Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Rockin' Eve

Welcome to the end of year round up, readers!  I've been cramming in a bunch of final projects all this week as 2013 comes to a close, and I've even started and finished a project or two.  As of today, December 31, here's what's kicking around my house.

Norie was started and finished in two days, because I'm a dork and if I'm not at work, my fingers will find knitting.  It's a compulsion.

This is only my second ever hat for myself, and I feel like I should have made more by now, but I haven't.  I chose this pattern so I could have a pretty and delicate hat to wear when I need to not look like a grub.  The only other hat I have was made so long ago, I don't even have a picture of it.  It's super warm, but looks very rustic, and turns whatever hair I'm sporting into a wicked batch of hat hair.  Now when I walk my dog in the morning, I'll look like a lady.

I also started and finished a single fingerless mitt yesterday.  I borrowed Son of Stitch n' Bitch from the library to get the pattern, Beer Gloves, and the yarn was from my Rhinebeck adventure this year.  The yarn is from The Fold, and it's Socks that Rock Mill Ends in a camouflage-ish colour.  Very manly for Fuzzyhead.  It's a heavy sock weight, which really is knitting up like DK, which is perfect for these mitts.  I also renting me up a movie from the library, and while I watched Gatsby, I made a mitten.  

I also got to learn a new bind-off, which looks perfect for all the little fingers.  This pattern calls for an invisible bind-off of your choice, and since I had never done one before, I went looking for something on the internet. Here's a little link-love for the invisible bind-off tutorial I found that was very helpful. 

The palm of the mitt has a textured portion, which I think is meant for twisting open beer bottle caps.  Fuzzyhead will find it very useful, I'm sure.  

The mitten mate for this one might be started and finished tonight as we wait for the ball to drop, who knows!  The first one was a very quick knit, and I'm eager to get them done so Fuzzyhead can start wearing them and keep his little fingies warm.

Here's the progress report for the TARDIS socks:

One whole sock is done with ends woven in, and the second sock is at the heel flap.  I'm coming in to a nice stretch of mindless knitting for the foot, so I'll be glad to keep this one on hand for on-the-go knitting.

I also started a very long-haul project this week, a knitted quilt with many tiny hexagons, made from all of my sock yarn scraps.  Considering I make socks like they're going out of style, I think this blanket will still take me years to finished.  Each little hexipuff is only about 2 inches across, and estimates on Ravelry say it takes upwards of 150 of these guys to make anything substantial.  So far I've made three, and I've got loads of scraps to use up.  I've been keeping all my yarn scrap balls in clear glass jars as decoration in my office, but now they will have a more useful purpose.

Now how about some finished projects from 2013 that may have been missed on the blog?  I've been terrible for updating this year, but I've got a plan to remedy this for 2014.  Keep reading to find out more.

In the meantime, here's the finished project round-up:

Big chunky cowl, I wear this almost every day

Maeva socks.  Despite what this picture shows, they are done.

Turtle shell and hat set for Steph's little Hannah.  

Paulie.  Bam!  Sweater that fits, and I look great in it.

I took a bit of a knitting hiatus over the summer when we moved, and when I came back to it, this was the first little thing I finished.  A nut, for my chipper co-worker.

Plain and simple stripey socks, featuring Miss Babs yarn from Catherine.

Itty bitty socks for a co-worker's baby.

Annis shawl, keeping my office chair cozy, and quite often keeps my neck warm.

Hemlock Ring Blanket.  I banged this one out in about a month, and it was so much easier than I thought it would be.  Can you do feather and fan?  Of course you can.  You can make this blanket.

I've also taken to wearing it as a cape, because we keep the temp of our house at a nippy 18 degrees C.

And my Christmas socks, hung on the mantle.  SO CUTE.

And while I reflect on all my knitting wonders from 2013, I'm already planning for a year-long knitting project.  Catherine and I are doing a knit-a-long of socks.  We're making the Harvest Dew pattern, and we're making it last all year by only knitting one row a day.  In a more likely scenario, I will knit 7 rows per week when I sit down to do it, but we are forbidden from finishing before December 31, 2014.

This is the yarn that Catherine got me for Christmas:

She has the same yarn in a different colour, and we both searched for a while to find a pattern that would showcase the variegated yarns.  Harvest Dew was a top choice for both of us before we compared notes, and we had a "get out of my head!" moment when we revealed out top pattern pick. 

And as I mentioned above, I'll also be posting more in 2014 because I'll be doing weekly updates on the progress of the socks.  We're doing cuff-down, one at a time, so you can check in each week and watch it grow.

Happy New Year!



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Boxes full of deliciousness

 Merry Christmas Eve, readers!  Here comes your daily dose of holiday cheer in the form of the insane amount of baking I've done in the last two months.

Every year since Fuzzyhead and I have been together, we've given gifts to all of our extended family at Christmas time.  You may know from your own experiences, that buying presents for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents is murderous awful work, because you see these people twice a year and have no idea what they want/need or what they would appreciate.  We've opted for consumable homemade gifts every year, because who doesn't love to stuff your face at Christmas?

