Monday, December 26, 2011

Malkovich oreos

Happy Boxing Day dear readers!  On this sacred of all holidays, while I sit around the house in lounge-pants (thanks Santa!) and put away all my new toys, it's the perfect time to recap some holiday knits and gifts and how they were received.

A few weeks ago, during the over-scheduled weeks before Christmas, I made this little gal as a last minute contribution to the Knitters' Guild ornament exchange:

This is Holly, of Holly, Ivy, and Steve, a pattern I bought on Ravelry from Danger Craft.  I first stumbled on the pattern when I was browsing Etsy on the train home from my forced Montreal trip with Slim Jim.  I was severely strapped for cash at the time, and I couldn't even justify the $6 price tag for the pattern.  When at last a pay-cheque was tossed in my direction (let this be a lesson to you kiddies, always pay your caterer promptly), it wasn't until the weekend before the Guild meeting, so I didn't start Holly until Saturday night.  Sunday night had me out at a party (serving my dear readers, I never get to be the invitee at holiday events), and I had to stay up way passed my bedtime on Monday night to finish her.  In total I spent about 8 hours making Holly, but it should have been more - I cut the scarf way short when I realized how long that one element was going to take me.  I also didn't have white felt (or any felt at all actually) to make her teeth, no buttons for the eyes, and no stuffing to fill her, so I improvised.  Her teeth are stitched on with the same white yarn I used for the scarf, her eyes are made from tiny knots of brown yarn I had around the house, and she was stuffed with old plastic shopping bags.  Aside from a slight crinkle when you squeeze her, you'd never know.  Holly is a wonderful little stash-busting project, I used old yoga sock yarns I still had, plus some KnitPicks yarn from the Cupcake Mittens.  I still have boat-loads of this yarn left, and since Holly takes very little to make, I'm thinking I can bust out the rest of the gang and make an Ivy and a Steve.  My original Holly is long gone - she was snatched up quickly at the ornament exchange, and is hopefully sitting on someone else's tree right now.

And now, my crowning achievement in knitting for this year, drum roll please!

One FINISHED, neatly folded, and ready to be gifted Man's Cabled Cardigan:

This sweater was finished in late November, with buttons sewn on shortly after.  I followed the sizing for the man's small, which matched Fuzzyhead's measurements almost exactly.  My gauge was bang-on for stitches per inch, but not so hot for rows.  I only really had to think extra hard when the pattern told me to do something "every other row" or "for x rows" since my row gauge was not the same.  This caused the biggest trouble for the tops of the sleeves, where I had to made my own adjustments and still hope it would fit in the arm-shaped hole I had already made for the sleeve in the torso piece.  But as you can see here, it all came together swimmingly:

The sweater fits great, and I'm currently wearing it while I type this post.  He sported it around town yesterday to two different Christmas celebrations, and he'll be wearing it again tonight at the last run-around Christmas we have to do. 

Next up is another last minute project that I was thinking about and planning for months, so I guess you can't really call it last-minute.....except that I mailed it on almost the last possible day for mailing things to get it there before Christmas.  For this beauty, I learned to crochet from my wise and patience crocheting friend Catherine.  We stopped in at Shall We Knit? one night on the way to Thursday night knitting and I bought a skein of a heathered charcoal yarn for the hat (Cascade 220, what's up!).  I had a 4.5mm crochet hook in my bag and a pattern I couldn't understand on my Playbook.  Catherine and I somehow entirely missed the knit mob group that night, but we went to Coffee Culture by ourselves for some quiet crocheting.  I made real progress on the hat in that first night, and I finished the rest in two nights.  Fuzzyhead is modeling the finished hat here, before I wrapped it up for gifting to my friend Adam.

In the grand tradition of last year's red pepper jelly gifts for relatives, I made home-made jam for everyone on my list for Christmas.  I started the project in the summer, buying up canning jars when they showed up at the grocery store, and stocking up on pectin and sugar.  I chose to make strawberry jam when the Ontario strawberries were at their peak, but I didn't act fast enough to make the amount I needed before the precious two weeks of Ontario strawberry season were over.  For the rest of the jams, I made peach jam, and I did a couple batches of carrot cake jam in smaller jars for everyone.

