Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Need to Have Dinner Guests More Often

Last night, we had our friend Kaleem over for dinner. It was so nice. Not only was the company delightful, but it reminded me that I really like my house when it's clean. Having a guest over for dinner forced me to clean it up and declutter the common areas.

It's amazing how fast little things - like JUNK tend to accumulate. How does it happen so fast? Especially the rooms we all share, like the office. My goodness, a misplaced book here, a stack of papers there, some catalogs in the corner, some of Chelle's knitting needs and patterns. Some shoes of Em's thrown in the corner, some extra electronic paraphenelia from the Bobby and we have . . . a cluttered mess. But all that gets reanalyzed and sorted very quickly when someone is coming over.

Maybe I need to have an overnight guest, like Aunt Eve, for the weekend just to motivate myself to do even DEEPER cleaning.

We had a simple but delicious dinner that I picked up from Hen House: boiled spiced shrimp, boiled new potatoes, corn on the cob, French bread. Simple.

I'm feeling restless and discontent. Not sure why. I think I need to reevaluate many of my routines that aren't working right now. The stuff. The clutter. The schedule. The weekends - something must be done to perk up my weekends. They are becoming repetetive routines of frantic errand running and "to do" lists. I'm not sure what I want to do differently but something different really needs to be be done.

Something is not right with ME right now, and I haven't quite pinpointed what it is. My Mom is reading "Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?" All I know it that it ties in being overweight and being inundated with clutter - spending money and buying things and accumulating things to fill some sort of inner hole in oneself. While I don't think I'm a total clutter bug, after all I DO get disgusted and clean things out pretty often. I get rid of what I'm not using pretty ruthlessly . . . but still, I haven't been motivated to lose weight or do much of anything lately. It feels like I've been "stuck" somewhere for about a year. Not sure, but I really am thinking about this.

Also, I'm supposed to go to Knitting In the Heartland (knitting conference) and I don't even really want to go anymore. Not sure why. I feel "blah" and flat right now. Not in the mood to take classes and I'm signed up for 4. Everything, even the normally FUN stuff feels like a chore right now. Blah.

Maybe I need to mix my life up much more often. Maybe I won't even go to the damned conference. Not sure.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Did You Know . . . Another Search Tool for the Pattern Perplexed

For those of you on Ravelry, did you ever have 420 yards of some fingering weight yarn and you knew you wanted to do SOMETHING with it, but not sure what?

Well there's a new experimental tool over on Ravelry that works really well for this. You go to the "Patterns" tab, then click on "experimental search tool" and then you can put in whatever search details you want i.e. by using the "tag" feature, I can select "shawls" or whatever type of pattern I'm hankering for, and then it will pull up all the shawl patterns that use fingering weight yarn. My search came up with around 126 patterns. Amazing. Love it!

Plus, the old Pattern search options are still there. If you click on Availability, you’ll see the options for Free, In Library, Ravelry Store, and Online. It seems to me that all the old search parameters are there, you just have to look a little bit under the different headings.

So . . . . the next time you find a lovely small skein of discontinued yarn and you only have 110 yards . . . try the search features to discover a wonderful new use for that yarn.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Field Trip Report

The knitting group decided that since it was a beautiful Spring day, and we were going to be light on attendance, due to the Easter weekend, that we would take a field trip to Knitcraft in Independence, Missouri.

I wore my favorite shawl: Forest Canopy Shawl by Susan Lawrence. It's my favorite pattern bar NONE and I can't recommend it highly enough, especially for a first shawl. The best thing about the pattern is that it features both written instructions AND a chart, so you can pick whichever type of instruction you prefer. It was a great way for me to baby-step my way into charts when I first made this shawl last Spring. And the photo, incidentally, was also taken of me last Spring so in case you think I lost weight or cut my hair recently, the answer is "No, I didn't."

Anyhow, we went to Knitcraft and it was fun - I think my shawl inspired some others in the group to pick up some shawl yarn.

