Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent Calendar

Growing up, my siblings and I always had those Advent calendars with the little windows. You know, the 24 little windows that you open one at time on each day of December until Christmas eve. I have fond memories of opening those little windows and seeing squirrels or mice with their little Christmas wreaths, etc.

My mom, bless her, makes sure every year our girls have the kind with a piece chocolate behind each window. I don't like these as well because they don't seem as magical to me somehow. I'm sure the girls would disagree - such little chocoholics we have!

Anyway, a couple of years ago I remembered seeing a really cool advent calendar idea on the blog "Little Birds". Stephanie, the artist behind that gorgeous blog, created a garland of little stockings, each numbered 1 through 24. The best part of her plan though, I thought, was to put little pieces of paper with fun family activities in many of the days. While sadly Stephanie no longer updates the Little Birds blog, she has left it up. Here is the link to her finished Advent Garland on flickr and a post soliciting ideas for "stuffing" the stockings. The comments are particularly great on this one.

I just love her finished advent garland and her idea to fill it with "experiences". So much, in fact, that two years later I finally made the time to put together my own version. It is not nearly as creative, beautiful or artistic as the original, but I do think the girls are going to love it.

Sorry for the terrible pictures. No matter what I did tonight, they looked awful.

For my garland I went with super low maintenance red felt, simple white number and no frills. I may gussy it up with some trims next year, or I may not. I kind of like the plane Jane look.

Eventually I would love to knit one, similar to the one Liz is knitting over at Crossroad Knits. There was just no way I was going to have the time this year. I think the girls are both old enough this year to really get into it and enjoy the process of finding out what fun thing we are going to do each day. I didn't want to wait until I had time to make the "perfect" set, so I feel this one is "perfect" for right now.

By the way, some of the fun things I plan to put into the stockings include the following - many gleaned from the Little Birds post mentioned above:

  • Get our Christmas Tree
  • Visit Santa
  • Bake Cookies
  • Make Christmas gifts for grandparents, aunt's, etc.
  • Go to lunch at their favorite restaurant
  • Make 'smores in the fireplace
  • Watch a holiday video
  • Make paper snowflakes and decorate with them
  • Paint our toenails
  • Go shopping for mommy with daddy, daddy with mommy, etc.
  • Have breakfast for dinner
  • Go to the Zoo
  • Go on a drive to look at Christmas lights
  • Read a special Christmas book

I also have some little treats to fill in on other days, like new coloring books, small toy animals, etc.

I am really excited about this project and hope it turns into a long family tradition!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

FO's, WIP's and Other Excitement

Well, with a title like that, you might be expecting more than you'll find in this little post. However, if I keep up this "posting once a week whether I need to or not" schedule, the posts are bound to continue to be a bit on the lengthy side.

Thanksgiving at Chez Counting was fab. Hubby says he think the food was the "best ever". Since he does not say that every year, I think he means it. Funny holiday though, isn't it? I cooked for 2 days straight and the meal was over in about 20 minutes. Good thing it's about more than just the food!

We had a great 4 day weekend. In addition to the holiday cooking and eating, we did a little holiday shopping, got some lights up on the house and surrounding shrubbery and took the annual Christmas card picture. All in all, a productive, yet restful weekend.

I also finished up two knitting projects this weekend. Project number one is a super simple little hat.

Pattern: My own basic hat recipe
Yarn: Elsbeth Lavold's Angora, colorways Oats and Driftwood

This one is another holiday gift for one of my husband's friends. Yes, I do knit a lot for his friends, but they are all such nice, appreciative bachelors who would do anything for us. I love being able to give them a little something that will keep them warm and remind them that we care about them.

This one particularly important to me personally this year. The intended recipient, we'll call him Dr. X (which is the actual nickname we use for him) lost a knitter this year who was very close to him. He loves to come over and hang out with me while I knit and tell me stories about this knitter, her projects and talents, etc. Recently he told me that she had knit him an Angora hat a couple of years ago that he ended up ruining in the dryer. He is now sick about it because she will never be able to knit him another. While I know this will never replace that lost hat, it will at least keep him warm and, hopefully, be a nice reminder.

Moving on, I finished another object that has been in the WIP pile for a couple of months now. It is another Snowdrop Scarf using my own pattern. Here I mentioned writing it for a Lace Class I taught back in October. This one is a shop sample for All About Yarn, which is selling the pattern. I love the colorway!

Pattern: Snow Drop Scarf by me
Yarn: JoJo Land Melody, Colorway 02

Finally, I realized recently that I seem to always post finished objects, but rarely "in-process" shots. It's like the completed items just pop out of thin air. So, since the weather was nice and I had the camera out, I decided to take a WIP shot too.

