No White Christmas for Us

When I planned our trip to Wisconsin, my primary goal was to spend some time with my family and celebrate Christmas with them. My secondary goal was to let Max go out and play in the snow and learn to appreciate hot cocoa as something other than what he drinks every morning as a matter of course. My sister and her husband offered to take us snowmobiling, and my husband and mom had a plan to make Max shovel the driveway. It was going to be perfect.

It’s still perfect, just without the snow. In fact, my dad said that instead of shoveling, maybe he’d take Max and Alex out and show them his new lawnmower.

Seriously, there is no snow. None. There were flurries on Saturday, but only enough to make one asymmetrical little ice ball for Max. No snowmen will be constructed this year…

We’re still having fun.

Jojo and Sami are enjoying some down time, and this afternoon we’re going to go shopping. Yesterday Max and Alex went to the Railroad Museum in Green Bay, and today they went to Great-Grandma’s with my dad and Penny to help put up the Christmas tree.

My mom collected black walnut hulls throughout the fall, and this morning we’re dying wool.

And I’m still trying to finish my Christmas knitting.

I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to finish, but I might just buy some back-up gifts in case I don’t.


Are you panicking yet?

Wisp scarf, knit using Debbie Bliss’ Angel yarn

Now that the turkey has been consumed – along with the green beans and sweet potatoes and stuffing, not to mention the pumpkin pies – we have started the stress filled countdown to Christmas. 27 days…less than four weeks…are you feeling dizzy yet?

I’ve been working on my Christmas knitting since the middle of summer, and I’d be done if I weren’t so easily distracted. But since I appear to have the attention span of a gnat on crack (thanks to my lovely husband for that phrase), I have completed quite an impressive number of projects, but only two Christmas gifts.

It was with this serious deficiency in mind, then, that I found a couple of really great projects that I’d like to call to your attention if, like me, you find yourself with an ever dwindling amount of time and a list of finished objects that refuses to grow regardless of your efforts.

First up is “Wisp”, a very pretty scarf knit with silk/mohair yarn whose beauty belies the complexity of the pattern. A shortish scarf can be made with a single skein of yarn; two skeins will result in a luxuriously long, fluffy strip of mmmmm! I’ve used Debbie Bliss’ “Angel” yarn, and the 15 row pattern is so easy to remember (you really only need to keep track of your rows) that I was able to knit up the first skein in less than a week whilst working on a bunch of other stuff at the same time (in other words, I knit for about an hour at a whack once or twice a day over the course of a week). In addition to being really quite pretty, people will think it took immense amounts of skill and focus to create when, in truth, 99% of the greatness of this scarf is due to the yarn.

Alberta Clipper Boot Socks (Ravelry link), knit on size 4 needles using Cascade 220 yarn

Next are the “Alberta Clipper Boot Socks”. Knit in worsted weight yarn on size 4 needles, I was able to finish the first sock in less than a day, and the second one is nearly finished as well.

I used Cascade 220, and the results are incredible. They’re thick and squishy, and look soooo very warm. As soon as I’m done with the Christmas knitting, I’m going to make myself a pair. And maybe a pair for each of my kids. And Alex (yes, they’re quick enough that I’d be willing to knit a man-sized pair). Spike (our chihuahua) might even get some.

I have some more quick ideas, but I’ll have to tell you about them tomorrow.

I must be getting old…

Lyon stole by Elsebeth Lavold, knit in Plymouth Yarn DK Merino Superwash

When I was a kid, I remember the adults around me marvelling about how quickly time passes, how it seemed that last Christmas had been just last week, and summer couldn’t have lasted more than a day or two, and hadn’t the new school year started yesterday? And I also remember thinking that they were insane. Christmas was, like, two years ago. And while summer went by quickly, school had been in session for ages, and I was ready for the winter holidays to start.

This year I find myself in the same position. Last Christmas zipped by, and then the school year ended and started again, and now we’re nearly to the end of November! How can it possibly be Thanksgiving already?  I’m not ready!

My Christmas knitting is progressing, but I’m so far from done that it’s not even a little bit amusing. I’ve finished one pair of mittens and a stole. I still have thumbs to put on another pair, a whole other mitten to make, plus a thumb, for yet ANOTHER pair. Oh, and a pair of socks. I still have to make a pair of socks.

We’re going to Wisconsin for Christmas this year, and I really can’t wait. It’s been about 4 years since we were last there during the winter and I miss the snow and cold. I love watching Alex’s reaction when we pass by the bank and he sees the temperature – not including the windchill. I love watching my kids interact with my parents and all of the people who love them regardless of how long it’s been since they last saw them. This year I’m especially looking forward to playing in the snow with Max, because he doesn’t remember it from the last visit.

But I know that I won’t have much time to knit during the flight  to Chicago. And there are parties to attend and cookies to decorate and people to visit while we’re there, so I can’t depend on that week before Christmas to magically yield thumbs and mittens and socks

So I guess I should get back to it

Well, that took longer than it should have…

A few weeks ago, I was asked to knit two hats and two pair of mittens for seven month old babies. Easy-peasy, right? Their noggins are small, and there’s no need to put thumbs in baby mittens…their little thumbs would never stay in them anyway. So I placed an order with Knit Picks for some Swish Worsted weight yarn, and while I waited for it to arrive, I scoured Ravelry for some cool hat patterns.

The yarn was delivered last Friday, and I immediately set to knitting the first hat in pink for the little girl. I finished it on Saturday, and as soon as the last end was woven in, I started the brown and blue hat for the little boy.