In the past, I've made red pepper jelly for everyone, an assortment of jams (where everyone got one big jar and one little jar of different types of jams), and a mix of different tasty things, including homemade marshmallows, chai tea concentrate syrup, a spice rub trio, and tea blends.  This year, I went the baking route and made up boxes of tasty treats for everyone.  I can tell you right now, I will probably never do this again.

I started the process in October, when I chose all the recipes I wanted to make, based on things I've made in the past, and various other recipes from my favourite magazines and websites.  My all-time favourite magazine is the 2011 Better Homes and Gardens special holiday release called Food Gifts.  It's amazing.  You can find most of the recipes online, but the magazine is so nicely put together with lots of ideas for presenting the food in bags, boxes, and containers.  Martha Stewart is my other go-to, since it's rare that I come across a bad recipe from her.

My baking list included:

-Gingerbread men (Martha Stewart)
-Chai spice sugar cookies with vanilla glaze (Better Homes and Gardens website)
-Classic shortbread (Martha)
-Decorated sugar cookies (Martha)
-Peanut butter marshmallow squares (general internet search, it's only three ingredients so any recipe will do)
-Toffee-topped chocolate ganache tarts (BHG magazine)
-Lemony-glazed shortbread (BHG magazine)
-Pink Lady Squares (general internet search, these are also so common that any recipe will do)
-Homemade marshmallows (BHG magazine)
-Snickerdoodle thumbprint cookies with apple butter (a Martha recipe, but I added the snickerdoodle part and the apple butter)
-Red velvet whoopie pies with cream cheese icing (BHG magazine)
-Pumpkin spice cookies with brown butter icing (Martha Stewart website)

That's twelve different types of cookies.  And it took me months to get it all done.  I started making the doughs, for the ones I could make ahead and freeze, in late October.  I banged out the sugar cookie, chai spice cookie, gingerbread men, and the pumpkin cookie doughs and wrapped them up in the freezer.  Next I started making the other things that could just sit in the freezer, like the marshmallows, the lemon shortbread, and the red velvet cookies.  In the last two weeks, I really kicked it up a notch and was making or baking something almost every night.

I bought 5 dollarstore containers that were long and flat to stack cookies in the freezer, and those are all full.  I have a few things stored in the fridge, and a couple on the counter in other containers (the regular shortbread and the thumbprint cookies, which are fine at room temp).  I've only handed out 6 of the boxes so far, and I made enough for 25 of these little treat collections.  I'm looking forward to a time when my freezer will be empty again.

Now, let's stop worrying about the process, and enjoy the final product:

Clockwise from top left - marshmallows, lemon shortbread, chair sugar cookie stars, regular decorated sugar cookies, peanut butter marshmallow squares, chocolate tart (no toffee), gingerbread men, and pink lady squares.

The liners I picked up by chance at Michaels when I was buying bakers' twine.  They were from their "Celebration" line of accessories, and it was the only one on the shelf.  They're grease-free, and came in two different pretty patterns.  There were 25 sheets in the package, and it was only $5.  It was fate.

This box is mostly the same as the one above, except it has thumbprint cookies in the bottom left corner.

Again, mostly the same, but this one has red velvet whoopie pies in the top middle, and pumpkin cookies with brown butter icing in the bottom middle.

These first four boxes were for my co-workers, who all appreciate my baking throughout the year.

I hummed and hawed long and hard about the perfect container for the cookies.  I wanted something with a clear window in the top, but that would have cost more than it was worth.  I started my search online at places like the Container Store, but their boxes would have cost me upwards of $30, before shipping.  I only needed 25 boxes, and many places forced you to order by the 100's to get the best price.

My solution was G.T. French paper here in town.  They sell wholesale to all sorts of places, but they're also open to the public.  I walked in there one day after work and bought thirty 9"x"6"x2" boxes for a whopping $6.  The man who helped me was hesitant that the size I chose would be big enough, but I knew I wasn't cramming them full to the brim, and I made small-ish sized cookies for that very reason.

I used various stamps from my collection to decorate the plain white boxes, and tied them closed with bakers' twine.

I also added a little "from the kitchen of..." sticker (I have a few different stamps that say things like that, so I stamped out a few onto mailing labels) so everyone knew they weren't junky store-bought cookies that I jumbled together in a box.  Fuzzyhead was concerned that some people might not appreciate all the work I did if they didn't realize they were all made by me.

In total, I made about 615 cookies/bars/tarts.  Phew.  And a Merry Christmas to one and all.



Teeny weeny feet covers

 As you may recall, I spent an awful lot of my free time with the Guild and all the things they do.  I'm especially keen on the Knitters' Fair, where I was first introduced to the Guild.  This is where I was initially drawn in to volunteer when I joined the Guild, and where I will continue to shovel my time-coal after my stint on the Executive committee is complete.  As someone who is involved on the planning committee for the Fair, I spend very little time shopping or enjoying all that the Fair has to offer.  This year was no exception, and the total of what I walked away with fit inside one TARDIS-shaped bag:

This was the very last time that these TARDIS bags would be for sale, since the lovely folks at ZigZag Stitches received a cease and desist letter from the BBC, as they apparently own the rights to all police boxes.  I snagged one of the boxy bags partly because I enjoy Doctor Who (although I'm not a superfan) and partly because they are now very rare and precious.

