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.

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The Mittens Won, Hands Down

I really do love my twined sock but I think I might have been knitting it a bit too tight, because when I switched projects – to the second of my aunt’s mittens, by the way – my hands felt almost noodle-y. The baby alpaca yarn that I’m using is so much softer than the Mora wool (which is what the sock is knit from), and even though I’m using smaller needles – size 0 instead of size 3 – the stitches are nice and relaxed.

The second sock will get finished. Soon. I promise. But not for another two snowflakes. Oh yeah, and two thumbs. I have to remember to knit the thumbs.

Completion Anxiety

As of yesterday morning, I had only a (short) sleeve and four little rows of edging to knit, then 12 buttons to sew on and some ends to tidy up in order to finish my “Crichton” sweater. I started the sleeve, then got distracted by the Wii, and dishes, and some laundry, and eventually, looking at my potential next project. When I finally sat down at 10:00pm to knit on poor little Crichton again, I was shocked that I’d only finished four rows of sleeve. I took a moment to contemplate what happened, and came to this conclusion:

I was having a bad case of completion anxiety.

Unlike the Yarn Harlot’s problem with her shawl, my anxiety stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t entirely sure the sweater would fit me when I was done. I love the yarn, the color, and the pattern. But I’d made changes to the pattern, taking it from a very short cropped sweater to one that went down to my waist, and making the sleeves a bit longer as well, and if those alterations screwed up the sweater, I’d have no one to blame but myself.

What if, after all that knitting, it was too small?

I made a decision. I’d worked really hard on this sweater, and had (mostly) a great time doing it. If, after all those ends were sewn on, it was too little for me, I’d give it to someone else. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. And I know a lot of scrawny people – mostly my daughters and their friends – who would not only like the sweater, but have an appreciation for its journey into being.

So Crichton was finished and has had its bath.

Bath time for Crichton!

I usually block my sweaters by folding them in half in order to keep everything the same size and shape

Great buttons from Yardage Town that Max helped me pick out

Tubular bind off on bottom edge – stretchy and lovely and so worth the extra work!

When it’s dry, I’ll try it on. And if it doesn’t look good on me I’ll pass it on to someone else (oh, but now that it’s washed and laid out to dry, I think it will fit – YAY!), and consider making another one for me.

But not right away.

Waltzing with Crows

Yesterday I bound off the last stitch of my “Crow’s Waltz Shawl.” I held it up to admire it and was slightly less than impressed. It was much smaller than I’d expected, even though the needles I used were larger than the pattern called for. When I got home, I wrapped it around Penny and it fit her perfectly. Great, now I have a shawl for a six month old. That’s helpful.

I decided it deserved to be blocked anyway, so this morning I soaked it and then pulled out the blocking wires my mom gave me for Christmas (thanks, Mom!). Max and I made the bed – both so I’d have a spot to pin the shawl out and so I could take pictures of it after it was stretched. Then the blocking commenced.

First, blocking wires are amazing. I know I’m not the first to mention this, but they are so great I think it bears repeating. Instead of 50-100 pins to make the points of the lace stand out straight, I only needed 10 or so. And adjusting the “pull” on each of the points required significantly less work as well. If you like to knit lace, get some blocking wires. You’ll not be disappointed.

Crow’s Waltz Shawl, knit on a variety of needles from Araucania Ranco Multi in two different colorways.

Second, even after stretching the life out of the poor little shawl, it still looked really…well, little. I pulled out my tape measure, and found that the shawl is 55″ wide, and 29″ deep. According to the pattern, it’s supposed to be 50″ by 21″. Oh… it’s supposed to be little.

I guess it turned out perfectly!

Memory Lane

I think it’s funny that, after almost two years, people are still reading my very first post. Today is my two year “blogiversary,” and if you were to click back through the entries, you’d find a story filled with great triumphs and great failures, as well as items which were started with incredible zeal, only to never be written about again.

(hm…I didn’t realize my failures SO outweighed my triumphs…)

The sweater that I prompted me to start this blog – my February Lady Sweater – is still around. I wear it nearly every day (mostly because I only have one other sweater that I knit, and it has the frustrating habit of slipping off my shoulders), and still have a string hanging down from where I joined the sleeve on one side. I haven’t cut it off because it doesn’t really bother me, and I can’t remember/figure out if I actually wove it in. The shape of it worked well while I was pregnant with Penny, because it hangs open on the bottom (hint: this would be a great gift for a mom to be). In fact, it worked so well that I was wearing it when Penny was born. It was the only thing that I was wearing that I wouldn’t let the ER nurses cut off of me (my new pajama bottoms and favorite t-shirt, sadly, were sacrificed).