I adjusted the number of stitches I needed based on my swatch and his head circumference, and knit away. I finished the hat on Sunday afternoon and popped it on Penny’s head to test it, and only then did I realize it was too big. Way too big. Like, by three or four inches. I ripped it out, re-swatched, and tried again. And again.

And again.

I finally got it right (I hope) on Monday evening, and moved on to the mittens. I faced the same issue here, where everything I tried ended up being far too large, or teensy. I didn’t finish the whole set until late last night, when I stayed up especially so I could wake up this morning and not have to deal with the little buggers. I gave them a quick wash and popped them into the dryer, hoping against hope that the yarn truly was super wash, and that I wouldn’t have to knit these AGAIN because the dryer shrunk them to the size of nickels.

I added i-cord loops to the top of the hat and the cuffs of the mittens reduce the chances of them getting lost. See, they can be collected onto one of those little link-things! (I thought this was incredibly clever. Keep it to yourself if you disagree. I’m not in the mood)

This hat is actually folded up along the decrease lines, which is why it looks so little.

I can tell you, with much relief, that the yarn performed perfectly. It didn’t shrink, but it did put all of the stitches in line the way they’re supposed to be. This is great yarn, and I highly recommend it if you find yourself needing to knit something for a small someone, or for an individual who won’t give regular wool the care it needs and deserves. It is extraordinarily soft and squishy, and comes in several weights, so it will work for a wide variety of projects.

As for me, I’m just happy that I’m done with these, and that I can return to my regularly scheduled Christmas knitting, which is very, very behind. In fact, I think I have exactly none of my gifts completed.


Getting back into the groove

Well, that may be my optimism peeking through. But even if I’ve not returned to my “groove,” I am at least nearing a return to normal. What with the preparations for Max’s birthday party last week, and the girls getting ready for going back to school, and my employer expecting me to show up and do work (truly, I thank him for that expectation), I’ve lost track of whether I’m coming or going. The one thing I’ve been sure of is that I’m not sitting down.

Some days, it seemed I’d never sit down again.

But I’ve made it to the final weekend of summer, Max’s party is a memory working its way toward “pleasant” as I begin to forget about how hot it was and how tired I was when it was over, and I’ve found a few minutes to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and catch up on my blog.

I finished the first of the evil, stubborn, wicked, but still beautiful blue and white mittens* yesterday. Then I took some photos of it with my new camera (I’ll tell that story later). Enjoy. And after you’ve basked in her glory, I’ll fill you in on the nightmare of her creation.

Lotus Mittens (ravelry link) by Heather Desserud, knit (eventually) with size one needles using classic elite one fifty yarn

This mitten…not “this pair of mittens,” but this one, single mitten, was started two weeks ago. It’s for someone cool, who I think is wonderful, and therefore I felt – even more than usual – that it should be perfect and lovely.

The first time, I cast on with the size needles requested by the pattern, and after about 15 rows, it was sloppy and horrible. So I pulled it out.

The second time, I cast on with smaller needles. It was still sloppy and horrible. So I pulled it out.

The third time, I cast on again with the smaller needles, but paid extra-close attention to my tension. Finally, my stitches were lovely. I knit and knit and knit, and when I got to the beginning of the third little lotus blossom, I put it on. And it was claustrophobically small. (Oh, deja vu… I think I’ve already told this story. Eh. I’ve already re-typed it, and you’ve probably already read it, so I’m just going to leave it, OK?) So I pulled it out.

I went back to the original needles, and paid close attention to my tension, and the stitches looked nice and neat. So that’s four times that I’d started this mitten. Of course, the adventure wasn’t over yet. Throughout the final iteration of this mitten I repeatedly made errors that required ripping out four or six rows and reknitting them, or tinking back half a row of stranded color work on DPNs to correct a spot where I’d done blue-blue-white rather than blue-white-white. By yesterday morning I had only half of the thumb left to knit, and it was only my anger and frustration with this poor little mitten that got it done.

But now that it is done, I think it’s lovely and I may have a hard time parting with it.

* I should mention that ALL of the issues that I had with this mitten were my own fault. The pattern is written without error, and the chart is perfect as well.

I only have how long?

This morning my co-worker walked into my office and said, “Can you believe it’s only____months until Christmas?”

My heart beat sped up, and I could feel my head getting lighter as my fingers started to tingle.

“Never,” I admonished him, “mention to a knitter how little time there is left before Christmas.

Note: only click the link above if you are: a) not a knitter; or b) a masochistic knitter.

I’ve been so busy with work (oi! work!), chauffeuring my lovely children about, and Sock Summit stuff that I really haven’t started on my Christmas knitting. Not only have I not started, I’ve barely thought about it. Last year I started in July, and didn’t finish until late January/early February.

People, it’s already the middle of August. I am SO behind schedule. I need to make a list… wait. First I have to figure out where I wrote the names of the people we have for the gift exchange this year.

Phew! I didn’t find the list, but I used the amazing powers of my memory to recall them. This time, though, I wrote them down (they’re in the Moleskine graph paper notebook, the one with the thumb gusset designs for Letty’s mittens…this is a note to myself so the next time I can’t remember the names, I’ll at least know where to look).

OMG, I just fell down the Ravelry Rabbit Hole while looking for “manly hat” patterns. “Habitat Hat” is on my list twice already, and I need to mix it up a little. I found quite a lot of lovely patterns, but then got distracted by a scarf, which led me to the designer’s page, which allowed me to view a whole bunch of her other patterns.

I got distracted again! How is my list – not to mention the actual knitting of stuff on my list – ever going to get done? I’m going to go take a little walk, and come back to this later.