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.

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.

Bye.

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.

Sometimes, it’s best to admit defeat

I’ve spent this past week working on a new pair of mittens. During lunch on Monday, I went to “The Needleworks,” a small yarn store in Mission Valley and bought some lovely classic one fifty yarn, by Classic Elite Yarns – one ball of dark blue and one ball of white. When I got home I went straight to Ravelry and picked out a pattern, then dove right in. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn and size one needles, but classic one fifty is sport weight. This, I decided, would not be a problem because I want to add a liner, a la “Fiddle Head,” and having the mittens turn out a little big would be great. The pattern, likewise, recommended a gauge of 10 stitches per inch. After casting on and knitting a few rows, I was getting about 7 stitches per inch, and the color work was looking a bit sloppy.

It was getting late anyway, so I put the mitten away and went to bed.

Tuesday at lunch, I cast on again, using the next smaller size needles that I had access to – size 00. After a few rows, I found my gauge had only improved to 7.5 stitches per inch, and my color work still looked crappy. Fine. Lunch was over anyway.

When I got home I unravelled the uncooperative mitten and cast on once again, still using the size 00 needles, but increasing my tension a fair bit. A few rows in, I measured my gauge and found it was at 9.25 stitches per inch – exactly what I was going for. And, as a bonus, the little white stitches were showing up perfectly against the dark blue background rather than being pulled so tightly they disappeared into the fabric, or knit so loosely that they stuck out like Frankenstein’s monster at a cotillion.

And so, I knit on.

I knit on for several days (until this morning, in fact), the sides of my lovely little mitten rising up straight and even. Then I decided to try it on, to ensure I wasn’t knitting mittens that would fit the aforementioned monster.

As I mushed my hand in I swore silently, as the mitten was really quite tight. When I got it on all the way I found myself getting a little claustrophobic. And as I eased it off my hand, my swearing gained volume until, at the moment I was finally freed from its woolly snare, my face was nearly blue from cursing. I took a deep breath, then unravelled 5 days worth of knitting, put all the yarn and the needles back into the bag, and walked into my bedroom to tell my husband about how the mitten had vanquished me.

When I entered, I noticed “Girasole” sitting demurely on top of my yarn chest, where she’d been put last night because we were too tired to return her to her home inside the trunk where she’s lived for the past year waiting patiently for me to weave in the ends before giving her a bath stretching her out to dry. Right then, I knew the reason for the mittens’ attitude.

I needed to finish Girasole.

And so, without further ado (or whining – I promise to stop whining too), here she is, in all her sunflowery glory.

This is where it all started – just a few little stitches

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.

Mine, all mine (for now, anyway)

Ok, so I got distracted from knitting the second pair of sock summit socks after the first one was done

In Season by Melissa Morgan-Oakes, from the 2009 RSC

because I finally finished spinning all the yarn I need for the mittens I’m making. First to be knit is the pink (which you’ve seen before) and white (which totally hurt to spin after using the lovely stuff I’d dyed – soooo boring! and which you’ve not seen because it was too dull to photograph).

Oh yeah, I made that…

I’m not using a pattern for these so much as I’m referring to several for guidance and inspiration, and using Alice Starmore’s “Book of Fair Isle Knitting” for the colorwork patterns.

By the way, the several I’m using for reference include:

  • “Bird in Hand” by Kate Gilbert – to figure out about how deep the turned cuff should be (btw, on size 0 needles, I knit 6 rows before and after the turning row)
  • Latvian Mittens” by Lizbeth Upitis – to estimate how many stitches to cast on using size 0 needles (I used 72 )
  • “Andalus Mittens” by Heather Desserud, plus the two above, to figure out roughly how many stitches wide to make the thumb gusset (I tried the mitten on at 17, but it seemed a little tight. I’m going to go up to 19 to accommodate the padding caused by the floats)
Here they are so far.
I’ve been winging it a bit with these, picking out the stitch patterns as I need them. I really like the pattern on the back of the hand, although it’s hard to see in these photos because I’m only halfway through the first repeat and the fabric is curling onto itself. The thumb gusset and thumb itself are being designed on the fly as well…for every stitch/row I add, I put a couple more dots on my paper.
These are, in my opinion, the coolest mittens ever, because I dyed the wool (er, baby alpaca), I spun the wool, and I knit the wool. Plus, I’ve been doing TONS of math to try to make these work out; not good or correct math, but I’m trying (yesterday I tried to fit a four stitch pattern into 70 stitches evenly not once, not twice, but three times. In case you think you should give this a go, don’t bother – it doesn’t work).
I also finally finished spinning the yarn for the second pair of mittens (fingerless mitts, actually). This was exciting because I needed brown yarn, and wasn’t having any luck creating brown. After several tries, however, I got this:
Yeah, I made these too.