Saturday, August 30, 2008

Need advice

I know you've been waiting to find out if I took your advice on the tote for my cousin... I didn't. It was good advice to start over - the bag is indeed smaller than I had envisioned.

I knew you were giving me wise words, I decided forge ahead, however, because I was so far along. I decided it would be easier to just finish and make a second one if the first wasn't big enough.

Now I need advice again- this time on the best way to close or not close the bag. It's sort of a booga bag except that I want two handles - one attached to the front and other attached to the back, more like a conventional purse.

My dilemma is this - I forgot until after I'd felted the bag that I was going to make a tab to close the top. Now do I just leave it without anything, make a tab and sew it on or try to finagle a button closure? What do you prefer on your purses?

The pictures are the before and after felting - a process that continues to amaze me. The doll is there for scale.

Friday, August 29, 2008

UFOs identified

These are a few of my sad, neglected projects sitting in bags patiently (or impatiently) awaiting a little love and attention. Do UFOs have feelings? Do they know they've been shoved aside? Do they know they've become the second class citizens of the knitting project world? Is it truly obvious that it's time for school to start since I'm so far off the deep end I'm having conversations with string?

At any rate - here they are. The square object is supposed to become a freeform purse based loosely on a log cabin style of knitting. It's made of six types of yarn knitted in random order. I think I'm not entirely convinced about the colors blending well so I put it aside for awhile and then I got interested in other things and haven't gotten back to it.
Next is a crocheted baby bib started way back when at least one of my babies was wearing a bib. It probably has an hour (maybe two) worth of work left. What's my excuse for not finishing this one? Only that I can't seem to find a crochet hook when I think of picking it up. Of course now I don't really need bibs! I also don't like to crochet all that much either.
And finally we have the doll. This is the doll my 6yo asked me to make her when she was 3. I started when I was pregnant with the one who is now 3! After I started it, I realized I wouldn't have enough of one of the yarns so I rushed around to get more so I could finish it before the new baby came. Obviously, I didn't even come close! I got hung up on the feet, which are way too complicated for a doll. I think I have a hard time picking this one up because I know there's a lot of work involved - once the doll is done, she needs knitted clothes!
This isn't my complete list (of course) It's just what I found in my stash. Do you have UFOs lurking in your drawers crying out to see the light of day? There's a place that can help - it's called Summer of the UFO but it's not just for summer. It's for anyone looking for a little support to get to these unfinished projects. We'll be your cheerleaders or your coaches if necessary.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Me and my bright ideas

I'm in a great KAL called the Monthly Dishcloths. Twice a month, fabulous organizer Andi releases a new pattern just a few lines a day. The first one is a picture and the second is a pattern. That's the background to my story.

Just two days into the August mid-month cloth, I was so enamored with what was emerging that I thought it would make a great scarf. I just happen to have some fabulous fingering weight yarn from my good friend Holly Jo (who lives in Alaska and tells great stories about life up North). I thought it would be cool to do both the cloth and the scarf at the same time using the same needles. I had even started writing the blog brag in my head. As athlete after athlete learned over the last two weeks - don't count the gold medals until the race is over...

I launched into the project, adding some beads to make it fancy (sent over awhile ago by my friend Lisa in Saratoga - just a wonderful coincidence that they matched the yarn perfectly).

On day three of the pattern I began to realize that the pattern wasn't coming out quite as I had expected. It's pretty and it will make a great dishcloth. It might even make a great scarf with the right yarn and needles. But mine wasn't coming out as I pictured it.

I think I've hit a new level in knitting because I'm actually okay with this. I don't mind the "lost" knittng time. Maybe I should have waited until I was further along on the cloth before trying it on a scarf, but still it was interesting to see how differently the same pattern came out with the two yarns on the same needle size.

On a completely unrelated note - is anyone else eager for school to start? Does this make me a bad parent? I love my children, at least I say I do, but I feel an inordinate amount of joy at the thought of them having a regular schedule and a place to be other than my office every day. I feel like the living embodiment of the Staples commercial.

And on a completely different note - see that clean surface? No papers, no books, no children's toys. At last, I have dug through the piles that cluttered my studio/office. Admittedly some of the piles are in the hall and guest bedroom awaiting proper disposition, but still - this room is clean! I credit the Fly Lady and her "you can do anything in 15 minutes" mantra - it may take several days or weeks (or months) of 15 minutes at a time - but it works. It really works. If you know anyone who is trying to clean or organize or get out from under the piles tell them you heard about this lady, a self professed messie who thought it was impossible, until she did it. Now the real challenge - keeping it this way! I give everyone carte blanche to randomly ask me at some future point in time if my desk is clean -- we'll see. Maybe this time....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No frogging; just fix it