These are the Fiber Trends Felted Clogs in purple Cascade 220 I am knitting for my mother for Christmas. Note the pencil thrown in for size comparison. My mom does have pretty large feet, but these things are just enormous. I just have the outer sole and seaming left on this one, then the other clog to knit. I have found this to be a Super fun and interesting pattern. Nothing like working with double-stranded yarn and size 13 needles to make things move along.

Hopefully some time before Christmas I will have these finished, although I'm still not sure about the actual felting. Do you think it's rude to give an unfelted pair of clogs for Christmas? The issue is that I have a front loading washer, which is very difficult to felt with. My mom, on the other hand, has a top loader. Hmmm, I have a couple of other ideas for how to get them felted. We'll see what I come up with...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Knitting Adventures

Settle in folks, today's post is going to be a long one! Last weekend I was lucky enough to get to travel up North with a couple of my friends for a wonderful, yarny weekend. I can't believe I am so late posting about it. Oh well, better late than never, right?

The mother of my good friend Robert (currently blogless) lives on Bainbridge Island and is always inviting my family and I to come visit. My friend Katrina and I were talking about our desire to check out Churchmouse Yarns and Teas on Bainbridge, as well as our desire to have a little break. Somehow that all morphed into one of the best road trips ever!

Robert's mom lives in a lovely house on a very wooded and rural piece of land on the island. This is what our view was like out of most of the windows.

We had great intentions of getting out and visiting lots of yarn shops, or at least I did, but this view, along with the solitude and quiet were mesmerizing. We ended up spending a lot of the weekend hanging around, looking at the trees and knitting. Glorious!

We did get out a bit though. Here are Robert and Katrina outside of Churchmouse.

It is a beautiful shop and the folks who work there are wonderful. For those of you in Portland, they sell a lot of the same products as Dublin Bay, but they also have needle point and tea supplies. I didn't end up buying any yarn there, but enjoyed the experience very much.

Here are Robert and Katrina on the ferry. We road it into Seattle on Saturday with the intention of doing a little yarn crawl. It was cold and windy!

At one point, we looked over toward the city and saw this beautiful rainbow.

It foretold of the wonderful yarny goodness that was to follow because the end was right over the area of the city where we went next, which included the warehouse of Little Knits. I actually love Little Knits and decided to call them before we left to see if they had an outlet store. They said they did but it is only open a couple of days a week, one of which happens to be Saturday. So, armed with the address on Saturday, we set off to try to find their shop. What we found was this:
This is Little Knits. It's hard to tell since there was no sign and it is in a completely residential neighborhood. After tentatively knocking at the door, we were greeted warmly by Sue, the owner of the company and welcomed into her warehouse. We spent the next 2 hours hanging out with her and shopping amongst her stock while she and her employee pulled orders. There are no posted prices, so if you want to know how much something is you have to ask and they will look it up for you on their web site. If you visit them, I recommend taking a good look at their site beforehand so you have an idea of which bargains you want to take advantage of.

While it is true that the stock is the same as their web site, it's also true that you can save on shipping if you shop in person. You can also check out all of their gorgeous yarn in person and see colorways not posted yet on the site, etc. To any knitter planning to be in Seattle on one of the days Little Knits is open to the public, I highly recommend a stop in. Just don't think it's going to be a quick one!

I did end up buying a bit of yarn there. For your viewing pleasure, I have added a few pictures:

Angora Polymide from Fly Designs. It has approx. 900 yards and is sooooo soft!

2 skeins of Lace Wing Sock from Fly Dyed in color Petrol. Each skein has 546 yards of very light fingering weight yarn. I plan to make lace with it, someday.

Silk Rhapsody from Art Yarns. I purchased a shop pattern at Churchmouse that called for Debbie Bliss Pure Silk. I loved this colorway and plan to substitute this yarn for the Debbie Bliss.

I did buy a little bit of other yarn, but this is all I'm planning to show you right now...

Finally, with all of our knitting time, we managed to only come up with one finished object between the three of us. Even though it isn't mine, I have to show you. These are some socks Robert has been working on for 2 years that he finished over the weekend! OK, so he also completed a nursing degree, started a new job and bought a house in that 2 years too. Still, I think he was very happy to be finished with these.

These are knee high socks he made for a friend of his out of a nylon ribbon yarn. They are really soft and the nylon is very stretchy. I thought it was a very interesting idea to knit socks out of nylon ribbon. One of the things I love about Robert is that he is not tied down by the "standard" way of doing things!

So, anyone still with me after all that? If so, hope you have a happy thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dayflower Scarf

The Dayflower Scarf is finished, including blocking. This is one of those rare occasions when the combination of yarn and pattern added up to a nearly perfect knitting experience for me.

