Sunday, December 30, 2007

We knitters are lucky. After a long hard day of work we always have a way to relax and destress. Even on evenings like tonight when I am too tired and brain dead to actually knit. Thats what I have a knitting library for. Today was long. And tiring. I spent 10 hours doing the end of the year inventory at the shop with 6 other people. By the end of the day we were ready to either laugh or cry, and were beginning to loose our minds. But every scrap of yarn and slip of a pattern got counted. And separated out by color.

But now I'm home on the couch, with a belly full of good food and a fire in the fire place and, most importantly, a good book to read. As a Christmas present my Grandmother gave me a borders gift certificate which I promptly used to purchase the books Knitting Without Tears (Elizabeth Zimmerman) and New Pathways for Sock Knitters (Cat Bordhi). Though I always hear about Elizabeth Zimmerman I've never actually read anything by her before. I now realize I was missing out. Reading her writing is like sitting down with an old friend I never knew I had. I guess its because we both share a passion for the same thing-- knitting-- and so it makes sense that our thoughts would echo each others. Her sense of humor is gentle, yet sharp. The type of humor that I appreciate. From her writing you can tell she was intelligent, but not arrogant. And I'm only on page 13...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Here it is!

After struggling with the loaner computer all afternoon, I finally got it set up to update the website. And that means that I can finally post the free pattern for the toboggans I've been knitting lately. Its just a basic ribbed toboggan, but the pattern is written to work perfectly with Super Wool, one of my new yarns that, in my humble opinion, is a great all purpose wool yarn. Its machine washable and ooooo so soft. Anyway, the free pattern is finally posted here.

Also, just stumbled across this adorable pattern for baby boots. Not booties-- boots! I wonder if we have the right yarn at the shop....I seem to have a thing for knitted footwear. Right now I'm working on the felted boots from Felt Forward. Has anyone made these? They look pretty straight forward up until you get to the soles. They suggest using faux suede material but don't give much other information, unless I've missed it.

'Twas the Day Before the Day Before Christmas...

And I don't know what to do. All my Christmas gift knitting is done (as of last night). I'm more or less done with my gift shopping (ok, there is one more thing- an alarm clock for my aunt-but I think I'm going to go to Walmart in the middle of the night tonight for that one). I can't think of anything I really NEED to do. And that makes me nervous. I feel like I should bake, because other than a batch or two of cookies I really haven't done any holiday knitting this year. But really, I don't want to bake. I just feel like I should. Maybe I'll make some more cookies. Or dog biscuits. I like the idea of dog biscuits. I like dogs, and they won't complain if I forget and leave them in the oven a little too long. Or forget a crucial ingredient. Like sugar. (Yes, I've left the sugar out of cookies before, and then entered them into the county fair. I've also left it out of lemonade and then sold that lemonade (unaware of my mistake) to unwary passerbiers trying to support the cute kid with the lemonade stand.) But really, the dogs are just as happy when I let them lick my dinner plate or toss them pieces of cereal as when I go to the trouble of baking them treats. Plus most of the recipes out there call for things like chicken livers or soy flour. I don't even know how to go about finding chicken livers. And that sounds gross, anyway. And its raining and cold outsides and I don't want to go to the grocery store. I just threw Avi a piece of cereal. She seems to be satisfied with that.

I could work on my sweater coat, which I'm working on again now that the holiday knitting is over. But that seems a bit greedy. Can I really justify sitting on the couch knitting for myself when everyone else in the country is frazzled and stressed to the max?

Usually I have tons of computer work to do, but since my computer crashed earlier this week and won't even be looked at by the techno gurus on campus until next week (I'm on a loaner right now), my ability to do computer work is somewhat limited.

I could work in the dye studio but the gray, rainy weather has me feeling less than inspired.

I should type up the pattern for the basic, ribbed toboggan (winter hat for those of you up north, or anywhere but the south I guess). I have it all written down on post it notes. I really should do that. I think I will, after another cup of coffee....

Update: 3 batches of cookies (2 chocolate chip, 1 white chocolate and cranberry) and ABC Family Channel Christmas movie extravaganza have put me in a more joyous mood!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Piddleloop Project Pouches

A month or so ago I received a project pouch made by Piddleloop as part of a Secret Pal swap. I must say, its pretty great. You can catch glimpses of it in many of my photos from Florida because it went everywhere with me. Its spacious enough to carry a sock or toboggan WIP along with my notions bag, it zips up to contain everything, is squishy so it fits easily in any shoulder bag i'm carrying and has a ribbon handle on the end making it easy to grab, hang off my wrist, tug out of the bottom of my knitting bag, etc. I used to do a lot of sewing and so I can recognize high quality sewn work-- and this is it. All the sewing is very neatly done, the zipper put in with an expert touch, everything nicely pressed. And their fabric choices are great. Their etsy shop is all sold out right now, unfortunately, but they have promised to post more after the holidays. I know its too late to give one as a Christmas present but they make great gifts for knitters, or as a treat for yourself. You can check out their "sold items" list to get an idea of their fabric choices. I have the Project Pouch Set, but they have a couple different sizes/styles depending on your needs.

p.s. I have no connection with Piddleloop whatsoever, except for really liking their bags!

