Friday, December 28, 2007

New Projects and Some Special Gifts

As I mentioned in my last post, I have recently cast-on for a couple of new projects. While I have actually really enjoyed all of the Christmas and sample knitting I have been doing lately, it was very exciting to dig in my stash and pick out projects that I wanted to do just for fun.

Here are the projects I am currently spending the most time with:

This one is the "Wavy Gravy" Noro hat. It is a fun pattern and I think is going to produce a hat that will work on a variety of heads, even though this one is destined for A. Assuming she doesn't loose it, it should fit her for awhile.

The other project I started this week is Kiri. I have been waiting, not always very patiently, to get started on a project using the Malabrigo Lace Yarn I bought back in September.

After much deliberation, I decided this was the pattern I wanted to go with and haven't looked back. So far, it is going great. It has a little bit of an odd start, but I just followed the directions exactly as they are written and it seems to have worked out fine. Super simple, but not a boring pattern. Oh, and the yarn is like knitting with a little slice of heaven - so soft!

In other news, I have mentioned before on the blog how talented my mom is. Among the many things she is very good at are sewing, crocheting, baking, cake decorating, counted cross-stitch, painting and ceramics. Needless to say, with such a fantastic example, my siblings and I grew up understanding that amazing things can come from your own hands.

In addition to the PJ's I mentioned last time, my mom also usually makes at least one other gift for each of us for Christmas. Aren't we lucky? This year, she designed and sewed this lovely knitting needle carrier for me.

I love the fabric! It is very much my taste. While I don't have opportunity to carry around extra needles too often that aren't already in a project, when I do you can bet they will be safely wrapped in this beauty.
She made one for my sister too, but hers has a chicken theme. I am sorry to say I have no pictures of it.

Mom decided that A. was old enough for a "real" tea set this year. So she spent many hours cleaning, painting and doing whatever you do to ceramic items in order to produce the most gorgeous kids tea set I have ever seen.

This is, of course, a small sampling of the set. It is a full service for 4 and even includes a special table cloth and napkins. I think I may have to put in my order for a full size one!

I realized after I took this picture today that I didn't include anything for scale. I think it must be about 1/3 the size of an adult set.

I think this is going to be a popular item for a long time. Tea parties were already a daily activity around here, but since Christmas morning I don't think this set has been out of circulation. If you ever come over to our house to visit, don't be surprised if you are asked by the small folks if you would like to join them for a tea party.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Round-up

Where to begin? Christmas was great. We were very busy, right up through Christmas evening, with tons of fun family activities. The day itself was wonderful. Below is a picture that kind of captures the day.

There is a little bit of everyone who celebrated Christmas with us in this picture, except Bianca, our other white cat. She was not interested until the food came out. That's my leg on the far right in the flowered PJ's and Chloe, the "grub" right in the middle, where she always is.

Notice the cute PJ's on V. My mom makes new pj's for everyone in the family for Christmas Eve. That includes all four of my family members, my sisters four family members and my brother and his wife! They are the one gift we open on Christmas Eve and are always warm, brightly colored flannel. I love that tradition.In other Christmas news, we had a very rare white Christmas. It started snowing some time mid-morning and snowed off and on all day. We ended up with about 3/4 inch at our house, which was enough to be exciting, but not so much that it made things dangerous. Actually, it was all gone by the evening. What a treat though. As I understand it, it has been nearly 20 years since it has snowed on Christmas in Portland and nearly 70 years since any snow has stuck to the ground on Christmas.

The funniest part at our house was that A. had said, just the day before "I can't wait for Christmas because I am going to build a snowman." I had tried to gently explain to her that, unlike all of her Christmas story books, it was very unlikely to snow at our house on Christmas. She felt justified in her optimism the next day. I just hope she doesn't expect a repeat performance next year!

In knitting news, production has continued, as it is wont to do. I whipped up a little hat for the hubby this week. I like to keep something simple on the needles at all times so I can keep my hands busy while waiting in lines, etc. Since he has lost many of the nicer hats I have knit for him, he has been seen wearing some of my earliest attempts lately. While I appreciate the devotion, I am embarrassed about the quality. So, another new hat, to go with the one I gave him for Christmas.