Sometimes when I look at this sweater, even now, I curse the fact that I had to re-knit it so many times. I especially curse it when I find the one row in the sleeve where I knit plain instead of doing the lace pattern. But then I think that maybe, if knitting had come easily to me – if it hadn’t been an adventure that linked me more closely to my mom and helped me meet so many great and talented people – I might have gotten bored and moved on to something else before realizing that mastering this skill might take an entire lifetime, and that I’m willing to spend that long to achieve mastery.

Thank you for joining me on my adventure.

Hold it!

Wow, I have been busier than a one legged man in a butt-kicking contest, which is my excuse for not writing anything of substance for the last two weeks. I’ve had several good ideas for topics, but I’ve been focusing on finishing Jojo’s Monster Socks so she can wear them before it gets too hot, and the few spare minutes I’ve had, I’ve dedicated to that endeavor.

It took me two weeks to finish the second sock because I had a case of “projectus interruptus.” Last weekend the girls presented me with a challenge – they each needed to make a dress out of bags they’d collected from ComicCon for Spirit Week at their school (the theme was “Earth Day/Week”). Sami used the existing structure of a single bag, and added a few strategically placed pleats and a button to create this:

Sami’s ComiCon Dress, out of recycled bags

Ok, I’m obviously going to need a different photo. I’ll have her model it for me when we get home.

Jojo, on the other hand, had a more elaborate scheme. Last year, for a similar project, we’d purchased a dress pattern which we never used but kept (and remembered where we kept it). Last weekend this pattern was pressed into service to create

Jojo’s ComiCon Dress, out of recycled bags

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I am easily the world’s worst seamstress, which meant that something that would take a semi-competent person a few hours to complete takes me an entire day. But do you know what? I had a blast! Due to technical difficulties, I had to do most of the sewing on Sami’s dress, but Jojo sewed most of hers, leaving me to take care of cutting out pieces and offering advice. Luckily, she didn’t have any terribly tricky issues, and the dress was finished before sundown on Sunday.

Luckily, the sewing thing really only comes up once or twice a year, so now I can return to my knitting.

Not that I had any reason to doubt her…

You know the YarnHarlot has a lot of wisdom – knitterly and otherwise – on her blog, but last night I encountered proof of a statement that she’s made several times.

Knitters are taking over the world.

We’re not doing it in overt, obvious ways. Instead we’re sneaking bits of wool into the lives of those around us, and even if they don’t eventually become knitters themselves, they will absorb enough woolly knowledge subliminally and by osmosis that not only will they not challenge our world domination…they may even help! I observed this not once, not twice, but three times yesterday alone. I was awed.

Instance the first: I showed a co-worker a pair of socks I’d just finished (the Windjammer Socks…see the previous post). While this co-worker has always indulged me by complimenting my past projects, this time it went a step further. Her comment to me was, “Oh, these are so nice and soft. Are they wool or alpaca? I like the cables!”

Instance the second: Sami had an Academic League competition last night. As always, I sat in the back (so I wouldn’t draw any attention), and I knit. During one of the breaks, the moderator turned and said to me, “If my wife were here, she’d be sitting next to you, trying to figure out what you’re making.” That was an innocuous enough comment to make. However, later and during a longer break between matches, he came over to ask what I was making (it’s a sock – big surprise), and he said something about “second-sock syndrome” and “the YarnHarlot says…” He knows about the YarnHarlot?? Oh yes. He even knew her real name. His wife has been doing some fine work on behalf of knitters everywhere. Not only does he have this information, but he’s not afraid to speak the language of knitters in front of a room full of people!

Instance the third: After the Academic League competition (Sami’s school won both the Novice and JV rounds), we returned home and Sami retired to her room to address her homework. After about an hour she came down and asked for help picking a topic for a speech she had to give – today – for which she could provide three resource citations, not including Wikipedia. Of course, the only thing I could come up with was… yep, you guessed it… wool. We went to the bookshelf and I chose a selection of books covering wool and where it comes from and what you can do with it (“The Knitter’s Book of Wool”), regional knitting (“Latvian Mittens” and “Northern Knits”) and some spinning books (“Start Spinning” and “Spin Control”). I also provided some visual aids, in the form of unspun and spun wool and alpaca, some dyed and some not. As she walked off to start writing, she mentioned using both me and the YarnHarlot as sources as well. “Didn’t the YarnHarlot say something about yarn being an inexpensive form of entertainment, comparing the price of a movie ticket to the price of a ball of yarn, then comparing how many hours of entertainment each provided?” Oh yeah…she’s been converted. I won’t say that she went up and joyously composed her speech, but I can tell you that there was no crying or yelling or whining, and by the time I went to bed an hour later, she was done. I’ll find out this afternoon how it went.

I never really doubted that we’d eventually take over the world. I just didn’t realize how little effort (knitting in public aside) it would require!