Please excuse the dreary pictures. It is really dark and rainy here today, so I ended up having to take these inside. The second one captures the color a little better, but it's still a bit off.

Size: 5 1/2" x 65"

I found this pattern interesting enough that I never got bored with it, but easy enough that I could work on it at the Knitting Guild meeting last night. I decided to block the edges straight, even though the pattern called for blocking it with a wavy edge. I also blocked it very firmly, which really highlighted the lace.

This was my first experience with the Silky Wool Yarn. I really liked it and mentioned to the Hubby at one point that I would love to make a sweater out of it. Interestingly, a woman at our Guild meeting last night was wearing a sweater she had made with this yarn in a different colorway that was gorgeous.

This is destined to be a Christmas gift for a non-knitter friend of mine. She is one of those people whose thermostat is always set to "high". I don't think I've ever seen her wear a coat, even in the snow! I have asked her several times if there is anything I can knit for her and she finally decided she might like a lace scarf she can use as an accessory, not necessarily for warmth. OK, I can do that! Hopefully she will like the results.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Finished Holiday Gifts

As my mother would say, "I've been on a tear lately". By that I mean that I am getting a lot done. WooHoo, love it when that happens!

Among today's finished objects is a hat for the hubby, to go with his set of "Dashing" from the last post.

Pattern: My own
Yarn: Paint Box from Knit One, Crochet Too, color 05

I didn't find a hat pattern I liked that went with the Dashing, so I went ahead and made one up myself. It has basically the same cables, but narrower. I am pretty happy with how it turned out, generally speaking.

I will say that I am not sure I liked the final set of decreases I did at the top. When the hat is on a real head, it is not pointy at the top, but rather stretches out smoothly. It does go from a very textured area to a fairly smooth one though. I probably should figure out a way to may it look more textured up there, but at this point I am not going to change it.

By the way, I've told the Hubby he is not allowed to look at my blog until after Christmas now. Not sure if he would have any idea how to find it anyway, but it's better safe than sorry. Luckily he likes to be surprised, so I know he won't peak.

Next on the completed gift pile are some dish clothes for A.'s teachers.

Patterns: Mulit = Waffle Stitch Cloth, Red = Knitted Round Dishcloth
Yarn: Basic Kitchen Cotton - the multi-colored was a Swap gift from my last Swap. Thanks Lissa!

Patterns: White = Gardiner Yarn Works Spa Set - "Hers", Multi = My own
Yarn: Also basic kitchen cotton

I let A. pick out the colors for each of her teachers, but have not told her what they're for. She has a really hard time keeping secrets right now, so it's better just not to tell her. I plan to package these up in sets of 2, with a bar of snazzy soap and call it a gift.

I've now started the
Dayflower Lace Scarf for a friend. So far, so good. It's moving along at a good pace too. I'm still having a good time, so I'm going to keep going and see how much I get done before Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

FO, Blue Moon and Other Fun Stuff

Well, after I posted nearly every day last week, not sure what happened this week. Sigh. I did start to write a post about my second knitting project, the one that really turned me into the rabidly addicted knitter that I am today. However, I didn't get very far with it and have decided to save it for another time.

This is because I have a lot of other things to talk about today, like a new finished object.

Pattern: Dashing
Yarn: Paint Box from Knit One Crochet Too, colorway 05

Christmas knitting is in full swing around here. These are for my hubby for Christmas. They are my first foray into the fingerless glove arena and I am very pleased with how they came out.

The colors are a little truer in this second picture, but still a bit washed out. I am also nearly finished with a matching hat. I think he is really going to like them, especially since he mentioned to me the other day that after Christmas he would like it if I could "whip him up a pair of those fingerless glove thingy's".

When I get the hat finished, next on the Christmas knitting list are wash clothes for A.'s teachers, some felted clogs for my mom and perhaps a pair of Dashing for my brother-in-law, if I am still enjoying the process. My goal is to not make myself crazy with Christmas knitting and so far, I am succeeding.

In other news, you may have heard that a little local company called Blue Moon Fiber Arts was having a "warehouse/mill ends" sale today. I am grateful every day I get to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but this was one of those days that was extra special. I went with Katrina and helped her shop for a list of folks. The amount of yarn we had between us was obscene! What a great sale! Of course, I forgot my camera, but at least have pictures of the spoils...

Socks that Rock, all Medium weight. I think these are, from left to right: "Lagoon", "Pink Granite", no idea, "Falcon's Eye" and Little Bunny Foo Foo". Of course, these are seconds and are not marked with the colorways, but this is what they look like to me. They are all gorgeous and were sold at considerable discount off of the normal price.