Patter: Simple 3x1 rib hat, knit over 92 stitches Yarn: Noro Kureyon, color 124

I received many compliments on this one while I was knitting it. I have noticed that nothing gets the attention of non-knitters quite like Noro.

I also finished my second Great American Afghan square for All About Yarn. This one has oak leaves and acorns on it. The picture pretty much sucks, but I felt the need to include it anyway. It was really fun to knit! By the way, I got the scoop on the class today. Looks like it will meet once a month, on the last Saturday of the month for the entire year. Call the shop if you are interested in price info or signing up.

Next up, I have started a hat for A., a hat for V. and a Kiri Shawl for my new sister-in-law. All are progressing nicely. Perhaps if there is any sunlight (at all!) this week, I will take some progress shots. I also want to try to take pictures of a couple of special Christmas gifts we received this year. But that will have to wait for another, less dark, day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The end of Cookie Madness 2007

Monday I finished "cookie baking madness 2007" and decided to take a picture of the finished mountain o' cookies, even though it was late and the picture is less than stellar.

This pile represents about 450 cookies, give or take a few. The plastic bins are in the freezer, waiting for our family to eat over the next couple of months. The rest are all being given out over the next few days to friends and family - mostly friends who are like family, actually.

I want to clarify that I do not view all of this cookie baking as a chore. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas preparation every year and I love it. Too bad I can't figure out how to turn it into a full time job that would support the family!

The only other semi-interesting thing I have to share today is the first of my 2 "Great American Afghan" squares. As I mentioned in this post, All About Yarn is offering a class on this afghan next year and the owner has asked a few folks to help knit squares for the sample, me being one of them.

This one is a little hard to see in this photo - sorry. It is a cat and it actually looks much better in person. Once I finally got through all of the swatching and starting over, I enjoyed this quiet a lot and it only took 2 evenings. I am now making the one with Acorns and Oak Leaves - also very fun. I love just following the directions and having a picture show up in my knitting.

I'm thinking that knitting one of these afghans some time might be fun, but I do not see it in my immediate future.

OK, back to work with me.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Santa's Surprise Book

Today was the first day of the annual cookie craziness at Chez Counting. Every year I end up making hundreds of cookies which my husband then proudly gives to everyone we know (e.g. the neighbors, his band mates, the folks at the local coffee shop, etc.) Luckily baking is one of my very favorite activities, so it seems to work out for both of us. Normally I bake about 6 dozen of at least 5 kinds of cookies, usually all in one marathon day. This year I am calling it quites for day one after only finishing 4 kinds. The kids "helped" today, which was really fun, but really slowed things down. More tomorrow, hopefully.

On the knitting front, I am just 9 rows from finishing the first of my two "Great American Afghan" squares. Jeesh, about time! I ended up making three 4 inch swatches, then knitting 1/3 of the square before realizing that all of that swatching didn't help at all and the thing was going to be waaaay to big. I find this ridiculous since the final square is only supposed to be 12"x12". Anyway, it looks like I have it right this time. Since I am using the same yarn for my other square, I am going to go on the assumption that I can use the same needles again. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

So, since my current knitting is not very exciting at the moment and it is too dark to take pictures of the cookies, how about some pictures of one of my children's books? There was a spot of sunlight today so I ran out and took pictures of one of the Christmas books in my collection.

Santa's Surprise Book by Joan Potter Elwart, Illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship, Golden Press, 1975, Copyright 1966

In this little gem, Santa is sitting around thinking about what to put into people's stockings. He wants to do something new and exciting. Nice to know Santa gets bored too.

He decides that instead of the normal candy and goodies, he will make something new.

I love this picture. I feel like that so often, when a creative bug hits. I run and grab all of my stuff for whatever craft I want to work on and just go crazy - sort of like the cookie baking today...

In the end, the thing Santa made was the Santa's Surprise Book, which is conveniently sized to fit into a stocking. Such a cute little story and really great illustrations.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Pink Shawl

Well, that little unscheduled absence was exciting. I know, everyone's life is busy. However, my work life has gone from 0 to 100 mph in the last week. Aren't things supposed to slow down toward the end of the year?