While happily making progress on what will (I hope) become my cousin's new favorite purse, I realized that I was way past the point at which I had planned to do some increasing. Since I'm designing this as I go along, I could have just kept going, but I really have my mind set on a certain style. Of course I could have frogged, it is just knitting afterall. But frogging is no fun. Besides, I have gained some insight from all this sock and lace knitting - it is possible -- and not all that difficult -- to make an increase several rows, even a dozen or more, back. If you've ever dropped and then recovered a stitch, you've already almost done it. Curious? Here's how:

Notice that there are ladders inbetween the stitches. You follow the ladder down to where you want to add an increase. Take a crochet hook and lift the rung of the ladder where the increase should be. This will become the new stitch. Take a crochet hook and pull it out a little to create a loop. You could treat this as a dropped stitch and just follow the ladder back up to the top, but that will create a hole. To close up the hole, you have to twist the loop before pulling the next "rung" of the ladder through it. The other stitches should not be twisted in the same way.

This worked well on stockingnette stitch. It would be trickier on garter because you would have to change the direction in which you pull the "rung" through the loop - but it's still no different than bringing home a runaway stitch.

Because this is a felted project with only a few widely spaced increases, I wasn't worried about whether I did a left-leaning or right-leaning increase. It would take a mind much more clever than mine to get down to that level of detail.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wonderful Secrets

This little happy hippo hopped over all the way from Finland to say hi! He (She?) arrived with this luscious pile of pink and cream variegated wool, a pair of lovely addi turbos, delicious tea and yummy chocolates. Secret pals are fun! And mine is great! It's clear she's put a lot of thought into the packages. It's nice to be spoiled. So, thank you my pal. I look forward to learning more about you. But for now, I just want to let you know how much I appreciate you.
We in the Boston area are enjoying some fine summer days - today was warm and no humidity. That in and of itself since it is generally humid here. We lost power yesterday, which was very interesting with five children to entertain. Luckily, it happened early enough in the day that we were able to prepare for the night. It was amusing to watch the bewilderment and adjustment needed on the part of the teenagers. No television!? No phone!? No INTERNET!? You would have thought someone had cut off their right arm from the protests we heard all day long. The little ones were completely unaffected until bed time when it seemed impossible to settle down in the darkness even though it was just as light if not lighter than with the lanterns than their nightlights. I missed the dishwasher and I had to put off laundry, but it was really nice sitting on the porch with a full moon overlooking the harbor in near darkness. I was kind of sad when the street lights came back on.

Monday, August 11, 2008

This is My Massachusetts

It was great to spend some time in my home state, but it is nice to be back in my adopted state. We spent the weekend reconnecting with our current home. On Saturday we traveled into the city to spend some time with the penguins at the New England Aquarium. These are African penguins, aka jackass penguins due to the sound of their bray. They are quite loud once they get going.

On Sunday, we drove north. The first stop was a hike at the Lynn Woods Reservation - it's the woods surrounding a part of the region's water supply and one of the few places dogs are welcome. I'm not sure why this tower was built, but there was a notice on the door that a group is looking for donations to restore it. For the little girls, it's the stuff fair tales are made of. Can't you just see Rapunzel at the top letting down her long braid?

From there, we headed to Plum Island, toward the border of Maine. There are a large number of houses for sale, if anyone is interested in waterfront. It was sunny when we started but it started to rain between the tower and the beach. The rain stopped by the time we reached the water, but the skies were still moody.

In between stops, I was working on what I am hoping will become a felted purse for my cousin. I cast on extra stitches to make it a large purse, but looking at it, I'm not sure it will be large enough. I know how much things shrink down.
Should I (a) Frog and start over

(b) set it aside for another purse and start a new one for my cousin

(c) turn it into a make-up purse and start a new purse or
(d) just keep going since I've been trying to get
this started since May?

This is how UFOs get started - indecision. Just put it aside while I try to figure out what to do
next. A few months and several projects later I come across it again and still don't know what to do with it' I've been told that clutter is also the result of indecision ... could there be a connection? Hmmm...

The great welcome home gift from dh was that he had weeded the garden! It wasn't an easy job, either. The plants have been neglected since June and we've had a ton of rain. The weeds had flourished in my absence, happily filling in all blank areas and choking out the invited guests. He even tackled the incredibly invasive cat mint (?). The house was a mess, but the flowers looked great. This is the silly hibiscus - a ginormous flower on a little itty bitty plant.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Is it Fair or Not?

The SP12 question is have you ever entered your work in a fair and would you ever?

I grew up in the heart of country fair country and was even briefly a 4H member. We went to several fairs every summer but somehow never managed to get anything entered into a fair as a youngster. I had some of my artwork displayed in the junior high art show, but I suspect that every student did.

I just remembered in writing this that as a grown up, I entered some photographs in a fair in Connecticut and won some ribbons. I think it's good to enter contests because it pushes you to do your very best. You'll pay closer attention and work a little harder if you know someone is going to be inspecting it, judging it. I generally put more effort into something that is for someone else.