The recipes for the strawberry and peach jams were taken right from the helpful pamphlet included in each and every box of Certo liquid pectin.  I dressed up the jars with a festive gold ribbon around the band, and a cutesy topper for the lid:

I found this "homemade goodies" stamp at Michaels during my crazy Halloween paper crafting obsession in November.  I cut discs from card stock I already had, and stamped them with brown ink.  They make the jars a millions time cuter.

The little carrot cake jams were all finished with holiday ribbon glued around the band, as well as the "homemade goodies" topper.  The carrot cake jam was inspired by a trip last year to the New Dundee Emporium for afternoon tea and scones, and I found the recipe here in a random google search.

In the same day I was tying ribbon around jars, I threw together a welcome gift for our new neighbours, who moved in on December 1st.  I had a Christmas cookie tin leftover from last year's gifting, so I wrapped up some red velvet whoopie pies I made that day for the Guild Christmas meeting.  Welcome neighbours!  Don't you wish you lived next to me?



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Circus of values

It's the last day of Movember kiddies, and I say good riddance to bad facial hair.  Anyone who participates in this moustache-growing month should really wear a sign.  I sat through a whole meeting at work today wondering if the nice gentleman I was talking with sports a 'stache year round (and really thinks it looks good) or if it's just for charity.  Moving on.

We begin, dear readers, with a recap of things that happen in my life that aren't necessarily all about knitting.  Kind of a downer, I know, but they all relate to crafting, promise.

For the first time in many years, I got dressed up for Halloween this year!  We were invited to a Halloween party at Fuzzyhead's friend's house, and told to dress up to keep the fun alive.  I spent way too long and way too much money on a costume that I wore for a few hours, but I was proud of my creative spirit.  Here we are in poor lighting in our kitchen about to leave for the night:

Do you know what I am?  I'm a sexy hamburglar!  I completed the outfit on the way to the party with a quick stop at McD's for a happy meal box, which I tied onto my skirt.  Fuzzyhead could almost pass for his every-day-self except for the plastic hunting knife tucked into his pants.  He was as Locke from Lost, the shaved head makes him a dead ringer for anyone else with a shaved head.  The scar over his eye (washable marker is good for everything) brought the whole look together.
And we of course carved pumpkins, albeit a bit late this year.  We bought them on the Saturday before Halloween, and carved them on Sunday night.  My pumpkin saw a bit more action than Fuzzyhead's since I didn't cut all the way through the flesh and thus there was less pumpkin rot.  By the following week they were both in the green bin.  Sad.  

Oh no!  A snake-faced Voldemort!
My November was not terribly fast-paced, but I was dragged to Montreal with Slim Jim to find her a place to live.  She starts school on January 3rd at Concordia and didn't think too far beyond being accepted and packing her cat and dog up to take with her away from Momma's mess-filled house.  In case you're wondering, it's really hard to find a student-priced room/apartment where you can bring your barking dog without being evicted.  The dog/cat thing has been pushed to the back burner, and in our whirlwind weekend (took the train in on Friday night, left on Sunday afternoon), we found her a place to live.  BUT, the important part of the story is that I spent some quality time at a knitting store since I was rudely pulled away from my weekend off.

I consulted Ravelry in our hotel room to find nearby knitting shops that we accessible by metro/walking.  One of the forum posts highly recommended Effiloche, just a few short metro stops and a quick walk away from our hotel.  Please excuse the glare on the store window, it was an exceptionally gorgeous day outside.
They sell fabric and yarn, and even rent sewing machines by the hour.  So cute!  The fabric was all adorable, no old-lady patterns to be found.  It's exactly the kind of fabric I would stock up on if I sewed.  I wanted to snap a few pictures of the inside of the store, but I always feel weird doing that since some places are all up in your face about not taking pictures.  Really, what does it matter?  I don't like being yelled at so I settled for some shots from outside.

They have a cutesy little display of felted outdoorsy things that I also loved.  I want a felted toadstool. 

I returned from Montreal with two skeins of yarn for Momma's dog walking ear flap hat for Christmas.  I've finished the basic hat shell already and crocheted a border all around the edge.  I'm working on an ultra-warm inner shell to keep her head toasty during winter dog walks.  Fuzzyhead has an ear flap hat and I know gusty winds whip right through the bulky knit, so two layers can't hurt.

