Double Meow

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Now that both of these frisky felines have gone to their new homes, I can finally introduce them to you. First up is the daring Ninja Cat with his glowing green eyes and stealthy paws. Second, is the striped and inquisitive Bumblebee. It was hard to let them go since they both looked so cute lounging on the furniture.

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I knit them both with the same yarns, the same needle, and from the same heavily-modified pattern. The only difference was that I made Bumblebee with stripes. Even though I’ve been knitting for years,  I still find it amazing how small changes can drastically affect the finished object. Ninja Cat grew to be short and round while Bumblebee turned out tall and narrow. Both are stuffed with a few pebbles at the bottom to help them sit up. See the pattern, yarns, needle, and modifications on the public Ravelry page.

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One of the neighborhood cats stopped by for a visit and just had to check out the newcomers. After the initial stare down, Ninja Cat and Bumblebee were deemed worthy of her attention. Then she had a fine time knocking them over. They mostly landed on their feet.

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Small Knitting

I took a slightly different approach to gift knitting this year. The list was shorter. The gifts were smaller. The last minute requests were filed away for a later date. Not rushing to KNIT ALL THE THINGS saved my bacon this year. Plus, not every gift I give has to be something I knitted. I had my list and, aside from some mid-game additions, stuck to it. I wish I could say I started early too but that didn’t happen. I just went small and that’s worth celebrating.

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Definitely the tiniest thing I knit was a cosy for my Dad’s iPod. It’s a previous generation and there was next to no chance of finding a case for it. A few quick sketches and 13.6 yards of Knit Picks Comfy Sport later, the case was made.

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Washcloths made an appearance this year too. The cream cloth is Grandmother’s Favorite in Knit Picks Dishie. I increased to 50 sts before starting the decreases to compensate for the smaller gauge.  The purple cloth is All Washed Up by Jill Arnush in Sugar’n Cream (Country Mauve). I can’t wait to knit the pattern for myself in kitchen towel size. It’s easy, memorizable, and reversible. What’s not to like?

Also on the small list: the annual ornament, two ribbed hats, and two not yet mentioned goodies. I’m not sure if I go small again next year or just start early. What I do know is that I’m not loathing the gift knitting or working on IOU’s which are both good things.

Whirled Purple

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Normally, when I write about my homespun, it’s sitting within petting distance on my desk. I pick up the yarn, poke it, bounce it up and down in my hands, and even nuzzle it on occasion. None of that’s happening this time because I shipped off this skein to be a Christmas present to the lovely Christen -  knitter, crocheter, and photographer extraordinaire. She has a weakness for lace, shawls, fine yarn, and the color purple. I am all to happy to oblige her in all of these things and spun the yarn, the first handspun I’ve ever gifted, with her in mind from beginning to end. It’ll be funny if she knits (or crochets) with my handspun before I do.

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I finished the yarn just in time to mail it off for Christmas but only because I used a hair dryer to speed up the drying. 89g of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Roving (Amethyst Heather) turned into 292 yds of fingering - sport weight yarn. The singles were spun on a 22g spindle from Dawning Dreams and plied on 2.2 oz Schacht Hi-Lo spindle. A number of movies and podcasts made the process move pretty quickly but I’m ready to spin colors that aren’t purple now. Grey and yellow are on top of the list.

Cheers!

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I cut things a little close this year but the annual ornament tradition continues. 2009 saw a stocking, 2010 had mittens, and 2011 got a stocking hat. 2012 gets a cuddly and portly house complete with doors, windows, our initials, the year, and a smoking chimney. The ornament has a high profile spot on the tree and makes me smile every time I walk past. 

I hope you’re enjoying the holidays with lots of food, good company, and piles of finished gifts. Cheers!

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Done

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Something amazing has happened. All of my Christmas knitting, at least all the stuff I had to make for other people, is finished. In the 6 years since I learned to knit, this is the first time I haven’t had to give out IOU’s or show off stitches still on the needles. Bonus, today isn’t even the end of the world.

To celebrate I’m giving in to the urge to cast on something fun for myself and completely without a deadline. Over a year ago I bought a kit to make Mousie by Ysolda Teague and it’s been sitting in my stash until today. I’ve got grand weekend plans of doing as little as possible, knitting a cute mouse, and enjoying good company. 

If you’re still in the throes of holiday knitting, I wish you speedy needles, tangle-free yarn, and errata free patterns. Good luck. I’m cheering for you.  

Lists = Good

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My love for lists is no secret. To-do lists, grocery lists, and check lists have all served me well over the years. Now that there’s only a week until Christmas, the handy list is keeping me sane. This weekend, I was able to cross 3 things off the to-make list. Awesome. This great and powerful list also tells me there’s only 3 things left to make which is great since the list seems so much longer in my head. 

Another thing that’s keeping me sane on the knitting front is ignoring all those last minute requests. I’m just filing them away as future gift ideas and not worrying about them in the slightest.  Less stress and more sleep that way.

