so I chose a pattern that’s mostly very simple garter stitch, with a pretty edging. I also chose a dark beige yarn, to make it a nice, every-day wear scarf. I knit it in Knitpicks Comfy Sport, so that it would be washable.

The body of the shawl was really easy, and went fairly quickly. The edging, on the other hand, took forever. I had some trouble starting it, because I just could not visualize how the steps I was doing were possibly going to make this edging, but I finally just went with it, and lo and behold, I had a pretty edging! It took so long to crank out, but I love the look of it!

Pattern: Annas Shawl

Yarn: Knitpicks Comfy Sport

Colorway: Cashew

Needles: US6 and US4

The Verdict: I love the way this turned out- the drape is beautiful, and I think this is perfect for my grandmother. I probably would not knit the exact same thing for myself, but I may make one in blue for me, instead. I’d wait awhile before doing so, though- I really don’t want to do any more of that sawtooth edging any time soon!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

FO: Fall Breeze Shawl

This was my mother's Christmas present.

My mother wanted to steal my bed shawl (keeps my shoulders warm when I’m reading/knitting in bed!) from me. I of course wasn’t going to surrender it, so I decided to give her one of her own for Christmas. I wanted something wide and long, so that it would keep her nice and warm, and a rectangular shawl, rather than a triangular one. I settled on the Fall Breeze Shawl.

The pattern recommended Caron Simply Soft, and since I wanted a washable yarn, that seemed like a good choice. I chose a color that would match my parents’ bedroom.

The shawl was going quickly at first, but then I got to the huge stockinette portion. Feet of stockinette is so boring, and the shawl got too big to be a travelling project, so I could only work on it at home. Additionally, I was getting really, really tired of working with 100% acrylic.

The pattern called for 1.5 balls of the yarn. It took me 2.3 balls. The pattern was a little ambiguous; it said to knit the stockinette until the shawl is the desired length, and that the designer’s was 55”. I assumed that that meant I should knit the stockinette until the shawl was 55” and then work the final lacy section; I’m beginning to suspect that the designer meant that her whole shawl was 55,” and that may be where the yarn amount discrepancy occurred. This caused a little bit of a problem, because I needed to go buy more yarn- although Caron Simply Soft is not supposed to have a dye lot, you can kind of see the difference. It’s not too terrible, though, and I didn’t have much choice, so I went with it.

I also had a little bit of help on this project. I took it home over the Thanksgiving holiday to work on it. I was in my bedroom, watching tv on my laptop and knitting away, when the dogs decided to come offer their assistance and test out the partially-finished shawl’s merits. As you can see, Mia decided it would make a good pillow, while Napoleon thought it was an excellent blanket. I made sure to make it long enough for a dog to snuggle under the ends while Mom uses it, if she feels like sharing.

Pattern: Fall Breeze Shawl

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft

Needles: US8

The Verdict: The end result looks great, and I love the way it turned out. However, I definitely do not think I’d knit this again- I got so incredibly bored during the stockinette portion, and it was way too big and heavy to transport!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Gifts

I think I did pretty well on Christmas shopping/knitting this year! Unfortunately, my schedule kind of fell to pieces and I wasn't able to finish two of the projects, but I didn't do too badly. Here's a peak at each gift- those that are knitted will have Finished Object posts to come!

For Mom:

A few years ago, Mom bought me a nice, wide shawl to wrap around my shoulders while I'm reading in bed. It's so much easier to use than draping a blanket around my shoulders- the blanket either gives me too much bulk around my neck, or I'm lying on bunched-up places. A few months ago, she asked if I ever used it, and if not, could she have it back?

Well, I was not giving up my bed shawl, so I decided to make one for her for Christmas. It needed to be wide, and long enough for her to wrap around herself and still have a little extra left in case the dogs wanted to snuggle underneath with her. I chose the Fall Breeze Shawl, and this is what I ended up with:

For Dad:

Dad isn't much into knitted stuff, but he does love bugs, especially cute sculptures of them. I found the perfect gift for him from the Etsy shop Jodieflowers. I chose the Screen Porch Spider. It's designed so that you can stick it onto a screen door, or you can also have the artist put a magnet on the back. I had her leave the magnet off, as I think Dad will want to just stick it on his desk. The artist also lets you make color requests; I requested non-girly colors, preferably blue, and got such an adorable green and blue spider! I love the little teeth! It also comes in nice packaging, and the legs are unbent, so Dad will get to bend them exactly the way he wants them:

For Grandma:

I've made Grandma knitted gifts for the past two Christmases. She uses the afghan I made her two years ago on a regular basis, but won't wear the scarf I made her last year because it's "too nice to wear." Lately, Grandma has been complaining about being cold all of the time. I thought a shawl that she could throw over her shoulders on top of a sweater might be a nice, useful gift for her. I wanted to make something nice, of course, but not too nice, as she would never use it. I settled on a simple pattern with a dark beige yarn:

For Grandpa:

Two Christmases ago, I made Grandpa a sweater vest. We could not get him to take that thing off for about a week, he loved it so much! Based on this, I decided another sweater vest might be in order. He isn't very temperature sensitive and I've seen him wearing sweater vests in warm weather before, so I decided to make this one out of a cotton/linen blend, so he won't overheat as easily. I heavily modified a basic pattern, and it's coming out pretty well- all I have left to do is finish the neck edging (which I have now ripped out three times, and the arm hole edging. It would be done, except that my hands were hurting from knitting too much cotton, and I had to take a break and knit with something else.

For My Aunt:

Since I was making my Grandparents hand-knitted presents, I needed to make my aunt something as well, so she doesn't feel left out. An easy, lacey scarf sounded like a perfect idea. It was a little slow-going, because scarves can get boring, but I'm happy with the result:

For Mia:

Much to her great dismay, dogs do need baths sometimes and Mia is no exception. After her bath, the poor thing is always so cold and shivers until she dries. She is so freezing that she willingly allows my mother to put a sweater on her. However, the sweater is too thin to do much, and acrylic, which doesn't really wick away moisture. I decided to make her a nice, warm, worsted-weight wool sweater for Christmas, so that she can be warmer after her baths. The pattern I chose is a little fancy for something that's only going to be worn after bath time, but looks gorgeous- I think I still might be suffering from guilt over moving away from home and leaving her (the family dog) with my parents. This is the second Christmas knit I didn't get done. I probably could have- I was going to bring the project home and knit all day Christmas Eve and most of Christmas (we weren't doing presents until the evening). However, I managed to leave the second ball of yarn back at my apartment when packing to visit my parents, so this wasn't really an option.

For Napoleon:

Mia, however, is not the only dog I have to knit for. Napoleon the Chihuahua doesn't technically belong to my family, but he is a frequent visitor to the house (he belongs to my brother's girlfriend). When Napoleon first started visiting, I was determined not to like him- I've never had a good track record with Chihuahuas, and Mia was feeling a little neglected because Po (that's what we call him for short!) was getting so much attention. However, he was equally determined that I would love him. He followed me around, to the point where I began to understand where the saying "follows around like a puppy" came from, and snuggled up next to me on the couch. The clincher was when his human called him to go home, and he hid behind my legs. It wasn't long before I was head over heels in love with this dog.

Unlike Mia, Po isn't only cold after a bath- he's freezing all the time. He loves snuggling next to people under the covers, a human armpit being his favorite place to nap due to the warmth. He's especially cold when he goes outside in the winter! When he first arrived, he was too tiny to wear store-bought clothing so I made him a coat at my mother's request. He outgrew that, and she was able to buy him one- but it's big on him, and makes swishy noises when he walks, and baby blue- such an easy color to get dirty for such an active dog! I decided to knit him a nicer superwash wool one in a distinguished-looking burgundy color. I had an idea in my mind of how I wanted the coat to look, with a cable around the entire edge, and ended up having to design my own pattern because I couldn't find anything resembling what I wanted:

For Napoleon's Human:

Napoleon's human has been really sweet about sharing him with us. My parents have become really attached to him, as have I. She makes sure that he visits frequently, and sometimes even lets him stay overnight. I visit my parents about once a month, and she makes sure I get my Napoleon time! She and I aren't really that close, but I wanted to make her a thank-you gift for sharing her dog with us. I thought some mitts to match Po's coat would be the perfect thing. They're pictured with Po's coat in the picture above.

For the Guy I'm Dating:

We've been having a lot of fun with an old set of Kinex that he found in his room the last time he went home to visit his parents. We were wishing we had some Legos to play with, too, so a big tub of Legos seemed like a great gift we could both enjoy.