I myself have to confess, I couldn't resist this Araucania Ranco in Colorway 308. It has gorgeous shades of chocolate, grey, brown, beige and peach.

Then we started over to the Main Street Coffee House at the Independence Square. It was really a charming, comfy place. The owner was extremely nice and the staff welcoming. Not only did we have coffee, but several of us had sandwiches.

And last, but not least, I started what I am calling "Gothic Rose Shawl" but it's actually a Forest Canopy Shawl using Kay's Gothic Rose Dome Hill sock yarn. I'm hoping to get this finished - if possible, in the next couple of weeks so that Kay can use it at her display for Knitting In the Heartland vendor booth.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Flam'n Hot Dome Socks

Here they are - finally finished - 2 at at time - yay!

But what the . . . . what is this may I ask? Arggghh. Knitting rescue team? Anyone know how to fix this?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just to Fill in . . . While I Finish Those Socks and Start a Shawl . . .

Do you knit using the English or Continental Method? Continental - started off knitting English, but since I'm left handed, the Continental Way really clicked for me once I learned.

Loose, normal or tight knitter? Though my personality is energetic and err, high-strung, my knitting style is the opposite - looose and laid back!

How long ago did you learn to knit? First time, when I was in 3rd grade from Grammy - but I never learned to knit well back then. I made one sampler pillow, doll blanket and countless garter stitch scarves. I knit through grade school and junior high years, then abandoned knitting when I became a teenager for other crafters, i.e. needlepoint, cross stitch and embroidery. Also tried to learn crochet back then, but all I mastered was chain stitch at the time.

Returned to knitting in the summer of 2003 (into my early 40's) when my daughter wanted to learn how to do it. Mom and I took a knitting class together at Knitcraft in Independence. Janet was our teacher. We picked it up again fast - I guess muscles really DO have memories. But that time, it really "stuck" and I was determined to learn the right way - how to make wearable garments and most importantly, how to fix knitting mistakes so the garment looked halfway decent. I also learned about gauge . . . ah, have to admit that I still don't always do a gauge swatch, even though I know better. Ahem.

Who taught you how? Grammy, age 8; then Janet at Knitcraft, age 42. I was "born again" in a knitting sense.

What was your first FO? As a child, it was the sampler pillow.

First FO as an adult: definitely the felted Rainbow Purse. It was easy, it was fast, and taught me how to knit on circs, which I never learned as a kid! That first REAL year of knitting as an adult, I made several simple stockinette felted bags in bright colors and decorated with eyelash fringe. Scarves too. Many scarves.

Favorite yarn? Gosh, let's see, I prefer worsted weight best of all for most projects- and I love fingering weight for socks. I like Cascade 220 as a staple, Lamb's Pride for felted bags, Malabrigo for pure softness and pleasure in knitting, Noro for color; Peace Fleece for sweaters and that natural lanolin feel while knitting; I love tweedy yarns in whatever brand I can find. In sock yarn, I LOVE Colinette Jitterbug sock yarns for both socks and shawls. I've also recently discovered Kay's Dome Hill hand-dyed sock yarn and enjoy it immensely. One more favorite, for light weight socks, it's Cascade Fixation all the way - it's S-T-R-E-C-H-Y and makes perfect tennis shoe socks and footies.

In terms of acrylic yarns, I'm not a snob. I always choose acrylic for baby items, because I remember that as a young mother, everything was thrown in the washer and dryer. The acrylic yarn I now highly favor for range of color, softness and wearibility is Berocco's Comfort yarn. I also have knit many many projects with Caron's Simply Soft and adore it for many items. I don't like to mix acrylic with wool yarns in any project that just seems WRONG somehow.

Any yarn you don't like? In general, I shy away from cotton.

Projects tend to be what color(s) if knitting for yourself? Autumn colors, browns, reds, greens. With my red hair, I love ANY shade of green.

