Saturday, June 28, 2008

What is the perfect amount of stash?

This is my answer to the SP12 question of the week:

The perfect stash contains just the right yarn for whatever project pops into your head! Can you just imagine? I want to make a purple silk rolled brim hat - and there's the yarn, perhaps a present from a far away friend. Or I want to make a pink stripped scarf and there's the yarn, purchased three summers ago while on vacation. The problem with having all that yarn around is to not feel guilty about it. It's no fun if everytime you look at that gorgeous sage green wool you feel bad because it hasn't become felted slippers yet. You have to be able to enjoy just having yarn around, admiring it's colors, treasuring its texture, dreaming about the possibilities of what it will become. Like children, only better because the skeins don't talk back!

We're off to the CT shore today - it's gloomy here but I'm told it's sunny down there. I'm hoping to blog a bit while on vaca, but if I'm slow, rest assured I'll be back soon.

Meanwhile - start thinking about how great it would be to finish off some of those long neglected projects that are begging for attention. There will be an announcement soon about a super fun KAL to help you get motivated.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dr. Who?

Years ago there was a campy sci fi show called Dr. Who. The knitting connection is the scarf the guy wore as he traveled about the universe. I know very little about the original version of the show other than that it existed and I read about somebody knitting a version of the long stripey scarf.

Now there's a remake (of the show - not the scarf) on BBC America. I know this because all of my favorite shows are on hiatus for the summer so we've been surfing for alternatives. This one is campy too, but just catchy enough to keep my attention while I'm whipping off a few stitches. The bizarre story lines are truly a testament to the depths of a vivid imagination. But by far the most interesting bit of the show was half mitts worn by one of the lead female characters. It was near the end of the show and she was caught in a parallel universe wearing the most darling dark pink half mitts I've seen all summer. They had a diamond cable up the back with a moss stitch in the middle. I couldn't tell if they had thumbs or not even though dh obligingly rewound several times (Thank goodness for TIVO)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this whole episode is that dh has become so accustomed to my knit obsession that he wasn't alarmed that I'm paying more attention to the knits than the show. He didn't fall out of his chair laughing at me or start muttering about weird knitting cults. "Will there be purling?" he asked trying to sound all hip to the stitches.

Oh yes, there will be purling! Must go check my stash...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's my birthday and I'll knit if I want to

In a shameless bid for attention, I am pleased to announce that is my birthday. I came into this world 42 years ago, and I'm still thrilled to be here. There is a lot wrong with our world, but there is so much more that is rigth with it.

If I had my druthers, (that is, btw, one of my favorite words) I would have slept in, caught up on a few Knitty Gritty episodes and gone to town on the socks made out of the gorgeous blue yarn mom bought for me (thank you mom) in Arizona. After finishishing those off, I would have cast on with the self-striping pink/green/white/black yarn she bought me (she has such good taste). But (as PeeWee Herman used to say, why do my friends always have a big but?) there are car repairs to take care, children to be dropped off, teenagers to be fought with, stories to be written and frightened dogs to be comforted (thunderstorms). I can't even take pictures of the yarn because my camera battery is dead! People keep asking me what am I going to do for fun? Fun? There's no time for fun! The one thing I really want I can't have - that's world peace. Not the whole world, just my world. My little ones fought over singing me Happy Birthday and then my big ones fought with each other over breakfast. They they tried to fight with me over their radio volume. We have a debate over whether electricity is one of those things parents are "required" to provide.

I could feel sorry for myself. I confess that for a little while I did. But the reality is that I've got it good. Not always easy, but good. I've got a car to fix, I have children to fight, I have work to keep me busy. So I don't have a ticker tape parade for my birthday. So things aren't exactly as I'd like them to be - I can either find my happiness in how they are or I can be unhappy.
The best thing of all is that I have parents on earth who gave me a strong sense of optimism and a Father in heaven who gives me hope.

Since I have no pics of the yarn, I'll share some others from our trip to the Zoo for my dd's 3rd birthday, which was Saturday.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Baby o' Baby it's fun to knit for Baby

You see these little booties? You like? I'm just tickled pink with them. I made these with no pattern. I used yarn left over from the hat and my memory of how to make little socks from the toe up. I didn't even look at instructions for the short row heels. That was actually a mistake - I think I started to increase on the wrong side and therefore didn't end up where I was supposed to, but I was able to fake it. I didn't have quite enough yarn, but have learned from DH who was a carpenter that such a problem is really just an opportunity for creativity. I topped it off with another complementary pink that is soft and lucious and played off the stiffer texture of the sock yarn perfectly. To get the ruffle, I cast off in the rib pattern but cast on an extra stitch after every purl. Let me know if you want to try it and need more explicit instructions.