In this picture I have a skein of Socks that Rock in Heavy weight, a skein of something called "Icelandic", which is a bulky weight, super soft, wool and a skein of very light weight cotton yarn in the most gorgeous orange-peach color. No idea of the actual colorways.

Finally, in the this picture I have 2 skeins of a yarn called "Lochs" which is a "Wensleydale Wool" in colorway "Chapman Springs".

Today was a very fun day!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

True Confessions

I intended to post about this topic and the next one in October, but somehow October is already over. Wow, it went fast...

Anyway, I count October as the month of my "knitaversary". I know, that might seem silly to some folks, but knitting has become very important to me over the last 2 years and I like to mark the time when it first entered my life full force.

First though, I need to back up a little. I first learned the basics of knitting early in 2005. I was visiting my Aunt trying to get a little break. I was pretty far along in my pregnancy with V. and A. was wearing me out. I was hoping my Aunt and my mom could run interference with A. and let me have a rest. Out of the blue, really, my Aunt said "So, do you want to learn to knit?" I said "You know, I never really thought about it before, but yeah, sounds like fun". She taught me the basics and sent me on my way. Of course, I got home and promptly forgot everything she taught me. The needles and yarn went into a bag and I went on with the process of making and birthing a new human being.

Fast forward several months and I starting thinking about how much I had enjoyed that evening with my Aunt and the knitting. I dug out the yarn and needles, looked up knitting instructions on-line and proceeded to finished this scarf, my first finished object.

Pattern: Basic Garter Stitch Scarf
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick

Do not be fooled by the even stitches and straight edges. When I picked it up again, my "occasional perfectionist" came out and I decided I needed to do a perfect job. I ripped it out and started over several times, until I was happy with it. Sometimes I miss that perfectionist. She doesn't come to visit too often...

After I finally finished this little gem, I tucked it away and surprised my husband with it for Christmas.

This was the beginning. Next time I will show you the scarf that I knit in October 2005 and that I use to mark the "real" beginning of my knitting life. The scarf above was a warm up that helped me get the feel for the yarn and the possibility of knitting as a hobby.

On another note, I don't know what has gotten into me, but I feel like I have so much to say these days. I guess Ill ride the wave until I run out of blog topics...

Friday, November 2, 2007

ZeeBee #2

I finished ZeeBee #2 (the Christmas gift) on Wednesday evening. Here it is in all of it's glory.

Pattern: ZeeBee
Yarn: Regia 4 Ply- Strato Color #5744

This hat only took 31 grams of yarn. You could easily make one out of that stray single skein of Koigu you have lying around - or is that just me with the stray Koigu?

I asked the Hubby why he liked this pattern so much, specifically for his friend. He pointed to the top and said "for the birds". It took me a moment to remember that his friend is a huge bird watcher and he meant that the birds would get to see the interesting part. Sometimes my husband's brain works in the most delightful ways!

Did you see the grafted seam? I have a hard time finding it myself.

I ended up doing a Google search for "grafting garter stitch" through which I found this link on Purlwise. The technique she outlines worked very well and you really can't see the seam on the right side . On the underside it has a little bit of a ridge which is not particularly visible, but which does feel different from the rest of the fabric.

Overall, I still love this project and will keep this one in the stash of "go to" patterns because it is so quick, versatile and relatively entertaining to knit.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Good Mail Day!

Today I had a entire blog post prepared about ZeeBee number 2 and grafting garter stitch, but it is going to have to wait another day because today was a very good mail day.

First, on top of the mountain of mail that arrived was my "Fall Into Autumn Dishcloth Swap" package. It came all packaged up like this:

It included this great little project bag, 2 gorgeous, very well made dishcloths, 2 balls of Sugar n' Cream cotton yarn, some wonderful herbal soap, three sets of nice metal knitting needles and some pure maple sugar treats. What a great haul! Also included was a cute little Halloween card, however it was not signed so I have no idea who to thank! Thank you secret swap pal, whoever you are! **Edited to add that my Swap partner was Melissa C. Thanks Lissa, you did a great job!

Another fun thing in the mail today was the Winter Interweave Knits Magazine. It contains a beautiful sock pattern called Tilting Cable Socks written by my friend Chrissy that you can see here. This issue is particularly sweater heavy and at first glance not a lot stood out to me, other than Chrissy's socks. I could see myself possibly making the Celtic Tote or Gathered Pullover, but I'll have to look more closely when I have more time.

Finally, on the mail front, I received a package of invitations to Craft Warehouse's Annual Customer Appreciation Sale. It is taking place November 10 in Beaverton. You have to have an invitation to get in and it includes a 40% off coupon. Please let me know if you are in the Portland area and want one. I'd be happy to share.

Tomorrow will be all about the ZeeBee.