Thursday, January 10, 2013


I finally, finally, FINALLY finished Jenn's convertible mittens.

I am so glad to see the back of these horrible things.  I still need to wash them and mail them out to her, but we'll get there when I have money for postage.

I also made a hat for my mom.

I had my work cut out for me with this, too.  She picked out the yarn, and a pattern for a cloche with a cute bow detail.  The yarn, Red Heart Fiesta, I quickly discovered to be a pain to crochet with - that darn thread of gold played merry hob with my patience, catching and snagging and generally being a nuisance.  The cloche pattern was quickly abandoned.  Like many amigurumi patterns, it's worked in spirals of single crochet, but with staggered increases to make a rounder crown.  Single crochet is a cruel and unusual stitch that does not allow for any kind of meditative rhythm, and staggered increases make it impossible to keep track of where you are without incessant counting.

While browsing one of my old crochet magazines, I found a hat that looked cute and whimsical, just the sort my mom would undoubtedly accept in place of the first pattern.

A closer perusal of the pattern revealed - wouldn't you know it - unjoined spirals of single crochet with staggered increases.

I could have cried.

But I plowed through it, and finished a few days after Christmas.  It still needs to be mailed out, too.

At least one person did get his Christmas present on time: my coworker, Nathan.  Nathan is an obsessed Starbucks addict.  Last year I gave him a Starbucks gift card.  This year,  I bought him a Starbucks gift card, BUT I stuck it in a Starbucks cup covered in these:

Reusable cup sleeves.  His favorite is the giant granny square sleeve.  Partly because of the colors, partly because granny squares are awesome, but mostly because I very intentionally made it out of Vanna's Choice yarn, and Nathan is very much in love with Vanna White and game shows.

Sometimes you just hit it right out of the park.  All of the sleeves used stash yarn, too, so they were doubly green.

That pretty much catches you up on December of 2012.  There were other knittings that went on in months previous, but I feel no particular rush about sharing them, so they will have to languish in the annals of my hard drive until my ennui passes.

Am I using that word correctly?  I'm too tired to bother.

Right now I'm working on Mason-Dixon Knitting's Moderne Baby Blanket, and what can I say?  I was intrigued by the modified log cabin technique that it employs, and garter stitch, the temptress, did woo me in. Now that I'm knitting row after row of it, I'm ready to scream.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Merry Christmas!  If you're Catholic, anyway!  Merry belated-Christmas to everyone else!

Lip service to Chanukah, which was way at the beginning of December this year!  I made a valiant attempt at latkes that was MUCH more successful than last year's, and even more so when I made them again a few days later (grating the onions instead of chopping them helped immensely, as did upping the salt, but I should have listened to my mother and used one egg instead of two; it's always one egg).

 I've also discovered that using enough oil to fry them in is essential.  Try as I might, a tablespoon or two just isn't enough.  There has to be some depth.  Anyway, we make latkes BECAUSE they're fried in oil (and apparently also to honor Judith, who has nothing to do with Chanukah, but latkes used to be made with cream cheese, and Judith tricked the enemy leader into getting drunk by feeding him lots of salty cheese and offering wine to wash it down, and then she beheaded him - it's in the Catholic Bible, apocrypha ahoy!)

I'm a little hyped up on a espresso.

We didn't do much for Chanukah besides eating latkes and doughnuts and lighting the candles, mainly because by 'we' I mean Silas and I, since Ryan was working most nights, and eight-month-olds, while appreciative of spinning tops, don't really play a  mean game of dreidel.  I did tell him the Chanukah story, but again, eight-month-old (incidently, you can also find  the events leading up to the Chanukah story in, drumroll, please, the Catholic Bible; Protestants, we are missing out).  Ryan had me watch the Rugrats Chanukah special, which was very cute, though I'm not a fan at all of the cartoon.  The voices, the animation, the character design, the music . . . it all gives me a feeling of repulsion, though I do find some of the jokes pretty clever.

As deeply as we value our Hebrew roots (well, mine anyhow), Christmas will pretty much always take top billing around here.  For one thing, there just isn't much call for Chanukah ornaments.  I'm told the Chanukah bush is a real thing in a lot of families, but not ours.  My mom barely tolerated the Christmas tree's tenuous tradition, given that Jesus probably never even saw a pine tree in all His days on Earth (we should have argued that He created them), but we put our tree up almost every year, and there's certainly no point to a Chanukah bush when you've got the real deal.  A few years ago, I decided I wanted to make at least one new ornament each Christmas, and I usually end up making several.

This year, I tried Romanian Point Lace.

Fascinating, fussy technique.  The end result is undeniably beautiful and very impressive, but it's going to be a while before I try it again.  That being said, I've already queued up this year's RPL ornament, because I enjoy subjecting myself challenges.

I also made a wee knit mousie.

 I can't begin to tell you how greatly he tickles my fancy, with his wee pink nose, beady eyes, little red hood with a green bauble, tiny bobble paws . . .

There is something deliciously satisfying about making ornaments from thread and/or fingering weight yarns.  The end result is so much more 'finished.'  I joined an ornament swap on Ravelry just to draw the feeling out, and while I was originally going to send the RPL holly, when I realized how much labor was going into it, I was unwilling to part with it.  In a fit of insanity, I made a Feegle instead.