To make the hat match a little better, I crocheted around the edge with the soft, lucious pink yarn and then crocheted a cord in that same yarn. It works much, much better than the ribbon because it is stretchy like the hat.

I was putting the finishing touches on this as I walked out the door to an event where I knew the baby's mother would be. Why waste a second? One can actually walk and thread a cord through eyelets at the same time!

The event was this - the last day of school. It was a sad and happy day, says my now First Grader! My hat is off to teachers everywhere - they do such an important and challenging job. I will be forever grateful to her teacher, who was so dynamic and caring.

Don't you just love the missing teeth?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Answers to questiosn

For the SP12, we're supposed to put up answers to questions sent by the hostess - the second one is out and I realized I hadn't even answered the first! So here it is

Q: What is your favorite summer drink?
A: Iced coffee, which I'm drinking right now. A little bit of cream, no suger (same way I take my hot coffee).

Q: When you were a kid, what did you look forward to most about summer?
A: Same thing as now - traveling. We would go from Wisconsin to Michigan to spend time with my grandparents and there was always a week or two of overnight summer camp.

Now we go to Connecticut for two weeks to see my husband's family and to Wisconsin to see my family. It's hard to get out of the routine, but I love being on the go.

I'd love to hear your answers in the comment section - or post on your blog if you're not in SP12.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Guage Shmage

A baby was born this weekend (I'm sure there were hundreds, but just one known to me personally). To me, when this happens, all other knitting stops and a hat must be cast on. Afterall, shouldn't all babies be greeted with their own personal knitted hat?

I decided to try a new design of my own. In the interest of time, I decided to just jump in based on the guidelines of the yarn - if it's a little big, the baby will grow, right? The problem is, it was coming out huge - like it wouldn't fit until well into next winter when a light cotton hat just wouldn't cut it. Reluctantly, I frogged. It was especially painful since the hat starts with a ruffle, which means casting on twice as many stitches as ultimately needed.

I swatched. I checked the guage - it was right on - exactly to the stitch what it should have been. So why was the item in question so much larger than it should have been? I thunk and thunk. I did the math again. And again. And again. I had my dh, a math whiz, check my figuring. Finally, it dawned on me - I was using the measure of the baby's head. Hats should generally be a bit smaller than the head so they will fit snuggly. This is why I usually use a pattern.

Here is my "formula" : figure out how many stitches you will need to go around the baby's head- it's about 56 f-64 or worsted. I needed 72, since I was using thin yarn and getting 7 stitches per inch. Cast on twice as many stitches as you need. Join to knit in the round (careful not to twist the knitting) and knit one round. On the next round, k2tog all the way around. Knit for two inches (I knit for one inch before this step, but that wasn't enough). On the next round - k2tog, yo* repeat around, creating a row of eyelets. Knit until hat measures 5 inches from starting point. Now you will begin the decreases. You will need just a little math. Figure out a number that goes evenly into the number of stitches you have. It should be 7,8 or 9. Subtract two from that number. Knit that number of stitches and then k2tog. Repeat all the way around. For me, my dividing number was 8. I subtracted 2 and got 6, so I knit 6 stitches and then k2tog.

Knit one round even (whew, that was easy)

On the decrease round, knit one less stitch than you knit on the first decrease round before k2tog. For me, it was 5.

Knit one round even.

Repeat the formula - decreasing one stitch in between k2tog.

Repeat until you have four stitches left, use these to make a short Icord, bind off.

Thread ribbon through the eyelets and tie in a bow. this can be used to make a larger hat fit more snuggly.

Having tried to explain this, I have a new sense of admiration for all designers and pattern writers!

And now, to distract you from the fact that I have no other knitting to show off, I'll share my pretty flowers.