If you knit socks, what is your preferred method (i.e. toe up/cuff down, double pointed needles, 2 circs, Magic Loop etc.): I LOVE knitting socks, especially as my transportable project. Prefer cuff down using Magic Loop method, but I don't mind toe-up either. I just like to get the cuff part over with, especially if doing (BOR-ing) ribbing, so I like to do the cuff first. However, if the cuff is an interesting stitch pattern, it becomes my favorite part. As far as heel turns go, I prefer the short row heel with a heel flap. It fits best for me. After discovering Melissa Morgan-Oakes "2 At A Time" sock book, I now LOVE the magic loop method and I am enjoying the dickens out of doing both socks at once. Since reading that book, I've become a quick convert and have fallen in love with socks all over again.

Favorite pattern you’ve knit so far? Hmmm. Oh yeah, definitely the Forest Canopy Shawl. No question on that. Susan Lawrence (sp) is an excellent designer. There are no errata in the pattern- it is explained simply but completely in understandable language. The pattern includes both written and charted instructions. It doesn't get any better than hers, in my opinion. I also like the Sally Melville "Knit Experience" books - especially the first one. There are many great patterns in there for beginners and experienced knitters alike.

Favorite pattern source? I love - best of all, the patterns are FREE.

Favorite needles? Addi-Turbos for most things. I love the new Addi Turbo Lace needles - and not just for lace - for everything. I want to replace all my regular Addi's with these eventually. I love the sharp tips. If a project calls for non-slippery needles, bamboo circs are nice to hold and hug the stitches.

Favorite type of knitting? That all depends, if I am worried and stressed-out, I like to get by myself, in a relaxed environment without interference or companionship, listen to some quiet music and knit lace. Nothing relaxes me more than concentrating and becoming immersed in a complicated lace pattern. The best!!! It's truly an altered state of consciousness, something about the total focus calms my frayed mind like nothing else.

When I am in a playful, creative mood, or in a non-pattern-following mood, I love to play with fiber color and texture by doing Freeform knitting and crochet- that's just a real thrill to find a way to play with yarns without a pattern and without rules. Yay! It's funny that when I'm in a good, carefree mood, my preference turns to Freeform.

Are you on Ravelry? If so, favorite thing about it? Absolutely. My favorite thing so far is viewing other people's projects and finding out what yarns they used, what patterns and in what ways. Especially when they did modifications that improved it, and to give me ideas of how to use the yarn in my stash. I love the fact that there are photos and DETAILS about the projects. It's fun reading about other crafter's preferences and ways of making things.

Nicest thing you’ve ever knit: Hmm. Probably either my Forest Canopy Shawl or my huge Harriet Carpet Bag

Project you get the most compliments on: Harriet Carpet Bag - but I heavily modified the pattern so it's not very Harriet-like, actually.

Most hated project: oh God, the Nashua Cilantro summer lace top that I started for myself and ended up giving to my Mom last summer. It was a Total Disaster and a huge waste of time and money. The yarn sucked (it was the most splitty yarn I ever worked with). The pattern sucked. The result sucked. I'd love to burn it if given the chance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When Oh When Will Spring Come?

Remember the old John Denver song?

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

A while back Jen took a photo of a tulip breaking ground. I think it's a tulip.

In Kansas City, Spring hasn't really shown up yet. It's been cold, rainy. I'm still using my fireplace every day in March.

I'm in a dark place. Bad mood. Tired of winter. Sad. Bored. Overwhelmed by worry about the country. Feeling everything is going to hell in a handbasket.

I need Spring to be here and to feel warm sunshine on my face again.