Also, I'm a wee bit of a paper crafter, and I spent some serious time crafting up these puppies:

 Fuzzyhead and I host his annual Christmas gathering for his friends, mostly for their Secret Santa exchange, but in recent years, also for me to play super hostess.  We settled on a date many weeks ago to be sure everyone could make it, and I made up the invites more as a courtesy than a true invitation.  We chose our theme months ago, and I patiently waited for Halloween-y themed paper and stamps to appear at Michaels.  I spent 5 or 6 hours crafting the invitations, and only finished all of the wording last night.  Oh, and just because I'm me, I made my own envelopes:

I bought a roll of craft paper (cheap and cheerful and sold by the roll!), and measured around each card to make a custom envelope.  I love the Halloween stamps I bought so I found an excuse to use the big feature stamp image on the outside of the envelopes.  I.  LOVE.  THEM. They're all addressed and waiting for stamps. 

My yoga socks are still around in the background, I've got a pair on my needles right now, but I'm in no rush to produce them.  I had a request through the yoga studio for a pair so I finished up the purple ones I was working on.  The lady who requested them didn't have a colour preference, so I brought all three of the pairs I had on hand to the studio for her to choose from.  I pinned them to an old bulletin board and added some core information, made myself a little display board.  She chose the red pair so I'm down to two pairs in my inventory.  I told the studio to keep the board there since I'm sure people are more likely to buy them if they can touch and feel the finished product. 

Tres cute, non?

I'm working my way through Christmas gift knitting for 2011.  I'm so glad I didn't commit to more holiday knitting, it would kill me.  I finished both of the felted slippers for the sister things and made my way to Michaels again this week for some puffy paint for a non-slip grip on the bottoms.

I used Tulip brand Puffy Paint in white.  The slipper on the left has been "puffed" while the one on the right is waiting its turn.  The paint took more than 4 hours to dry (never blindly trust the instructions kids), but puffed up nicely with some direct heat from a hair dryer (the instructions called for holding a hot iron up close to the paint without letting it touch, but this was way easier).

Slim Jim's slippers, puffed and ready for wrapping.  Note the heart for extra love.

Remember that manly cabled cardigan I was working on.  Done.  Here's its trip through the blocking process, and when it's properly revealed on Christmas morning, Fuzzyhead will be a fine model for the finished product.
Soaking in the tub

The finished pieces are blocked to their final measurements and set out on the futon to dry.  I did this on Friday morning before leaving for my Montreal weekend and I left them to finished drying while I was away.  They were very damp when I set them out since I ran out of wool/dog appropriate towels to squeeze out more water.  

More pictures and updates up soon, I've got lots of knitting that needs to be shown off.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The knitting field trip that almost wasn't

Sometimes I question why I still let myself receive newsletters and email updates from things I really don't need to see all the time.  I get all my personal and work emails on my phone, and 9 times out of 10 I open it, decide I really don't care enough to read it, and move on with my day.  Last week on Friday, this very thing nearly happened and would have caused me to miss a spur of the moment knitting field trip.  I got a Shall We Knit? email newsletter, and while I like the shop just fine, I've never taken a class there, and don't really need the regular newsletter updates.  I opened the email and scrolled down a weensy bit and had a mini heart attack when I read "fleece festival".  The Woodstock Fleece Festival was the very next day, and I had no idea.  Thank you Shall We Knit? for keeping me in the knitting know!  I will read your newsletters with gusto from now on.

I immediately sent a text message to Catherine hoping against all knitting hope that she wasn't scheduled to work on Saturday.  For once in my life, I didn't have anything (urgent) to do on Saturday, and I was all for it.  We scratched together a plan that didn't totally come together until 8:30 or so that night, and it meant only being at the show for not-quite 2 hours.  I accepted this challenge and went to sleep ready for sweet woolly dreams.

Our plan for the festival meant working around Catherine's inconsiderate work schedule for the day, which was created weeks in advance of us even knowing the festival was happening.  Considering I was on the planning committee for the KW Knitters' Fair, you'd think I would be up on the local knitting happs.  Catherine had to be at work, ready to roll for a full day of helping customers, at 11am.  The festival opened at 8:30am, and was only a 30 minute drive away.  I love when life-math adds up in your favour.

Welcome to the Woodstock Fleece Festival!  I love the friendly sign to let you know that the non-descript building next to the farmer's market was indeed full of yarn.