I'm Tempted...

Because really, who doesn't need a knitted star? I think it would be nice in fingering weight, on much smaller needles of course, to make little ornaments rather than a tree topper. What do you think? Free patterns are always hard to pass up. Find it here.

And if a knitted star isn't what you've always dreamed of, maybe a cabled bracelet is. Cause this time of year I'm all about the fast and free.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas in Paradise

On our second day in Key Largo we went out diving. Every couple of years we try to fit in a scuba diving trip to keep our skills fresh and enjoy the water. We had a great time, but I ended up more exhausted than I expected. Even my lungs felt tired!! I have to admit that I didn't actually get any knitting done on the boat ride out- it was way too windy for that!

The next morning we had a great brunch at a local coffee shop, The Key Largo Conch House, and I brought the second mail man hat along. After brunch we headed south to Key West. We had heard so much about Key West we figured we should check it out. Plus is the southern most part of the United States and only a couple of hours away. I got a lot of knitting done in the car so I didn't mind the drive. I think that Key West is probably more fun a) in the summer b) after dark and c) very very drunk! We had a nice afternoon walking around and window shopping, though. We finished the day off sitting on the dock watching the sunset. How nice! As we were leaving I found a yarn shop---15 minutes after it closed, of course!! I peeked inside, though, and it looked nice. Its probably a good thing I couldn't get in, I really don't need any more yarn right now! If you are in the Florida Keys, though, you should check it out for me and report back. The shop is named Knit Wits and its website is here.

For our final day in Key Largo we decided that the best strategy would be to just chill out on the beach. So I spent ALL day laying in a hammock (or lounge chair) knitting and reading Drunk, Divorces and Covered in Cat Hair by Crazy Aunt Purl (which I recommend, by the way. Its very well written and funny!) Thats the life, huh? I finished up the socks and the blue toboggan, and cast on for another toboggan, also in Super Wool but this time in "Evergreen", a semi-solid dark green. This time I'm going to try it top down. Once this hat is done I'll write up the instructions for both the top down and bottom up versions. My father-in-law was kind enough to try on the toboggan for me, even though it was around 80 and very sunny today! I also knit a little cozy for my camera to keep out the sand and protect it from bumps and scratches. Knit with a double strand of Super Wool its thick and cozy (as a camera cozy should be). Tomorrow morning we will get up early and head home. We had planned on stopping over night to break up the driving but we have decided to try to do it all in one shot--its only 13 hours of driving, after all--so that we can have more time at home before Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Laura is on vacation--woohoo!! I'm spending a week in the Florida keys with Chris (fiance) and his parents. Its bizarre to be enjoying sunny skies and 75 degree weather a week before Christmas, but I'm not complaining. I hear that back home in North Carolina they are freezing with 30-40 degree highs, rain and wind!!

The loooong drive down here gave me plenty of time to knit and I finished one of my "tweedy" red and brown socks and cast on for the second. I tried to knit on it on the beach this afternoon but the rocking of the hammock and warmth of the sun made it hard-- I kept dozing off! Chris has also been knitting hard to get some gifts done before Christmas and on some socks of his own. I love a man who can enjoy knitting on the beach!

Now, Chris's family is usually VERY classy and I have done some very sophisticated things with them. But this week we are relaxing. That means take out pizza and Key Lime Martinis (complements of the "Discount Liquor" shop down the road). Thats the second tweedy sock-- I think once I finish this post I'm going to go turn the heel!!

p.s. embarrassing the father-in-law by taking photos of my sock at liquor stores is priceless :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

So many mini sweaters, where do I start?

Berroco just put out these free online patterns for mini sweaters. Look at all the different designs-- cabled turtlenecks, cardigans, even a little sweater jacket with a stylish belt!

I know I'm not going to have time to make any of these in time for this year's tree, but maybe I could get some done after the holidays to pack away for next year....

What I Do While I Wind

Ever wonder what I do during the many hours of yarn skeining/reskeining that is a necessary part of handdyeing? Well, it changes. But usually it involves listening to something. Occasionally its music, but usually its something that keeps my brain a bit more active, a book "on tape" or a podcast. It just occurred to me that instead of just enjoying these podcasts and books in private, some of you might like to hear about it. So today I want to tell you about Escape Pod. I just discovered this pod cast, but so far I am really enjoying it. Escape Pod is a free podcast put out about once a week. Each week features a science fiction short story by assorted writers, read by different people. Some are better than others, of course, but there are already well over 100 episodes (I believe they are up to 136 so far) so skipping one or two isn't a problem. You have to be a sci fi fan to "get" it, of course, but its worth checking out if you are interested. If you like it, they accept donations, but otherwise its free.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Such Pretty Designs...

I just discovered a designer who I now love; Ysolda. She has a beautiful website and graceful, feminine designs. And I just can't resist this adorable elephant!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Must Resist...

I am going to be strong. I am going to resist casting on for my felted boots until after I've finished all my holiday knitting. So if you see my with light green wool in hand please gently remind me of this promise.