How's that for a depressing whiny post? I know. I'll shut up now and go back to kniting on my socks. By the way, they are the only thing going well right now. It's a small comfort, but at least it's something.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Train Show . . . In Search of a Purse . . . and other Misc. Comments

First off, we went to a train show yesterday. Not just any train show but a BIG train show. My husband and I enjoy going to these, but I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about fighting the traffic and crowds. You see, it was taking place in downtown Kansas City, along with the Big 12 Basketball Tournament. We decided to park at Crown Center and then take a cab or shuttle downtown. So our Saturday morning was fun but harried. An adventure you might say. We haven't taken a cab or a bus in a LONG time, and that was a bit weird- just figuring out how to hail a cab and get on the right bus. As we bought our tickets to get in, they stamped us with a tatoo stamp in bright blue ink that kept rubbing off on our clothes all day . . . a bit annoying to say the least. Even the left inside cuff of my coat bears the blue mark. Ah well . . . we might go back for more fun again today, just depends on how much "fun" I can stand. I've enjoyed previous train shows much more.

In other news, I've been plugging away on the Simply Lovely Lace socks in Kay's hand dyed Flam'n Hot yarn. The socks are turning out really well. I've been using that 2-At-A-Time sock technique that I keep talking about. While I couldn't figure out how to turn the heel at the same time using the Magic Loop, I really tried. Finally I took them each off and turned the heel individually. But as you can see, TA DA, I figured out how to put both socks back ON the Magic Loop and get started knitting my way down the foot. Hopefully this last part will be the home stretch and I can finally finish these suckers.

One crazy thing I've been doing this week is playing on the Internet in search of this:

Exterior Pockets? Check. Interior Pockets? Check. Zippered interior divider and detachable shoulder strap? Check. Check. Organizing your knitting project and personal items is just another day at the beach with Namaste's Laguna bag. 17-1/2" W x 16" H x 7-1/2" D.

What I like most about this bag is that it doubles as BOTH a personal purse and a knitting bag. I always find myself carrying both, and that is a hassle. How about ONE bag that looks like a purse but is roomy enough for knitting projects and tools too? And looks a bit stylish at the same time. Great idea.

My friend Elsybeth made me aware of this bag because we share a mutual and unrelenting knitting bag lust. If you click on the link to her blog, you can read all about her finding and falling in love (so to speak) with her Olive Laguna bag by Namaste. Well, she got me addicted to. It's her fault. However, I'm always just a day late and a dollar short - literally. It was like the DAY after she ordered hers, I tried to order mine and they were totally sold out. So I'm on the waiting list . . . a L-O-N-G waiting list. In her defense, Elysbeth tried to help me in my search. On Friday, she phoned to alert me to a possible LaGuna bag siting, but it turned out to be a Malibu (at right)
instead, and neither of us like that design nearly as well. No, it HAS to be a LaGuna bag, preferably in Lime Green. For a while yesterday, I thought that I had snared one in my second-favorite color, Saddle, but it turned out that online retailer was sold out of the bags, they just hadn't updated their website to reflect it. So . . . I guess I need to hold my horses and just WAIT. Supposedly mine will arrive in early April.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Denim Jacket Sleeves Revisited

Sandi - a new commenter - (Welcome Sandi!) mentioned yesterday in the comments that she'd like to see more/learn more about the denim jacket I made last fall. Well, first let me say that I will glady revisit this project and dredge up some photos as well, because this is one of my very FAVORITE projects of all time. It's one of the items I actually wear and use constantly in my wardrobe. In fact, I love it so much, that I intend to make another jacket this Spring using my favorite green yarns.

This jacket project started when I saw Ali's Freeform jacket sleeves at one of The Studio's freeform workshops. Here is a photo of her jacket. Ali didn't give us a pattern or anything, she just had her jacket on display and it was one of my favorite freeform projects. I HAD to make one for myself.

Because I wanted these sleeves to be striped in all different yarns and textures, I selected a big pile of blue and purple yarns from my stash. Some smooth yarn, some textured and some novelty. For "spark" I used some of the Louising Harding sparkly yarns, as well as Artful Yarns.