With such a short amount of time for shopping fun, we did a quick tour of the booths and then took a shopping breather at the barn with soft and fluffy animals.  There was also spinning equipment for sale, but with less than 24 hours notice about this festival's existence, I didn't come prepared to purchase the big stuff.

Hello bunny!  We couldn't stay for the angora rabbit grooming demos unfortunately, they were happening at 11, but it worked out for the best since I don't have a rabbit to groom.

It took me longer than I thought it would to find the head-end of this one for a picture. 

This is the friendliest little alpaca I've ever met.  This fellow had me researching my own alpaca hobby farm later that same weekend.  He made adorable whining noises and wanted to be petted, a lot like my dog.

So cute!  They even come with a built-in harness for adorable alpaca walks!

These four little bunnies were huddled together for warmth.  They shouldn't be allowed to put so many cute things all in one place.  Two of the angora rabbits were for sale.  I messaged Fuzzyhead while I was at the show to ask if I could buy one.  He said no.

Without having a real budget in mind, I kept to my budget and only spent about $100 at the show.  I bought a bright pink Namaste bag for Tam Tam for her birthday from the Needle Emporium.  The bags were on mega-sale - I paid $55 for the one I bought for Tam Tam, while I paid at least $80 for it online, plus shipping.  Her bag is exactly the same as the peacock blue one I purchased a few weeks ago, but it's bright pink.  She'll love it.

The only purchases for myself were two skeins of sock yarn from The Black Lamb.  One in "Mochachino" and one in "Olive Drab".  They were $15.99 each, and while I was looking for some deeply discounted show specials for sock yarn, that was a pretty good price.  My final purchase of the day before we wrapped it up at 10:15am (I know, right?) was a set of 2.25mm square double pointed needles.  I was so excited to try them out, I started my third real current WIP (Bad vrock, bad!  Finish your current projects before casting on more!).  This is the Viola Sock yarn I bought at the Knitters' Fair in SeaStorm, on my pretty new copper square needles:



Monday, October 10, 2011

Having it all

Today is a holiday Monday readers, when everything is closed and I don't bother putting contact lenses in since I don't have to leave the house.  Glorious.  I've been felting slippers today, and I thought I'd share the whole process with you, including some of the slight modifications I've made to the pattern having completed two other sets of slippers already.  I'm totally old hat at this now.

Here's a quick refresher, team - I first made these a few months ago as my practice pair of French Press Slippers:

They worked out really well, I love how they look like ballet flats and not like a frumpy pair of chunky knitted slippers.  These have less of that homemade slippers feel, and I like that about them.  They could almost pass as real shoes if you didn't look at the bottoms.  After trying out the pattern with my own pair, I determined that these would be an acceptable gift for the sisters for Christmas this year.  I made a second pair, which I previously blogged about here.  I made no changes to the pattern, and they turned out just fine.  The only thing I noticed in my pair (not sure if this will turn up in the purple ones since I haven't been wearing them myself.  Well, just once.  Shhh, don't tell Slim Jim) was that the seams where I joined the top to the sole are kind of hole-y.  I thought that by felting them thoroughly, the holes would all tighten up together and disappear.  Most of them did, and the extra large and loose stitches had no trouble tightening up, but the seaming stitches weren't as close together as they needed to be to disappear.  The pattern just calls for you to seam any old way you like, since the felting will hide any problem spots.

This is the third pair, for the older sister thing, in a delightful rosy pink.  I finished all of the pieces a few weeks ago and seamed them all together this morning over coffee.

The first finished slipper is on the right, and the sole and top portion of the other slipper is waiting to be sewn up on the left.  For this pair, I decided to sew up the pieces using double strands of yarn.  This actually makes more sense than what I did the first time (sewing up using single strands), since all of the pieces were knit using either double or triple strands of yarn held together for extra thickness.  The top pieces were knit using two strands held together, so I sewed them up using the tail ends.

The finished pair of slippers, looking huge and floppy.

 For my own amusement, I held my perfectly normal-sized hand next to them for scale comparison.