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Also keeping the stress down is knowing how much I’ve already accomplished. These 2 hats were added to the list late in the game but finished with time to spare. Never underestimate the strength of simple hats, nice yarn, and manly colors. Add in some entertaining movies to stave off boredom and you’re good to go. 

Pattern: Squared Away Ribbed Watch Cap by Oftroy

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash - Grey (900) and Navy (854)

Needles: US 6 (4 mm)

Dates: Dec 5 - 16, 2012

@Ravelry

This is the second and third time I’ve knit this pattern and seems to be my default guy hat. It’s simple but the squared decreases add a nice touch. It’s good travel knitting and good tv knitting which is great since 9” of ribbing gets tiresome pretty quickly. Totally worth it though.

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Origami Stars

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Now that my Christmas cards are in the mail and winging their ways across the States, it’s time to show off the goodness inside: origami ornaments. I like to make ornaments every year for the tree and add them as special touches with friends’ gifts. This year, I’m taking a break from knitted leaves, birds, stockings, mittens, and pom-poms for origami. There’s no lack of holiday knitting around here and origami is a nice change. The ornaments are much faster to fold than to knit, easy to make, and just the right size to mail to friends across the country.

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There are tons of instructions for origami stars across the internet and I fell for the Robin Star by Maria Sinayskaya. This video helped clear up some of the more complicated parts of the folding and assembly. I used 3” foil origami paper and the completed stars came out 4” across. The only thing I changed was to tuck the “triangle”, that is normally folded behind all layers, under the last layer to hide the paper’s wrong side.  Once all the stars were folded, a hole punch (an awl would work too) and some craft thread quickly turned the bunch into ornaments. 

After folding 20 of these stars I have a few tips :

  1. Don’t wait to the last minute. The stars are quick to make but won’t just appear in your hands. I made mine over the course of a week. 
  2. Assembly line the process. Once I’d picked the paper for a particular star, I worked the same fold on all the pieces before moving to the next step. Seemed to make the whole process go a lot faster.
  3. Practice first. Before I started using the small, foil squares, I practiced making the stars from larger paper. I was able to memorize the steps and make sure the process wasn’t too finicky before making the real thing.
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A Happy Diversion

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I have grudgingly come to terms with the fact that Christmas and all the deadlines associated with it are less than a month away. All of my knitting, spinning, and general crafty time has been dominated by holiday making. My needles are full. My spindle is heavy. My hands keep cranking out ornaments. As all consuming as it is, I’d rather be working on all this now when I’ve still got some time to spare than waiting till the last minute. Still, my brain rebels every once and awhile and I make something for myself just to take the edge off of the ever looming deadlines. 

Say hello, again, to the little robin cross stitch. He’s not an amorphous blob this time and actually looks like a bird. No name yet but he’s been great at keeping my hands busy during audiobook and podcast sessions. Best of all, no deadline. If I finish him in December, great. If he doesn’t end up on the wall until January, that’s great too. So, if you’re like me and already feeling a bit burned out by the holidays, do something fun for yourself before diving back into the mess. A happy diversion really helps.

Whirling Purple

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Dear Spinning,

I’ve missed you. After I finished up that last skein of handspun, I had such grand plans. I was going to spin a soft, grey single of alpaca and wool. I picked out several bumps to practice fractal spinning. I was looking forward to spending more time with my turkish drop spindle. I was even contemplating pulling apart the silk hankies to what how they spun up. I fantasized about wheels. Unfortunately, transitional relocations, travel, knitting, and a number of other projects got in the way.  

The good news is that I’m finally back. The other day I pulled a batch of purple top out of the fiber stash, split it up, and paired it with one of my favorite spindles. The end goal is for a few hundred yards of fingering weight 2-ply. The first single is turning out riotously purple and a little bit hairy which is just fine with me. Won’t be long before I start the second single either. 

Totally enjoying the purple fluff,

April

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So, It Begins

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Last Saturday, September 22nd, was the Fall Equinox and the official start of Fall. Not that you could tell from the weather around here. Yesterday was a bright and sunny day with a temperature of 84° (29° C) which doesn’t seem like Fall to me in the least. Cooler temps or not, I’ve decided to suck it up and start with the dreaded Halloween, Christmas and Birthday Season making or, as I’ve come to call it, The Gauntlet. If you’re trying to hide from this bit of crafty timing, I apologize.

I’m starting off The Gauntlet this year with a bit of creepy cross-stitch for Halloween and working out the crafting plans for the rest of the year. Anyone else starting the holiday making with me or am I just the bearer of bad news?

Knitting Review

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I hope you all enjoyed Christmas or your own favorite winter holiday. I know I enjoyed mine even if I was frenetically knitting right up to the last second and only slightly slower once the deadline passed. In fact, this lone ornament, also masquerading as a pair of mittens, wasn't even started until the 26th. Sill, I'm calling it on time since ye old Christmas bush is still decorated. I did actually finish other things in time to go under the bush though.

