Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekend Knitting and Spinning Update

First I must show you my favorite "quick knit" shawl pattern - and a free one at that. The Easy Triangle Shawl by Lion Brand is the best, fastest, and most treasured shawl pattern I own. So I must share it with you. I made one this weekend for Aunt Eve.

Started it on Thursday night, had very little knitting time and still managed to finish it by Sunday. I've made this shawl in as little as 24 hours. Size 13 needles. Chunky yarn. This particular yarn is my favorite "go to" quick shawl yarn called James G. Brett Marble yarn in the colorway "Berries." Berries yarn has luscious shades of dark red, orange, pink - variegated acryllic yarn that cost $12 for nearly 400 yards. You just can't beat it for price, washability and softness.

My mother-in-law, Sylvia loved reds in all shades and so I made one of these shawls. Last weekend when I was in St. Louis, her sister, Eve, wanted one too, so I made her this one this weekend. Whenever she misses her sister, hopefully she can wear it and remember the closeness they shared.

Another relaxing thing I did - spin on my wheel. Yay! Very therapeutic. I originally intended to make the Oatmeal sweater out of a light Shetland brown yarn that was very soft and nice, but the color was rather bland and I didn't like the way it was coming out. So I went to Yarn Barn and bought some really nice roving in an unusual batt of browns, greens, and even some orangish red. It looked like "carrot cake" which happened to be the name of the roving. So by spinning it in 3 ply - using 2 singles of the Shetland Brown and 1 single of the Carrot Cake, I came out with a very nice brown tweedy yarn that I like much better than the plain old boring brown. So I have finally arrived at the yarn I will use for my cardigan - now I just need to spin up about 1000 yards or so of it before Ravelympics starts on February 12th.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recharging my Battery

Usually in the new year, I feel exhilarated and happy, revving to do new things. But this year, with the hard winter, and a lot of challenging personal circumstances, I'm just feeling tired and drained, much like a battery that has lost its charge.

Unfortunately, I don't have the money or the time to take a vacation. And I'm not really in the vacation frame of mind anyway. Instead, I'm craving spiritual retreat. I'm craving some time at the monastery. Alone. Quiet. Ahhhh. Maybe I'll give myself that luxury sometime in the coming weeks.

But tonight, I'm going to FIND my way the Steam'n Bean and hang out with some knitting friends. I'll talk. I'll laugh. I'll knit. I'll recharge. Not quiet but quite fun.

I'm still planning to do the Ravelymics challenge and I'm thinking that I'll do the Oatmeal sweater that we talked about earlier, from Spin Off magazine. I've been having trouble getting my yarn at just the right gauge. But I think, as of last night, that I've finally got it down pat. So tonight I'll go to the Steam'n Bean and sit down, drink a cup of hot tea or coffee and knit a swatch to make sure the yarn I've spun works up to the right gauge.

What can you do to recharge your battery?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

She's With Him Again

Yesterday, we lost her. Well, actually, we lost her a long time ago. She hasn't been herself in many years. My mother-in-law, Sylvia, was once a small but vibrant woman who was quiet, fiercely independent, and was one of the most forward-looking and thinking people I ever met. Instead of focusing on and reminiscing about the past, she was always excited by new technology, new inventions, new fashions, new ideas, new places to travel and visit. She became a widow at a very young age, and finished raising two teenage sons all on her own in the 1970's.

After her boys were grown, she set out to Los Angeles for many years, making a life for herself and starting a career as a medical secretary. She returned to St. Louis after retirement and relished being a grandmother to Mark's daughter Jamie, and our daughter, Emily. She would often travel by train to visit us in Kansas City.

Throughout the last decade, though, she's gradually been losing herself as she slid deeper and deeper into Alzheimer's disease - and away from those she loves most. In the process, she's also given up her independence and had to rely on others in a way that she would have never preferred.