For The Cat:

The guy I've been dating also has a cat. I saw some an adorable pattern for some catnip mice online, and decided to knit her a couple for Christmas. Her human provided the catnip, although it almost didn't make it to me- he put some in a plastic bag in his backpack. The cat got into the backpack and chewed through the plastic to the catnip inside. Nevertheless, he rescued the remaining catnip, transferred it to a plastic container, and I made these:

I think I did a pretty good job on presents this year- what do you think?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FO: Crow Prints Shawl

I was so excited to find Schoppel Wolle Zauberball at my LYS. I wanted to make a triangular shawl with it, because I thought the long color changes would look gorgeous knit up like that. This was the second pattern I tried, and it worked out perfectly! The pattern is so incredibly easy to knit, and the charts are really easy to follow. Using a self-striping yarn adds a lot of interest without a lot of work. This is also a perfect pattern for a yarn like this, because it made the stripes form really pretty waves of color.

The pattern called for US 10.5 needles, but didn’t actually give me gauge info. 10.5 seemed way too big. I used US 10 instead, and that seemed to be exactly what I needed.

I really wanted to use as much of the yarn as possible. I ended up knitting an extra repeat of the body chart. The pattern suggested that I might add a knit row between each row of the edge chart, as well, which I also did. I tried to add another extra knit row at the end, too, but I ran out during the cast off and had to unravel a bit.

Pattern: Crow Prints Shawl

Yarn: Schoppel Wolle Zauberball

Colorway: Blackberry

Needles: US 10

Knit For: Me

Mods: Extra body chart repeat; Added knit row between each row of the edge chart

The Verdict: I love it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cat Fortress...

At least, that’s what it was supposed to be…I got a Knitpicks order in the mail last week, and told the boyfriend I was bringing over a new box for his cat to play with. One thing led to another, and somehow, we ended up building a cat fortress! It has entrances and windows on each level, as well as holes between the levels so Zoey can climb up. However, she doesn’t really seem to get this concept, and prefers to just hang out in the bottom box. So much for all of our construction efforts, although at least we had fun building it! I think I may be turning into a cat person…

We also went ice skating. No pictures from that, because we weren’t supposed to have cameras on the ice, and it was dangerous enough without being distracted! They way over-sold tickets, so there were about a million people on the ice. There were also a couple of birthday parties going on, meaning there were little kids on ice skates careening everywhere. I’m not exactly a skilled ice skater, so these obstacles were quite a challenge. I did, however, learn how to make quite a graceful spin when turning around was the only way to avoid slamming into a small child. I also didn’t fall on the ice, although there was some crashing into walls.

I also discovered a new yarn shop. I got rather frustrated with my old, closer yarn shop on Thursday. They’re only open past 6:00 one day a week, and since I’ve been spending the weekends in another city with the boyfriend, that one day is the only time I can get there. We had a big of snow on Thursday, so I called them before heading out there to make sure they weren’t closing early. They said they weren’t, and I braved traffic and icy roads to get that one extra skein of yarn I needed for my Christmas knitting. It was not a fun trip. I arrived and- lo and behold- there was a closed sign on the door. I was not a happy girl.

Waiting until this coming Thursday (2 days before Christmas!) to get the skein I needed was not an option, so I decided to look for a yarn shop in Northern Virginia, where I was spending the weekend. I found Fibre Space and wow, is it amazing! Not only do they have all sorts of my favorite yarns (Cascade 220 Superwash, Malabrigo Lace, almost the entire Berroco line, etc), they also have some brands that you usually don’t see in stores, such as Miss Babs, Dragonfly Fibers, and the Sanguine Gryphon. I also got to see Dream In Color Starry in person, and fell in love. My only complaint, small though it is, is that they’re a bag-free shop. This wasn’t a huge deal when I was buying one skein of yarn, but it might have been problematic if I were buying more.

FO: Traveling Woman

I've had this pattern queued for awhile, but it looks so complicated- I was kind of afraid to take it on! Finally, however, I bit the bullet and cast on- and it was so much easier than I expected! I messed up the stitch count a couple of times on the stockinette part, but that was completely my fault because I wasn't paying enough attention- it had nothing to do with the pattern. The patterned, lacy part at the bottom was easy, too- the charts were nice and big, and so easy to follow!

This is a great yarn. It seems really sturdy, and has great stitch definition. I'd definitely knit with it again. I also love the color- it's a nice, bright purple.