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Maddox, Albert, and Beatrice by Rebecca Danger

Who knew that less than a skein of Noro Kochoran, some safety eyes, felt, stuffing, and a bit of thread would make 3 totally different monsters? I could hardly believe they were all made from the same skein. 

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Wee Mushrooms by Ysolda Teague

The mushrooms were a last minute addition to the list but were still pretty fun to make. I used the pattern more as inspiration and made each of the 8 shrooms different. Instead of using coins, I put magnets in the bottom to weight them down and make them stick to random metal surfaces. Playing darts with these things was way too fun.

Also, to make realistic looking mushrooms, just barely stuff the cap and then sew down the center using the end. All the mushrooms I made before I figured this out, look more like topiaries than fungi. I would also recommend listening to this song.

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Windschief by Stephen West

Another last minute addition to the queue and how I spent most of my lunch breaks during the week before Christmas. I didn't finish the cowl until a few days later even though I knit most of it in front of the recipient. He's arguing that it's the best gift of the year which makes all that work worthwhile. 

A pair of KIS mitts, some Spring Cleaning cloths, and a Triforce washcloth made the deadline too.

Besides from an unfinished blanket and a yet to be started scarf, I managed to complete everything even if I did have to shorten that list in the final days. Once I knew something wouldn't be finished on time, I stopped worrying about it and reached for something I could finish instead. Still, the rushing and complete takeover of my free time made the process far from stress free. I knew I'd turned a corner when, reading yet another make this in time for Xmas post, my first thought was, "It's the 22nd, just buy something." With that thought, my 2011 Christmas knit list got a lot shorter. I'm not going through this again next year.

On a better note, Happy New Year! I'll see you in 2011.

Still Knitting

There are 21 days until Christmas and I have a feeling that I'll be furiously knitting through all of them. My list includes monsters, a blanket, washcloths, hats, fingerless mitts, a scarf, and a bunch of Christmas ornaments. I tried starting early*, in September, but there was no urgency, no looming deadline and I kept putting stuff off. Now, things are starting to get hairy but I have a plan: urgent monogamous knitting. This is isn't how I usually do things but I actually seem to be finishing stuff. Who would have guessed?

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The first project to get this treatment was the Circle Stripe Scarf (@ravelry) out of the book One More Skein by Leigh Radford. It's going to charity so I can't exactly give them a half finished scarf and an IOU. So, I put the scarf at the top of my list an only knit it for a few days. I managed to finish with time to spare and was even able to block it too.

I've since moved on to my next project, a very late pair of birthday socks, which I hope to finish this weekend. No rest for the wicked after all. If things keep going this well, I'm going to keep up the monogamous knitting until I finish up all of my gift knitting...or, at least, until Christmas. 

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*I even had a spreadsheet.

A Hitch

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A couple days ago I was feeling rather pleased with myself. I had finished the first bit of gift knitting and was ready to start the next project. Late one night I wound all the yarn, 2 skeins of Noro Kochoran,  and cast on for the Oscilloscope Shawl from the Fall 2010 KnitScene. When I went to bed, things were going well. It wasn't until Knit Night and a full repeat later that I began to have doubts. Singularly, the yarn and the pattern were beautiful. Together, not so much. The yarn was so fuzzy that it obscured all the details in the pattern. Plus, after 30 mins of knitting, it looked like a big, white cat had decided to wallow on my clothes. Not a look that I generally go for. So, after a few minutes of hesitation, I ripped everything out. It took quite a bit longer to get all the angora off of my clothes.

Now, I'm not sure what to do. Should I knit a different shawl with the yarn? Should I even use the yarn at all? Should I just knit a nice pair of fingerless mitts and be done with the whole thing?

The Gauntlet

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It is undoubtedly Summer. The temperatures, while cooler, are still in the 90's. Air conditioning is still my friend. Ice tea is still a daily requirement. So, why am I thinking about Christmas?

Oh yeah.

Gift knitting. It's not just for Christmas but also a slew of birthdays. I like to refer to this time period, the end of August through December 25, as "running the gauntlet." Course, putting this way makes it sound like some horrible ordeal but I wouldn't do it if I didn't like it. Plus, I've figured out who deserves to be on my knit list and who doesn't. There's nothing worse than putting a lot of time and effort into making something that the recipient couldn't care less about or appreciates* too much to actually use. That's an important lesson to learn.

Anyway, back on the subject at hand, I have a spreadsheet with the who's, the what's, and the deadlines. I even have most of the yarn. Now I just have to keep myself accountable and on track which I plan to do with this blog. The first bit of accountability involves a skein of Ultra Alpaca which is already quite a bit smaller. Knitting with it has been great and I'm making good progress too. Let's hope the rest of the gifts go so smoothly.

*That's a rant for another time though.