Yesterday, she finally let go of her life here, and returned nearly to the day of her wedding anniversary, to a dear husband she lost long ago. Finally, the two are together again.

We love you Mom. Goodbye for now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Surprise Yourself

Tonight I've been listening to the old Delialah show that I haven't listened to in years. She's the wonderful evening show host who features heartwarming personal and family stories as well as "gushy love songs." She's a really enlightened person who has a lovely, reassuring voice and uplifting ideas to share.

One thing she was talking about tonight was the importance of pressing yourself to do something you've been putting off or avoiding but would make you feel much better about yourself. She asked the listening audience, "What's one small thing you could do tomorrow that would surprise yourself, and make you feel better about yourself?" She went on to say that whether it's cleaning out a drawer, setting boundaries with someone, declaring something that is important to you - whatever it is, surprise yourself by doing it.

Also on her website, she encourages each of her listeners to do something creative that will inspire them - rather it's saddling up a horse for a ride, or getting out the paintbrushes, there's always something creative each of us can do that will give us a new creative zing.

So in addition to work tomorrow, I'm really going to try to leave time to come home and 1) continue reading the fantastic novel I'm reading The Thirteenth Tale; 2) write in my journal; 3) spin on my spinning wheel.

I'm also going to remember to listen to some more Delilah on the radio. I really enjoy her as well as the stories of those who call in, and the music is nice too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Finds

Friday's Find this week is all about hats. This week, I finished the Valery hat, a great pattern, but I was dissatisfied with it at first because I had an unattractive nipple/pimple top.

The Hats group on Ravelry suggested that blocking would remove some of this nipple effect and make the hat larger, which it needed to be. I was reluctant to use a bowl, because that's not much like my head shape, and I was reluctant to wear a sopping wet hat around while it dried to a REAL head shape (my own).

Solution? Someone in the Hats group wisely suggested that I visit Sally's Beauty Supply and buy a $4 wig head. I picked one up and it makes the PERFECT hat blocker. So for $4 you, too, can solve all your pointy hat problems.

Another great find in making hats less pointy is an article from the TechKnitting website called, "Avoiding Nipple in the Middle - Some Tricks to Improve Hat, Glove Fingertips and Motif Centers."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ravelympics Ramblings

Okay, blog readers, here's the thing: Ravelympics 2010 is beginning soon, I think it starts February 16th and runs until February 28th - to coincide with the Winter Olympics. The event was started several years ago by the Yarn Harlot, and has since been taken up by Ravelry forums and spread like wild fire. What it amounts to is that you start casting on and try to complete a set project goal within the 16 days of the Olympics.

Last year, I participated for the first time as part of Team Tardis, because I'm a Dr. Who fan. During that Summer Olympics, I completed a vest. I loved the challenge. It was really fun.

This year, I have joined with Team Tank, which my friends Emily and Karen have spearheaded.

Now my dilemma is this: My ideal project for this time is a cardigan made from handspun. My own handspun. Which I haven't spun yet. Yeah. So I'd have to start spinning right about now in order to get the yarn ready in time for the opening ceremony. Then the next challenge is, could I really finish knitting a complete cardigan in only 16 days? No doubt it would be a "challenge" with a capital C. So make that Challenge. Normally it takes me about a month, maybe 5 or 6 weeks to make a sweater, but that's because I usually knit several items at once and tend to poke along. So if the cardigan were easy enough AND the focus was on only one project, could I do it? I'd love to try anyway.

My other option is to knit a hat and thrummed mittens out of handspun that is already spun up. I think I could get that done in 16 days without too much trouble.

So . . . . if I go with the cardigan option, here are the three choices I'm currently considering:

This one is Oatmeal Cardigan in this month's Spin Off magazine. It is a fairly straight-forward project from worsted weight yarn. It also seems to look nice in handspun yarn. The roving I've chosen is very NATURAL, it's a light/medium brown color. Here's a photo of it.

