Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FO: Cold Springs.

Whew, it's been a while. Two days after I got home from my trip, there was a big get-together at our place, and after that I just wanted to go to bed and sleep for a week. I couldn't even bring myself to get excited about my knitting. Yesterday, though, I finally finished and blocked the fingerless mitts I'd been knitting as a quick birthday present. (If anyone knows a better way to block fingerless mitts, please let me know!)

Started: September 9, 2014

Finished: September 23, 2014

Yarn/yardage used: Skaska Designs 50/50 Merino & Silk, about 240 yards (19 grams). I was using the partial cake left over from Hanami, and now have 39 grams left in the cake.

Needles: Size 2 DPNs. This was a mistake. The pattern calls for size 1s if working with laceweight, and despite my being a tight knitter, size 2s were simply too big.

The pattern is Hand Springs Fingerless Mitts by Micol Day, and I highly recommend it for a quick and easy knit. (I'm fairly certain that if it hadn't been for all the travel and subsequent burnout, I could have finished the pair in ten days or so.) The lace chart is intuitive and easy to memorize, and the pattern even includes a printable page with little circles next to each row that you can poke out with your needle tip to mark your progress. I'm rather surprised to see that this pattern has so few projects on Ravelry - it and Ice Queen are quickly becoming my go-to quick gift patterns.

Also, I came home to a lovely surprise - I won the birthday giveaway hosted by Marsha of One Geek to Craft Them All!

I'm especially in love with this journal; the leaves are handmade paper, and the folios are handsewn. The cover even has tiny mirror shards on it.

I have a habit of collecting lovely journals that I always feel a bit too intimidated to actually write in. I'd like to change that before the end of the year; I've been thinking a lot about creativity recently and realized that I never stopped being inspired to draw or write or express myself in creative ways, I just stopped doing them. I think it's probably about time to stop being afraid and just have fun doing the things again.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A week on the East Coast.

Hello from sunny (and humid!) New Jersey! I'm spending a week on the East Coast - two days here with my parents, then the weekend in New York City with friends, and two more days with my parents before I head back.

I have to admit, it's refreshing to get away from the towering heap of WIPs for a while. I'd been working almost exclusively on Celestarium, and it can get hard to provide entertaining updates about what amounts to "progressed a little further on the charts" every week. Granted, I did manage to finish all the charts and start on the edging before I left:

But even so, I've only managed to knit 16 repeats out of 82. The next Celestarium milestone will be quite a while in coming.

Meanwhile, I've already broken my self-imposed ban on new projects. But it's for a good cause, I promise! Part of the festivities on Saturday (uh oh... is that tomorrow already?) include a birthday party at an upscale teahouse. I decided on Tuesday that it would be nice to knit a pair of fingerless gloves as a present. Fingerless gloves are quick and easy, right?

Well, apparently not quite so much when you knit them in laceweight on size 2 needles. I cast on the first glove on Tuesday night, knit all day Wednesday in the airports and airplanes, then bound off late Thursday night. There's no way I'll be able to finish the second one today. Another WIP for the growing mental burden, I suppose. At least this isn't breaking my cold sheeping, as I'm using the leftover yarn from the Hanami stole.

(As a side note, the pattern calls for size 1s, but all of my size 1s were in use on various sock projects. No problem, I thought as I pulled out my 2s. I'm a tight knitter! ...I think this is the only time I've knit anything only to have it come out much too big.)

I deliberately packed light in order to have room for the mountain of things my mother will inevitably press on me, so the only other WIP I brought with me is Bandit's latest pair of socks. But I've also brought a Very Important Knitting Mission. Tomorrow, I will make Pickle stand on a piece of cardboard, and I will trace his foot, and I will cut it out. He will have his damned socks before the year is out, and they will fit.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Knitting Confessions #4.

Like most things in the world, knitting has a set of rules and conventions. Sometimes, we knitters break them. This is my knitting confession.

Confession #4: I have a weakness for pretty stitch markers.

I mean... everyone does, right? How can anyone resist decorating their needles with these little gems? They're undoubtedly functional (and as a lace knitter who constantly seeks out new challenges, I should know) and I believe that their beauty is an intrinsic part of their function. The more striking and distinct they are, the easier it is to recognize exactly which stitch marker and therefore which portion of the pattern you've reached.

And yet whenever the topic of stitch markers comes up on the Ravelry forums, you always get those people who say "oh, I just tie scrap yarn in a loop" or "I just cut rings off of a plastic drinking straw". I've started getting the urge to say, "Oh honey, just take some of my extra stitch markers." Because loops of waste yarn and slices of drinking straws are fine as makeshift stitch markers - as are leverback earrings and rings, both of which I've used in a tight spot - but they're not a permanent solution. They're easy to lose or disregard or accidentally knit into the project. A dropped loop of scrap yarn looks just like trash. But I can't tell you how many times I've discovered a dropped stitch marker and immediately knew I needed to double-check my project. Or times that I've paused at the end of a row to admire all my beautiful little markers, and immediately noticed one was missing. It's probably saved me hours of miscounting and frustration. Using tools you care about - it really works!