The red ones are roses, the purple ones are snapdragons. I don't know what the yellow ones are, but they have certainly made themselves at home. There are three clumps of them and it looks like some more are shooting up. Some might describe them as invasive, but I don't mind because they are pretty and my garden is rather bare.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New England Morning

Every morning I get up as early as I can muster to take my English Springer for a walk along the harbor. I'm not a morning person and never had a desire to greet the dawn but with my ginormous crew, it's the only peace I get all day. It's like walking in a picture. The scene is the same but every day is different. The colors change depending on the season and the weather. The mix of birds also varies depending on the season. Somedays the water is high up on the shore and others it's far away revealing mudflats. Those are the days my dog seems to like best because he can find a deep mudpool to play in and ignore me when I call him to come home. He knows I'm not coming in after him. When he finally does get around to heeding my call, his beautiful white fur is dark gray.
I've been doing this early morning thing now for a full year. Last summer, I dreaded the winter knowing that there would be days when it would be bitterly cold. And it was. There were days when the walk was not pleasant. Having survived it, however, I would say it wasn't as bad as I feared and there were moments of unexpected beauty that I wouldn't have seen any other way. Plus now I appreciate the warm weather even more than before!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Yummy Chimichangas

I came across this recipe on a search for "chicken" and "Mexican." It's too good to not pass along:'s-Baked-Chicken-Chimichangas-recipe.html

It meets my requirements to be quick, relatively simple and super tasty -- thumbs up from all 5 kids, even the two little ones who claim that they "don't like chicken," unless it's in the form of a nugget.

It's better than in the restaurant, if you ask me, because it's not all gloppy. We served it with mango salsa from Costco, which though it may not sound appetizing, really is.

I cooked the chicken then ran it through the food processor to "shred" it. I also didn't wait for it to cool down before spooning it into the tortillas.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Welcome Secret Pal

Some would say it's summer time but in knitting land it's Secret Pal time. SP12 has started and assignments are heading out so perhaps someone who has never met me is stopping by for a visit. The answers to the SP12 ?? are below. I'll be off hunting down my down stream pal. I'm planning to have as much as I have had with my past swaps. I've met some great friends that I would probably have never met any other way! Lisa was my spoiler for my first swap and LoriBird was my spoilee (spoiled?) Both are inspirational knitters.

As for the actual knitting - I've been a distracted knitter lately, but I managed to carve out some time this weekend in the midst of a heat wave.

On Friday it was so cold I needed a scarf. By Saturday, it was so hot I didn't even want to knit on a scarf! But I did anyway because I was so close to being done with this colorful number. This is the vacation scarf I started two (three?) summers ago! I bought a skein of yarn for it at every shop at which I stopped while traveling. It was a great way to know the shop keepers because I always asked for their recommendation. It also let me buy something without blowing my budget. I knit it length wise on 250 stitches, size 11 needles. It's about 5 feet long. I used a die to determine which color to use and a coin to determine if the row would be knit or purl. That was a little knitting game that made it's way around the net several months ago. (which goes to show how long this UFO had been hanging around.) I don't know what yarns I used since the labels ran away long ago. I knit like I cook - I have a rough idea of the recipe and then I just throw together the ingredients. No dish is ever exactly the same.

I also swatched some yarn I bought in Paris and plan to turn into a smallish purse. Hating to waste my efforts, I turned the swatch into a small home for my cell phone. (And I wasn't even previously aware that my phone was homeless!) I knit it in a tube using stockinette and then switched to seed stitch for the top. The yarn is cotton but I found it to be very stretchy. That may be because it's really four strands twisted together. I made a little handle that can be unbuttoned so I can loop it onto the handle of a purse. The best part of this project is that it took just one day :) Albeit a day with a lot of knitting opportunities - swimming lessons, soccer, long ride to the store and a movie. What I learned most importantly is that my gauge is way off - I need to add more stitches for the real purse or hunt down bigger needles.
Next, I put the finishing touches on the felted purse that Allison sent me to knit as a car project. (If you have a minute, stop by Allison's blog and check out the darling lace baby sweater she just finished - it's worth the trip) It took several trips to CT, but I finally got it done. (Now what will I do in the car?) It called for grommets, which required an extra trip to the store. Too bad they sell yarn there too, huh? The bag is a cool tweedy effect from holding a strand of navy with a strand of violet.
And finally, I have conquered a heel! Look, no holes! (big grin) It only took me four tries! I was beginning to despair when I found a great tutorial for short row heels on the web that described well how to pick up the wrapped stitch, which is what I think I was doing wrong. Thank you to those of you who post your hints tips and techniques - you never know when you might lift up a fellow knitter. Now, I'm gearing up to take on the second sock. I still feel like it's climbing a mountain.
The pretty blue and green yarn is one of those my mom bought for me in Arizona. She has such great taste.
1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like? I prefer natural fibers, especially soft ones. I’m not keen on fluffy novelty yarns.
2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in? I have some in vases and some in a knit picks folder.
3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced? I taught myself to knit when my daughter, now 6, was a baby. Just when I start thinking I might be an advanced knitter, I find a project that kicks my **.
4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?I have an amazon list