 All of the finished pieces.  I also marked the right slipper this time before felting with a piece of kitchen twine.  I forgot to do that with both of the other slippers so I had to think extra hard when they came out of the washing machine looking exactly the same. 
 Ready to go in the wash, I pulled together some bulky towels and few pairs of jeans for extra agitation.  I use a mesh lingerie bag to keep all of the slipper pieces in one place during washing.  
The washing was done in my top-loading Kenmore washer, with the hottest water possible and the "Normal" washing cycle which includes fast-fast agitation for both halves of the cycle.  I added a smidge of detergent (Arm and Hammer liquid laundry detergent) and let the full washing cycle run.  I checked on them about 3 times during the wash cycle, and ended up putting the slippers bases back in for another half cycle of the wash.  The top piece flaps (the little pieces not attached to the slippers) were done after the initial cycle, and I pulled them out.

The slippers were nicely felted when they came out, and I rinsed them with cold water before squeezing all the water out.  I rolled them up in my knitting/dog towels (towels that no one really cares about since they cost $1.49 at Ikea) and squeezed a little more water out.  They went outside on the deck on the drying rack, which has adorable little shoe drying holders, which work perfectly for felted slippers.

The little flappies are currently hanging to drying on the washing line, looking like tiny pink elephant ears.

They should take at least 24 hours to fully dry since they're so dense, so I'll leave them out all day and bring them inside overnight to dry some more.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Charging all my batteries at once

Quiet weekend at home this Thanksgiving my loving readers, I will be enjoying some time to knit for sure.  I've managed to bring the usual run-around of Thanksgivings down to one, by only going to one this year (clever, huh?).  Fuzzyhead's family Thanksgiving is on Sunday, and true to form, my family made a last-minute decision to have our dinner on the same night.  I'm eager for a home cooked Momma meal, so I chose my own family's dinner, and Fuzzyhead will go to St. Catharines with his family, a perfect compromise.  No run-around, and plenty of guilt-free time to knit.

Let's start the recap:

  Hello Namaste Zuma bag, I love you.  Ordered with my most recent KnitPicks order, it was kind of an impulse buy.  I had been looking for a cheap Namaste bag, but it doesn't even come up on a local Kijiji search, and eBay only seems to have the "buy now" option for them, which means it's just an online shop selling them at essentially retail prices.  I bit the bullet and bought one through KnitPicks, it wasn't a bad price considering I didn't have to drive to my LYS to find the one I wanted.  In the end, I chose the Zuma bag, because of its look.  I have already taken this bag out and about as a regular purse, with a substantial haul of knitting inside.  There are also no zippers on the main pocket for yarn to get snagged on - I hadn't even thought of this as a selling feature, but I love it.

The yarn for Fuzzyhead's sweater, all 22 balls of it. 

So pretty!  I really love the colour, I'm glad I chose something light, to show off the cables.

Speaking of cables - my gauge swatch!  I did a very generous gauge swatch, I think it ended up being 6 or 7 inches square.  My tension was pretty bang on, 27 stitches over 4 inches, but my row tension was wonky.  I decided that was OK since all of the pieces are measured in total inches rather than in numbers of rows.  This little beauty used up most of the first ball of yarn, I'm very glad I over-bought (at least at this point I think I bought too much).

The work in progress, in its pretty little Zuma bag.

The first few inches!  As of today, I'm at about 10 inches.  This piece is the back and the sides of the cardigan, all in one piece.  At 18 inches I start to do some shaping, but I've got a ways to go before that fun.  For now I'm perfectly happy to be doing some straight boring knitting.  It's nice to have an easy project to fall back to, something I can bring with me anywhere without needing to look at a pattern.

Also, I've chosen a pattern for my next sock project for myself, using that tasty blue Viola Fibers sock yarn I got at the Knitters Fair.  First off, a quick refresher:

Viola Sock in "Sea Storm"

And the pretty little socks that caught my attention:

Kalajoki pattern by Tiina Seppala, a free Ravelry download (score!)

And to round out this post, I couldn't overlook a glimpse at my latest Suzy Homemaker creation:

Pumpkin spice cupcakes with brown sugar cinnamon cream cheese icing.  I made these on Thursday night so I could take a small batch to work on Friday before the long weekend and hand them out to my favourite co-workers (aka my family plus a few special extras).  They were truly excellent, the cupcake part especially.  I didn't even use a boxed cake mix for them, totally from scratch yo!  The cupcake recipe is apparently by Martha Stewart, but I found the cupcake and icing recipe on a blog - check it out here

 Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!