Nice stitch markers don't have to be expensive, either. I started out with simple brass-colored jump rings from a fly-fishing supply store. Fifty of these cost me about $3 - less than half of the shipping cost! A few years later, when I was first introducing Amy to the wider world of knitting, she made a set of about twenty red-and-black stitch markers for me out of her old beading supplies. However, after I ordered my first set of grab-bag markers from Exchanging Fire, I became well and truly hooked. I've made her Scorpion Honey (brown and gold) and Destiny (green and white) sets my go-to markers for projects that require more than just one or two stitch markers.

I keep a constant eye out for new stitch markers to put on my Etsy wishlist. They make convenient, relatively inexpensive little treats to reward myself with or to serve as a pick-me-up when I'm down.

What kind of stitch markers do you own? Do you have favorites, or do you use them all equally?

Knitting Confessions

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Knitting Confessions #3.

Like most things in the world, knitting has a set of rules and conventions. Sometimes, we knitters break them. This is my knitting confession.

Confession #3: You know that yarn diet I was talking about yesterday? Cold sheeping and everything?

Needles don't count.

Stitch markers might count... but not when they're gifts, taken straight from my Etsy wishlist. These lovely shell stitch markers are from Lavender Hill Knits.

Amy was knitting a cowl for her mother, but wasn't sure about her yarn choice - white mohair held together with pink bamboo. I helped her frog what she'd knit so far. Then I remembered I had a skein of Lana Grossa Lace Lux, which was soft and luxurious and very close to the color she was going for. So I offered it to her, and in return she gave me the white mohair (which I'm fairly sure is Rowan Kidsilk Haze). So... trades don't count. (By the way, have you ever tried to wind mohair into a cake? Don't do it. There's fuzz everywhere.)

Amy and her husband Jordy also gave me a gift certificate to a local yarn store for my birthday. Whatever I buy with that won't count. And, as Ivy of Pumpkin Spins pointed out, if Bandit or anyone else gives me yarn, that definitely won't count.

This is not a hint. Not at all.

Knitting Confessions

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cold sheeping, WIPdowns, and other awfully grown-up concepts.

Last week Bandit and I sat down and made a budget. It was designed to be what I call a Terribly Responsible Budget - we went back through our bank statements and extrapolated how much we would be paying for food, rent, utilities and various kinds of insurance each month. Then we started ruthlessly cutting back on luxuries. Subscriptions to Spotify, Audible and satellite TV got the axe. Eating out was forbidden; we cooked solely at home for two weeks and discovered that we could make healthy, tasty meals for less than $40 a week. (At the end of the two weeks, we caved and got burgers to use up a coupon we had. We quickly discovered that fast food tasted disgusting after so much home cooking!)

I decided to do my part by voluntarily giving myself a monthly yarn budget of $0. That's right - I am cold sheeping. At the beginning of July I resolved to buy no more yarn until my birthday. This turned out to be a rather painless resolution (with the exception of a few moments in yarn stores), so I see no problem in maintaining it until the end of the year.

For one, I've discovered the joys of shopping from stash. This was a concept I'd never really understood before - why not just, you know, not build up your stash with yarn you aren't going to use right away, and then shop from actual shops when you need something? Well, this is why: shopping from stash is shopping from a place that only stocks yarn that you like. It's like a yarn store that's perfectly tailored to you.

I've been looking at all the beautiful yarns I have, and they've been sparking project ideas left and right.

Which brings me to the second, and much more difficult, part of being a Responsible Grown-Up Knitter: I have eleven WIPs, and I really need to finish them. I've decided, after some agonizing, that I need to finish at least five of them before I can cast anything else on. Fortunately, I'm in good company here - there's a monthly WIPdown hosted on RemRants, and the My Sister's Knitter Rav group has just started a WIPdown as their quarterly knit/crochet-along. Both are very lively and encouraging communities, and I look forward to cheering everyone else on towards their WIPdown goals!

Unfortunately, however, my knitting output has drastically decreased lately. This is, unsurprisingly, because of the kitten. She's begun to grow up and calm down a little, but she still loves to play with yarn or any other wiggly thing. I can no longer safely keep my projects by my computer and knit a few stitches here and there, which is what the vast majority of my knitting time consisted of. It looks like I'll have to start scheduling blocks of uninterrupted knitting time for myself in order to get anything done.