Yarn: Singularity in Wool (color: Mountain View) by The Unique Sheep
Pattern: from Felt Forward

Knit Picky Holiday Party

Christmas parties are so much fun. Its just great to see all the people I love together, laughing and enjoying themselves. And presents are always great fun, especially when stealing is involved! Last night was the Knit Picky holiday party and 30 of my favorite knitters gathered to eat dinner and engage in a "Dirty Santa" gift swap. Not to brag, but I ended up with some fantastic presents. I won a door prize drawing for a pair of GLASS knitting needles from Namaste. Yes, I said glass. They are huge (size 15) so maybe I can manage not to break them. The protective needle shell that they came in should help too. Then when it came time to choose presents I lucked out again and came home with a copy of the book "The Knitter's Bible of Knitted Accessories" Its got a lot of great patterns for small, quick projects that I can't wait to try out.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Today is good...really

Crushing headache and tangled yarn skeins and making it hard to look on the bright side. Or focus on the computer screen. But this is cute enough to make me smile anyway. Free pattern here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On My Needles

Holiday Knitting. I said I wasn't going to do this. I said I was only going to do a teeny tiny bit of gift knitting this year and that I was going to get it done early. Things started off well. I finished a (single) sock, a teddy bear, a bath cloth set, a scarf. I was on a roll. Then a couple of hats fell into my lap. And another pair of socks (plus the second one for the pair I mentioned above). And of course I keep knitting along on my sweater, ignorant to the fact that Christmas is drawing ever closer. This weekend it hit me. Its December. And I am going on vacation the week before Christmas and can't depend on being able to do any serious knitting during that time. So that means I have TWO weeks to finish everything. So this weekend I finished up a little bag I was working on (I HAD to finish it-- I needed the needles!) and cast on for the first of the hats. After realizing that doing it on size 5 needles would take too long (and be a bit thin) I doubled the yarn (Super Wool) and switched to size 8s. Much better. The first one I'm making is in the colorway "Blue Jeans" (soon to be added to the website) and is for my mailman. At the shop we decided to make hats for all of our delivery guys- the two UPS men, the FedEx guy and the US mail man. We divided them up and I took on Tim, the mailman. Realizing that Tim is not the only mailman in my life, I decided to also make one for Stan, the mailman who comes to my house. I've been sending and receiving a LOT of packages for the Unique Sheep lately and he deserves a thank you. Plus hes been my mailman for almost ten years and I've never done anything special for him. The third hat on my list is going to be in the color "Evergreen" and is for another special man in my life who's name can't be named until after presents are opened on Christmas ;-). By the way, the pattern for these hats will be for sale on the website once I've written it up and had it tested. Its just your basic, ribbed toboggan. Warm, simple and perfect for a man or a woman.

Aside from the hats, Chris cast on for a pair of socks for himself, also using Super Wool. I think this is my new favorite yarn. Its just so practical and SOFT. There is nothing fancy about it, its just a good yarn. He requested the colorway "Traditions" and its working up beautifully but with a surprise-- its striping! I didn't mean for it to stripe, but the gauge hes getting over the number of stitches is adding up to perfect stripes. Hes actually knit more now than when I took this photo and the stripes are continuing.

And one last bit of knitting for this weekend was a swatch for that second pair of socks I mentioned. This pair will be for a man so I wanted something masculine, warm and washable! I had been wanting to try socks holding two strands of fingering weight yarn in different colors together, so I decided this was my chance. I am using Verve in Sinful and Spiced Apple. Held together I am getting 6sts per inch on size 4 needles, so they should knit up pretty quickly in a basic ribbed pattern. (sorry for the bad photo of the swatch, I'm still trying to figure out this new camera)

Other than this little bit of knitting, I spent most of the weekend setting up a new account on Ravelry just for the Unique Sheep. I uploaded zillions of photos of yarn and projects and tried to get as much information filled in as I could. There is still more to be done, but I got a good chunk taken care of. Next on my computer-to-do-list is updating the website and adding some new colors and photos...

I'll leave you with one last photo of me pretending to drive Chris' motorcycle. Really, I just ride on the back. But Saturday he let me sit on it in the parking lot and roll it back and forth (supposedly I was feeling for some sort of "zone"....)

Artisans Fair

Friday was the annual Holiday Artisans Fair at school. I have attended since it started 3 or 4 years ago and so once again I had a table. My yarn was a bit out of place at a holiday craft fair and I didn't expect to sell much, so I wasn't disappointed by low sales. I handed out a lot of cards both for The Unique Sheep and Knit Picky, though, so I consider it a success.

The real reason I attended, though, was the shopping! I love being able to support fellow artisans and can't resist their handmade products. I have a true weakness for hand thrown pottery and ended up buying 3 mugs for myself! Plus one or two other little treats that can't be posted about until after Christmas. And look at this great basket; its supposed to hold fruit or bread but as soon as I spotted it I knew it would be perfect to hold a WIP! As in past years I also snagged a couple of hand knit washcloths. One of the ladies at the school knits up cotton dishcloths throughout the year and has a table full for sale for $4 each come fair time. For $4 I'd rather buy them than knit them myself!