Now the specifics. I bought a used denin vest at a thrift store, not a jacket but a vest without sleeves. From my closet, I found a jacket that fit me and traced a sort of "pattern" onto a piece of cardboard, then cut out a piece of cloth so I could make sure the template fit my arm. I used the flat cardboard piece as a template. I knew that I'd be knitting these sleeves FLAT and trying to fit the template as far as width was concerned. I started knitting the sleeves from the cuffs up. For my own personal size, I cast on 36 stitches using a size 8 needle and knit in 2 X 2 ribbing for about 10 rows for the cuff, then switched to plain stockinette and gradually expanded outward through a series of increases to, at the fullest part of the arm, having about 45-46 stitches. Then I started tapering back down when I got to the top of the sleeve. I kept track of which yarns I used for X number of rows so that I could later make the second sleeve sort of match the first.

For those who need more of a pattern, there is one here, called the Denim Dream Jacket from Creative Knitter designed by Bobbie Matela, that might be helpful for those who could benefit from more specific instructions.

Here I am wearing this jacket. I love it!! I will make more in the future, probably several.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Road Trip to Columbia

We were just antsy. Ready for Spring. Tired of our same old dull weekned routine. So we decided to jump in the car to go for a road trip, just me and my guy. We went to Boonville first. Played at the casino and stayed at the hotel there - Isle of Capri. It's really clean and nice there. The Friday night crab buffet they have is wonderful! For $39 for two, we had all you can eat crab, and it was really tasty and fresh.

We don't gamble much at all - the guy plays a bit of blackjack. I like the slots. Penny slots. I played $2.00 and made it last all night on the "I Dream of Jeanie" slot machine. It was fun. At one point, I was up $6.00 but eventually lost it all - except for $1.78 I cashed out, so I guess I was really down only 22 cents.

When I was a little girl, I used to LOVE the show "I Dream of Jeanie" and I used to drape the table with pink cloth, climb beneath the table and pretend that was my bottle. I also dressed up for Halloween one year as an unconvincing and mousy-looking version of Jeanie. But anyhow . . . that was fun.

Then we headed off yesterday to Columbia, Missouri on a whim. We had breakfast at Ernie's, an old coffee and breakfast place that's been around since the 1940's. It has an old time feel to it. It was so crowded with college kids that we crammed ourselves into some counter seats. Had my favorite traditional breakfast of steak and eggs with wheat toast. Yum.

We strolled around downtown Columbia all day. They have a lot of cute, eclectic shops - with artsy stuff. Very fun. We went to an antique mall. Had dinner at a micro brewery called Flat Branch. It had the most delicious hot twisted pretzels dipped in Spinach Artichoke dip. I want to try to make those at home sometime. Since it was a cold day, those hot pretzels really hit the spot.

And one more thing, oh my gosh, Columbia has one of the neatest yarn shops! Hillcreek Yarns is big, nice, large and varied stock of yarns with friendly employees. Wow! It was great. They even have a Janice Rosema freeform jacket up in their window. I would have loved to show you a photo of it, but I forget to bring my camera this weekend. Drats. I'm going to get to finally meet Janice sometime in April when she rolls through the Columbia/Jeff City area. I need to find out more specifics about her teaching schedule. I definitely want to meet her. She's a talented freeform artist from California and an online friend of mine.

While at Hillcreek, I bought a couple different sizes of 40" Addi turbo lace needles so I can keep making socks with this 2-At-A-Time method that I'm enjoying so much. I also bought some new Dream in Color Smooshy sock yarn in a green colorway called, "Spring Tickle" which really fits my mood right now.

One of the best book investments I've made in a long time is that Melissa Morgan-Oaks sock book. I love that book and her method is great. If you buy it, be sure and check the errata at this website. There are a few patterns that have changes - especially the fact that you need to reverse steps 23 and 24 on the toddler socks at the beginning of the book. But the book is really great and explains Magic Loop so much better than anything else I've ever found. It's my new favorite way of making socks.