Pattern: Traveling Woman

Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino

Colorway: Purple

Needles: US6

Mods: None

The Verdict: I am very pleased with the result of this! I think I may make more shawls in this pattern, possible in heavier weights for a larger shawl.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

FO: Baroness Beret

I wanted a hat to match my Just Enough Ruffles scarf, and I had plenty of leftover fuchsia Ultra Alpaca. The only ruffled hats I've seen have been for babies, and I wasn't sure that was the look I was going for, so I decided to try something a little different. The scarf was fairly simple, so I had a fair amount of choice. I chose the Baroness Beret.

It's a great pattern, and worked up fairly quickly. My only criticism is that some points in the pattern said stuff like " k2, k2-" why not just write "k4?" Still understandable, but just a minor knitpick on my part. I raved about the yarn already in the scarf post, so I won't make you listen to me declare my love for it again.

Pattern: Baroness Beret

Needles: Size 4 (Ribbing) and Size 6 (main part of the hat)

Yarn: Berrocco Ultra Alpaca

Colorway: Fuchsia (6325)

Modifications: I added an extra repeat of the Chevron eyelet pattern- although I got gauge, it seemed seriously small. I also repeated the last two rows of the decreases, because I was a little concerned that leaving 12 stitches at the end was a bit much and might result in a hole- 6 worked out perfectly.

The Verdict: The hat is pretty and great, and looks awesome with the scarf!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

FO: Just Enough Ruffles Scarf

Well, I promised you FO posts, and then…life interfered. And then I misplaced the pictures. But now I have taken more pictures, and am ready to talk about knitting again! So onto my pretty Just Enough Ruffles scarf:

I bought this pattern awhile ago, but just wasn't inspired to knit it. I later bought three skeins Berrocco Ultra Alpaca in Fuchsia with the intention of making a scarf and hat set out of it. You know how sometimes a yarn just "speaks" to you and tells you what it wants to be? When I opened the package and saw the yarn, I knew it wanted to be the ruffles scarf, and I cast on almost immediately. It was really slow going towards the end (600 stitches on that ruffle!), but totally worth it for the finished project- so pretty and elegant and (surprise!) ruffle-y!

The pattern was very well written and so easy to understand. The short rows to make it a little curved are a brilliant idea- I never would have thought to design the scarf like that, but they really work perfectly. The pattern is also really reasonably priced at $3.50. I generally avoid buying patterns that require you to pay for them, as I prefer to look at the pattern before I decide whether to knit it- not being able to see the pattern means I'd be buying it before I was even sure I'd want to make it! However, there's nothing complicated going on with this pattern to scare me away, and $3.50 is really not all that expensive- plus, when I bought it, half the profits went to helping with the Haiti disaster.

I love love love working with Ultra Alpaca. It's definitely one of my favorite yarns. It's fairly soft, but has enough texture to make knitting with it so much fun!

Pattern: Just Enough Ruffles

Needles: Size 9 Knitpicks Interchangeable (Also, I loved that the cable was almost the same color as my yarn!)

Yarn: Berrocco Ultra Alpaca

Colorway: Fuchsia (6325) (Also, I had to look up how to spell fuchsia- seriously, does that LOOK like it's pronounced few-sha?)

Modifications: None- the pattern was perfect as written!

The Verdict: I love this scarf. It's soft and feminine and ruffle-y, but the color is also a bold choice, and should be a gorgeous pop of color in the winter.* It's a tiny bit itchy, but not enough to prevent me from wearing it.

*I buy plain gray, black, or brown coats, so that I can wear fun accessories without clashing. As much as I covet some of those gorgeous red coats, I do not own one for this reason.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Recently, I've been dating a guy with a cat. This cat (Zoey) and I have provided endless amusement to each other- she loves to sit and watch me knit, her head moving back a forth following my hands, and I get quite a kick out of watching her!

The other day, I learned that cats can make a toy out of anything- I heard some rustling, then she pulled something out of my project bag. It wasn't yarn; it wasn't knitting needles- it was a Clover Knitting Needle Wrapper! Apparently, it makes the perfect toy!

"Hmmm- I really like this new toy I stole from that human..."

"I'd better find somewhere safe to hide with it, though...."

"This kind of works, but I feel a little exposed...."

"Perfect! No one can see me or my new toy now!"

Zoey was tumbling around the apartment with that wrapper for 20 minutes straight. Every time we get it out, she goes nuts! When we went to bed, we had to take it away from her so she wouldn't play with it all night and keep us up!

In conclusion: If you want to keep a cat away from your knitting, give it a knitting needle wrapper!