One day I was in a store fretting over lining for a purse for an exchange. I asked a fellow shopper what she thought. Her first repsonse was, "it's for a gift, isn't it? I figured because you are being so particular about it." Then she pointed out thought was best.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

vacation knitting

It all started with an innocent stop at the yarn shop to find some yarn for my newbie knitting cousin. The guys went with us - they stood in a corner with another guy talking about football and fishing and other manly things. (We offered to let them pick out yarn for new winter hats, but they took a pass.) I had brought projects with me, of course, but yarn has a way of seducing the addict. "Oh look at me, aren't I so pretty? Just imagine how gorgeous I could really look? You know you want to try me, go ahead..." I walked past the linen. I caressed the merino and put it back. I fondled the alpaca, but left it on the shelf. But there was this tropical colored ribbon yarn that grabbed my hand and just wouldn't let go! "I want to be a purse," it told me. "Just a small one, just big enough for a three-year-old. Please take me home. Please knit me. Pretty please, with a cherry on top?" (Ironically, that's my 3yo's favorite way of asking for things these days.)

How could I say no? It's just one skein. Then I remembered that I'd left all my extra needles at home. Oh well - can one ever really have enough needles.

I actually did math to figure out how many stitches I would need to get the dimensions I wanted if I knit to specified gauge. (I didn't actually swatch since exact size wasn't crucial) I cast on 80 stitches and knit in the round until it looked long enough. Then I bound off one end, put in a zipper, knit an i-cord (that was way too long even though I measured it on dd twice), attached the cord and then I was done. Well, not quite - I quickly realized that while ribbon is pretty, it doesn't hold it's shape very well and it certainly can't contain markers very well - they poke out through the holes. Thankfully, my mom (whom we were visiting) is the crafty sort and had a sewing machine and plenty of scraps. We added a simple lining and then, it was done. DD is thrilled (and thinks the cord is the perfect length). On me, it looks like a small evening bag, on her it's like a big tote.

After having actually completed a project, I felt the need for a reward? What would suffice? Well, more yarn, of course. Besides, big sister was jealous and wanted her own purse. I was thinking of one just like her sister's only in blue. Silly me. This one likes to peruse yarn shops. She delights in fondling the yarn and putting colors together. Pick out just one yarn? Impossible. It must be two or maybe three! No simple knit for this kid - it's gotta be stripes.

I was thinking about a cabled bag before she tossed in all the extra colors. Then I was thinking basic stripes. Just as we were leaving, however, a sweater in progress caught my eye. The lady knitting it was designing it herself and had come in for help. It was made almost entirely with the bamboo stitch. This is a darling stitch that produces excellent texture. It's made like this:
Row 1: Yarn over, k2, slip yo stitch over those two stitches. Repeat across the row
Row 2: Purl (or knit if you're working in the round)

I cast on 78 stitches (I meant to do 80 but lost 2 somewhere) and knit 7 rows with one color. Then I knit 2 rows with a ribbon yarn and then 7 with the next color, then 2 rows with the ribbon yarn repeating the stripes until the 6yo was happy. I finished it with an i-cord handle (the correct length), a zipper and a lining. She inisisted on 2 pockets to hold the cords for her CD player. I was so impressed with her quest for organizations, that I happily complied.
I know that these little side projects distracted me from the knitting I brought, especially the stole that is tops on my UFO list, but it is fun to finish something so quickly!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My parents have a cabin on a tiny body of water called Mabel Lake. You can kayak the entire lake in about 20 minutes if you're moving slowly. No motor boats allowed. We've spotted deer, great blue herons, sand hill cranes and a ton of turtles. The only problem is a long, dragged out battle with the lilly pads and other weeds that would choke the lake and turn it into a swamp.
The lake is surrounded by deep green pine trees soaring above a soft bed of pine needles. It holds a wealth of fish that will nibble at just about anything, including marshmellows. The 6yo caught 24 fish - a bunch with the fluffy white sweet treat usually reserved for s'mores, the rest with worms. The big break through for me this trip was learning how to get the fish off the hook. Dh went back to Boston earlier than me forcing me to cancel the fishing or free the fish. It's not so bad after all.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Scenic Wisconsin

This is the state I grew up in. I flew away just about as fast as I could. It's only as an adult living on the East Coast that I've come to appreciate all the beauty and character of America's Dairy Land. It is a special place - thick with pine forests and decorated with winding rivers. There is a slower pace that I hated when I was young and find now to be a relief. I find that my trip overseas has given me an unexpected side effect - I see things now more through a tourist's eyes. It's an interesting perspective - looking at things as if I hadn't seen them before. Maybe it's that I notice the details more or that things seem more exotic. In Paris, we bought tiny replicas of the Eiffel Tower (made in China) here, visitor's buy replicas of black bears or moose (also, ironically, made in China).