In fact, I gotta go now, gang. It's 71 degrees out there today - sunny and SPRING. I'm gonna sit out on my deck, drink homemade Jasmine iced tea and knit on my Flam'n Red Dome socks while it's still daylight.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Visit to the Dome

I have a political junkie's hangover this morning, and I could grouse about how we Democrats are tearing one another up and giving ammunition to the other side to use against us. I'm so mentally sore this morning that I'm actually SICK TO DEATH of politics for once.

So I'm going to turn my attention to the Dome.

Last Sunday, Bob, Emily, my mother and I visited Kay, who is an indy yarn dyer extraordinaire. She makes Dome Hill Yarns and stitch markers. My Mom wanted to see and buy some of her yarn and stich markers, and since I've already indulged in her wares, I wanted to see her Dome house under construction. We came, we saw, and it's great! The Dome is coming along well, and her husband Mike deserves kudos for his hard work and beautiful results. Kay has a blog on the dome progress.

We also visited Rib Crib, and I can't say enough about their delicious food and reasonable prices. Wasn't on my diet, but so much for that. Actually, I didn't do too bad because instead of eating an entire slab of ribs, as I wanted to, I was relatively "good" by feasting on a salad with pieces of rib mixed in and a barbecue ranch dressing dribbled on top. By the way, the baked beans are the best I've ever tasted - and I only TASTED. But they were delish. Photo is of my Mom and Emmy after finishing up their lunch.

Here is what I'm doing with the Flam'n Red Dome Yarn, making a pair of Simply Lovely Lace Socks. You can find the pattern about halfway down the page there - it's also in the Spring 2006 issue of Interweave Knits. Now here is my progress on those socks. They are coming along, and I'm trying to do both at once. I don't know if I'll be able to keep them both going once I get to the heel, that part might have to be broken up. Like everything else, we'll see how it goes - as we come to it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Returning to Awareness . . . a Little is a LOT

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten that my watch word for this year is "Awareness." Believe it or not, awareness HAS been something liveable for me so far. I've become more aware of how I'm contributing to problems in various relationships I'm in. I've become aware of how I am spending (and overspending) money. I've aware of many obstacles that stand in my way of achieving my weight loss goals, in particular. I've become more aware of what is causing stress in my life. Because I tend to be a control freak, the fact that there are many factors totally OUT of my control makes it hard, but since I'm not the Master of the Universe, I need to let some things go and work on my attitude in dealing with them.

Now, mind you, I haven't found solutions to many of those problems. The spending thing is really a challenge. Fact is, for my household, I am the spender. And the shopper. The cost of healthy groceries, in particular, is stressing the hell out of me. Finding ways to make healthy meals that don't break the bank, and finding foods that fit both my diet and my teenager's finicky eating habits are . . . . a challenge. I've never been so aware of inflation before - particularly with groceries. I used to LOVE going to the grocery store, and now I'm starting to hate it. I think the solution is, I need to start shopping at Aldi's for canned/frozen foods. Most of all, now that Spring is almost here, I need to start going to the Farmer's Market every Saturday morning and buying fresh fruits and veggies at a hopefully more reasonable price.

Small indulgences in my eating too are not small. When you have my middle-aged metabolism, those small indulgences really add up.

Awareness needs to lead to changes in behavior - not just in the big things, but more importantly in small things. Those small daily choices, between eating that late night snack or just going to bed and getting some much-needed sleep. I need to do some different self-talk. To convince myself that that the little choices, to work out on the treadmill for 20 minutes or to sit and watch CNN about rehashed political news is a small choice that makes a big difference. What's really crazy is I can do both - I can watch CNN while working out, but doing is a choice I need to make and it DOES make a BIG difference. On one of my self-help tapes, the writer said, "A little is a lot." It is SO true. Awareness is leading into little changes, and those little changes will add up - either in a positive or negative way. The choice is mine.