5. What's your favorite scent? Lavender, lilac and rose.
6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy? I like chocolate, but I don’t eat a lot of candy. I drink a lot of coffee and a little bit of tea.
7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin? I sew, I bead, I take tons of pictures. I have a drop spindle, but I haven’t learned yet how to use it.
8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD) I like a wide variety of music, especially Blues, guitar, classical. I listen to a lot of pop because I have kids.
9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?I like dusky pinks, burgundy, brown and blues. I’m not big on bright colors, yellows or greens.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets? I have five children, ranging in age from almost 3 to 15. We have a playful English Springer Spaniel and two gold fish.
11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos? Scarves and hats mostly. Not so much on mittens or ponchos.
12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit? I do a little bit of everything – scarves, socks, purses, dish cloths, stoles, even toys. I tend toward smaller projects so that I can finish them before I lose interest. That being said, I like a challenge and enjoy trying new techniques. I especially enjoy lace and cables.
13. What are you knitting right now? On the sticks I’ve got socks, a lace shawl and a lace stole. I’m contemplating two purses and a variety of sweaters.
14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts? Yes.
15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic? I like bamboo and aluminum. I mostly use addi turbos and mostly circular given the nature of my projects.
16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift? Both thankfully
17. How old is your oldest UFO? A doll that I started when my 3 yo was born. I’m not convinced it will ever get done.
18. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas for the anticipation.
19. Is there anything that you collect? Not exactly. I have an affinity for cool knitting tools and enjoy ocean-themes - sail boats and shells and such since we live so close to the ocean. I grew up landlocked in the midwest and dreamed of being near wide open waters.
20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have? I love knitting magazines but don’t have a subscription to any. The Yarn Harlot’s new book is on my list. I like books that have stories with the patterns.
21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn? I’m working on socks.
22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements? I’m a shoe size 7
23. When is your birthday? June 24th
24. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what's your ID? yarnscribe

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tag your way to clean

I have just discovered what is quite possibly the most fun but longest way to clean a kid's room ever. I start out as it and put 1 thing away. Then I tag a kid who belongs to the room who puts something away. Then that kid can tag the other kid who belongs to the room to put something away and then that kid tags me and we start all over. After several minutes I realized that the room was so far gone that this game could last all day so I let them tag me twice. We're still not done, but we are a lot doner than an hour ago.

I don't know why I expect my kids to be neater than I was at their age, or even neater than I was until they came. I had an incredible mental block when it came to picking up until I had kids and then something clicked. I am far, far from being a neat freak, but I crave order in a way I never did before. Unfortunately with seven of us in the house it's harder than it ever was. I'm much better than I was before, but I'm still bad about putting things away when I'm done with them.

As far as motivating kids, I've discovered the house fairy. She's smart business woman who has discovered a great small business that provides a tremendous service. Her story is that she is Santa's Helper and she goes around inspecting children's rooms. If they're clean "she" leaves a present, if not, she leaves only fairy dust. You can buy into her system, which includes printable coupons and other goodies, or just borrow the concept. Some might object to the idea of introducing yet another character into children's lives and underlying concept. I'm all for method that helps my kids get in the habit of keeping their room clean without me screaming at them, which by the way doesn't work. I'm sad to say I've tried that.

For some reason, I feel better when their room is clean, more so than any other area of the house.

For inspiration and motivation, I've been watching "How Clean is Your House?" on BBC America. For those of you who haven't seen it, these two cheeky British ladies go to disgustingly dirty houses and help the people get them cleaned up. They are some seriously ill kept houses. Had someone pitched me the idea for the show, I think I would have tossed it out, but it's oddly compelling.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Summer Sun Surf's Up

It seemed that summer would never come - but here it is - proof that warm weather exists and that summer will creep into New England as expected.

I've made yet another attempt on the short row heels. It was worse than the first one! Attempt three was over almost before it had begun. I'm eager to try again but just plumb worn out from earning money to buy more yarn.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

I hate heels

I am insanely jealous of anyone who can successfully turn a heel without anxiety and angst. I've done it twice for socks for me and twice for wee socks and still I struggle. I lose my place. I get holes. I end up with a misshapen mess. If only I'd realized or been willing to accept the fact that they weren't working out when I was ten rows into it...but I kept going hoping against hope that it would look better in the end. Instead, I'm hopping off to the frog pond. I don't understand why I struggle so! I'm not unintelligent. I've accomplished many more complicated tasks. I will persevere. I will get this figured out. (I hope)