He's made from the brilliant Beth Ann Webber's Mini Free Spirit pattern, on a much smaller scale - I used crochet thread instead of worsted yarn, because my partner was allergic to wool and acrylic.  Can we say pain in the neck?  Crocheting this with thread, not my partner's allergies!  But he turned out so feisty!  The hair was a pain, too - if I make another one down the road I'll probably give in and do a wig cap instead of latch-hooking all those little threads directly into his scalp.  I call him Wee-er-than-Wee-Jock-Jock.  I had grand plans to make him a genuine great kilt on tiny scale, but the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, and I found it couldn't be done on the minute amount of patience I had left after making the doll, so he has a wee little skirt and a wee little sash, and the ittiest-bittiest little sporran, and looks for all the world like a dangerously mischievous blue girl scout with a beard.  My partner knew just what he was supposed to be, though, and was very pleased with him.  I drew up a little Christmas card that showed (roughly) a tree full of Feegles, stealing the ornaments and the gifts, and brawling with the angel. I thought it was pretty darn funny.  You can see her photo of it here; it also shows the teensy bit of holly I crocheted to ornament Jock's hanger, to make it more Christmas-y, modeled here on Silas's knee.  The berries are beads.

I received in turn an adorable little crocheted Christmas tree from Finland.  I love it!  It's made from some kind of popcorn stitch, I think, and it has a lovely heft to it.  I think the garland looks like icing, and the bitty star on top is too adorable.  I couldn't stop smiling when I opened the package.

A little research reveals that she used this pattern from Planet June.  Very pretty.  I love the idea of a seed bead garland, and I'm really curious about the bobbley stitch the tree is made of.

I also started an elf and an angel, but in the flurry of gift-knitting (and crocheting, of course), they were sadly set aside to be finished later for 2013's tree

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Another Idea

Every once in a while I'm struck by a brilliant idea that almost instantly becomes too ambitious for my means and before long I'm bogged down in the details and nothing ever comes of it.  Too many ideas, not enough focus.  I need an editor.

I was reading a "Piecework" article about Rose Wilder Lane yesterday.  It touched upon the needlework that pervaded the books that her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote about growing up in the 19th century.  You might know them as "the Little House books."  Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Little Town on the Prairie, and others.  They were some of my favorite books as a child and I still enjoy them now as an adult.  I've always loved pioneer tales, and these are especially attentive to detail - once you've read them you feel like you know exactly how to build a log cabin, if only you knew how to handle an axe like Pa did.

The books are full of sewing, knitting, and other handcrafts, some of it for pure necessity, and some of it for pleasure.  Laura hated to sew, but as her family didn't have the kind of wealth that would have been necessary back then to buy clothes ready-made, so sew she must.  She did enjoy knitting, though.  She knit mittens for her sister Carrie, a scarf for her Pa, and over one particularly long winter, six yards of lace to trim a petticoat.  Her mother Caroline is frequently mentioned to be knitting: socks, mittens, and wristlets are all mentioned throughout the books.

So I thought to myself, why isn't there a book of Little House Knitting?  Obviously, it is because no one has written it yet.  So I thought, why couldn't I write it?  There are all kinds of vintage patterns available for free online, I could use some of those as inspiration for patterns for the specific projects in the books, and I could mix in my own designs for other patterns, either inspired by the books, the time period, or I could go way out on a limb and just try to capture an essence of the characters in a completely modern project, as so many people have done with Jane Austen's work.

It's a thought, anyway.  Right now my time is rather consumed with work, baby, and moving.  And posting this on the interwebs may lead to someone borrowing it and writing their own book, and then my work will be done for me, and I can just reap the rewards (and patterns), for an undoubtedly atrocious price.

Meanwhile, here is a baby, wearing mittens that I knitted for him.

The reason that he's wearing a slightly too-small hat, mittens, and two sleepers while indoors is because on the day the pic was snapped, our heater had been out for over 24 hours and the house was freezing cold.  I myself was wearing long underwear, the world's thickest socks, jeans, a sweater, gloves, and a hat, and I was still shivering.  Fortunately my husband was able to get the heater running just long enough to heat the house up to "tolerable," before the whole thing died again and we called the landlord.

It's so charming to think that now that we're going to be homeowners, we'll have to deal with this kind of thing on our own.

Closeup of the mittens:

  They are Teresa Murphy's Nordic Baby Mittens.  Delightful little pattern.  I added some length to the cuff in the hopes that it would help them stay on (nope).  My floats weren't as loose as would have been ideal, so they're not as roomy as they ought to be, but they're darn cute.  I used Steinbach Wolle Sockenwolle, which is a nice acrylic/wool/nylon blend.  I'm finding more and more that I really like working with fingering-weight yarn.  It's very rewarding.

In other news, I finally finished my Hermione mittens.  I'm not sure if my gauge changed over the last year, or if I managed to sneak in a few extra rows before I decreased, but the second mitten is a good inch longer than the first.  It makes for a very distracting and frustrating floppy bit at the end of my fingers, which is very disappointing in an otherwise delicious pair or mittens.

Also pictured was my dinner that day, Betty Crocker's Barley-Vegetable Skillet, or Vegetable-Barley Saute, or something along those lines.  It was very colorful and filling, but it turns out that I don't really care for lima beans.  Or barley.  At least not at 9pm after an evening-long battle with Mr. Crankypants.

Stay tuned for more knitting from 2012.