It has been so bad that knitting has even slowed down. I know, how weird, right? I have gotten as far as I can on the sample I am making for Chrissy. When I get more yarn, which I think will be over the weekend, I will finish it up. Can't show pictures at this time.

I also started one of my squares for the Great American Afghan I mentioned last time. However, even after 2 full 4 inch gauge swatches, it still was coming out too big. I got about 1/2 way before I decided it was too much and had to rip it. If I get lucky, I will start again on it tonight.

So, other things have been happening. The girls are loving their Advent stockings. One day they found a note that said they were going to make some special Christmas gifts. This is what they made:

Each has since been filled with a special picture of them taken sometime in the last 6 months. These are for grandparents, aunts and uncles.

In addition to these, A. has been talking about making a special gift for my sister's husband, who they call "Uncle Honey". Uncle Honey is quiet the outdoorsman, so A. decided he needed a pair of "vonoculars". She was very specific about how she would make them and told me "I need 2 toilet paper rolls, some glue and some paint".

I love them and I know he will too!

Finally, as a reward for reading this far, look what I found on the internet today:

This is the big, pink, lace shawl I knit in October. I wrote about the teeny, tiny yarn here. I knit it for Chrissy, but it was a commission for HipKnits in the UK. Kerrie is using it as a club pattern for this month and had the picture under the link on her blog. It is so nice to see it out there in the world!

OK, back to work with me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Is it time to build an Arc yet?

Boy, have we been having the crazy weather lately! Even though we have a bunch of trees on our property, we seem to have made it through these most recent storms in good shape. Whew! Our neighbors are not so lucky. They have about 1/2 a foot of water in their basement. This is particularly bad for them since they just remodeled it last summer. I think they too are grateful though, it could have been so much worse!

After days of dismal darkness the sun came out today! This is another one of those things I love about living in Oregon. Just when you think you can't take another day of dark, dank weather the sun peaks out for a couple of hours and reminds you that its all temporary.

I did run outside though and took advantage of the beautiful sunlight by taking pictures of a couple of newly finished objects. First, I completed the clogs for my mom's Christmas gift.

Pattern: Fiber Trends' Felt Clogs, Women's size large
Yarn: Cascade 220, not sure of the colorway. If I find the ball bands I will add it later, the eyelash is some old stash - no idea where it came from, but Mom will like it

I am currently leaning toward giving these to her completely unfelted, then helping her felt them later. Thanks for the comments on this Amanda and Yvonne!

Believe it or not, this concludes the 2007 Holiday knitting. Yeah! The list included:
  • 4 hats
  • 4 scarves
  • 4 wash clothes
  • 1 pair of fingerless gloves
  • 1 pair of clogs
  • 1 lace shawl
To be fair, I started back in August and just plugged these projects into my schedule here and there. None was too complicated and only the Shawl took any significant amount of time. I am happy with the results though and pleased that I have enjoyed the entire process!

The other thing I finished this week is a sample for my friend Chrissy. Normally I can't show things I knit for her, but this one is a pattern already in production. She just wanted a sample to take to shows, etc. So, I think it's OK to show it to you guys. I'm not going to get to give it to Chrissy until Thursday, so you get t0 see it before she does...unless she sees it here too.

Pattern: Passport Pouch from Gardiner Yarn Works
Yarn: Merlin by Louet, colorway Citrus Orange

Such a great little pattern! She outlines 2 different finishing techniques and let's the knitter choose the one they prefer. I decided to go with the attached I-cord and I think it really makes the finished edges look tidy.

When I uploaded the picture, I just noticed that the spot where the bag is lying is a bit wet. Oops! Oh well, everything is like that around here. Not much chance of finding a dry spot today!

Next up: Another sample, which I won't be able to show for awhile and some blocks for the Great American Afghan. All About Yarn is going to be offering a class on this project early next year and RaNaye asked me to contribute a couple of squares. Should be lots of fun and I will show you those as I finish them, assuming I can figure them out. I picked a couple I thought would be challenging, but fun.