Option 2 Cardigan would be Espresso from the book A Fine Fleece by Lisa Lloyd. I love, love, love this sweater. Now remember, the roving I'm choosing a the natural brown. So would that natural color look good in this style? Not sure.

Option 3 Cardigan is this Garter Yoke Cardigan from the Knit1 Vogue magazine Fall/Winter of 2008.

Any thoughts? Ideas? Feedback? Input?

And are any of you participating in Ravelympics?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday's Find

Okay, since my word guiding me this year is FIND, I decided to start a new blog feature called "Friday's Find." Each Friday, I will post something that I have FOUND to be helpful and perhaps valuable to others, as well. It might be a product, it might be an observation, it might be a method, it might be a book. It might be . . . . well almost anything. It might even be more than one thing, as is the case this week.

First to talk about is Loreal's "Telescopic Explosion Mascara." I bought this at Walgreens for $8 or $9. My Mom actually is the one who found it, and then she urged me to try it. I really LOVE this mascara. It made me sparse, very fine eyelashes really bloom without looky clumpy. The secret is the round brush inside. It seems to distribute the mascara evenly. Best of all, it only takes a few quick swipes to make my lashes look fuller.

And guess what I found while cleaning and sorting last week? My silver pendant that had been missing for 2 years. It's a favorite little necklace I like to wear because it seems to go with everything and now I've uncovered it again. Makes me want to sort and clean more drawers and see what else I can discover that has been given up for lost!

What have you found this week?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cropped Knit Cardigan

Most people who read my blog probably realize that I don't usually like to knit sweaters. They are time-consuming, they take a lot of yarn and attention, plus require gauge mastery and/or swatching.

But this time I bit the bullet. Made a cardigan. I started it just before Thanksgiving and finished it just after New Years. It's a free pattern called "Cropped Knit Cardigan" by Barbara Breiter made with the yarn called for in the pattern, which is Merino Stripes yarn.

The pattern was easy and fast. Most people who aren't "sweater adverse" (like me) could probably make it in a week or two. I recommend the yarn and the pattern.

Though it may not be visible, there's lace at the sleeve cuff and bottom edging. Yay! A sweater finished just in time for Casual Friday at work.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Brutually Cold

Although I had big ambitions for getting started on my basement sorting and organizing, that has been delayed, like so many other things, by the brutal cold weather we've been experiencing. I am chilled to the bone, even when I'm upstairs and the thought of going down there to the basement and getting even colder just isn't something I've been able to talk myself into doing.

We'd had temperatures at 0 and even a few degrees below for the whole weekend. I think the high didn't even reach 15 degrees for several days. The snow from the last few storms is still on our driveway in blocks of inpentratable ice. We had more snow last night, and now you can't even see our subdivision's road. They say we will be having another big storm coming mid-week in a few days. Ughhh!!!

I already can't wait until Spring. This is a really depressing winter already. I don't even know how I'll get to work tomorrow and I sure dread it. It seems as if the street crews have already run out of money because they aren't even attempting to plow the streets, especially when the snow comes on the weekend, and then it just becomes impossible to plow once they do it. There are big drifts of snow everywhere - in parking lots, along the sides of the road. Pretty soon we'll need a flag to find our mailbox like they do in Minneapolis.

Last night Bob and I were going to go out to our favorite comedy club to see a show and get cheered up, but it started snowing and we could see they weren't even treating the highways, so we chickened out and drove back home.

Not motivated to do anything. Think I'll grab a cup of coffee and go back to bed. It's one of those "hide your head in a pillow" kind of days.

Later Note: Since doing the basement was too cold, I decided to start right where I am and start organizing my under-the-bed, dresser and nightstand areas. That has already perked me up. It will make getting up in the mornings for work SO much easier. I'm throwing away stuff that I no use and am finding several great little items that I'd forgotten all about.

Starting where you are seems like a good place to start in trying to find your way to a better place.