 I also bought a handful of teeny tiny yarns from The Black Lamb.

The rainbow-coloured ones were purchased for a pair of stripey baby socks for a co-worker's baby.  My work's logo is rainbow-ish, and I knew she would absolutely DIE when she saw tiny socks in our colours.

The other colours were purchases for tiny socks for a mantle decoration for our house.  We just recently installed a mantle (we don't have a fireplace or anything, we just like the look of a mantle), and it needed some holiday decoration love.  I decided to make 24 teeny tiny holiday socks, each to be filled with sweets and treats to enjoy on all the days leading up to Christmas.  I already started the project in the summer with whatever red, green, and white socks yarn scraps I had lying around, so this was just to introduce a few more shades of holiday cheer to the collection.

 Here are some in-progress shots of the tiny socks, from the yarns I already had:

You'll notice that I snuck in a few pairs of mittens, just to mix it up.

And here is the finished product:

They are lovely.  And wonderful.  And teensy tiny.  Each sock took about 2 hours to make, and I used the Hunca Munca pattern (the plain version, although I chose to graft the toes rather than use a three-needle bind off).  For the mittens, I improvised based on the same number of stitches as the socks, and my general knowledge of mitten construction.

For the treats inside them, I chose candy for me, and a LEGO set for Fuzzyhead, broken down with a pinch pieces inside each sock, and the instructions for assembly handed out on the last day.

As for baby socks for an actual baby, here's how they turned out:

For gifting them, I made a small box from cereal cardboard I found in the blue bin, and covered it with brown craft paper.  I neatly folded tissue paper inside and tucked one of my washing and care cards behind the socks.  The box itself was done up to look like an old-timey parcel you'd get in the mail, and it was addressed to the wee recipient, care of his mother.

That's my "hand knitted with love by me" stamp on the underside of the lid.

And as hoped, she loved it.  I got my very own mention on facebook.  Baby Max was born December 12, a month early, so any fears of the socks being too small to ever fit him were dismissed.  Mom and baby are doing well, and he's home in time for Christmas.



Monday, November 25, 2013

The bees are everywhere!

Back in September, I spent my morning at Culture Days at Joseph Schneider Haus, readers.  Ever been?  The K-W Knitters' Guild was there in all of our knitting glory, promoting our guild, our craft, and hopefully teaching a few people how to knit.

A quick confession before we get too far in to this.  I completely forgot about this on my calendar until half an hour before I was supposed to be there.  I had agreed to spend the morning at the booth, and then trade off when other people arrived around lunch time.  My shift was 10-1ish, and at 9:30, when I was typing up a blog post and sipping my morning coffee on a lazy Sunday morning, I checked my phone to see what time I was working the next day and saw a flash of "Schneider" on the screen.  I put my phone down and carried on my merry way, and then sat straight up and probably said a swear as I realized what that meant.

I hauled ass to get ready and pull together a bunch of samples for the table.  I was out the door just before 10am, and was on track to arrive downtown around 10:15.  I rushed into the parking lot across the street, and speed walked over to the building.  Aaaaaaaaaaand there was no one there, and nothing set up yet.  Then I saw that the hours of operation on Sunday are 1-5pm.  Hmm.  Let's put this all together now.  I know that I was asked to be there at 10, and I agreed to be there at 10.  So....where was everyone?  There was another lady standing around looking equally confused, so I took the initiative and went inside to see if I could find someone.  I found people right away, and it looked like we were the first ones there as they were finishing the set-up.  Someone brought over a table and a couple chairs for our tent, and I set out my samples.

  Around 10:30, my morning shift partner arrived with the Guild banner, and I had some company.

I think we must have had some wires crossed about why it was necessary to be there at 10/10:30 when the event didn't start until 1pm.  We didn't have much to set up, and we really just ended up knitting and chatting and seeing what the other booths were up to.  When I left at 1:00, a few more Guild people had arrived, and I entirely missed interacting with the visitors.  Oh well.

The day was lovely, it was bright and sunny, and I hope that the Guild got some great exposure from the event.  I would definitely volunteer with this event again, hopefully during a time when the public is actually there.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Look at the size of that nut!

I like a good knitting challenge, readers.  Here's the back story: I work at a museum, and we have traveling exhibits that come in for 4-8 months at a time.  Currently we have a trees exhibit, which is aimed at families and small children, and one of my coworkers asked if I could make her an acorn to use during demonstrations with the kids.  Of course I could.

I rooted around on Ravelry to find a pattern I could modify.  The knitted options didn't look that great, and I know you can make odd shapes more easily with crochet, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would be moving away from the needles and picking up a hook.

The pattern I liked the best was the one that met the scale requirements for the project.  We needed something that would be a plush version of an acorn, that kids could toss around and play with.  I was aiming for something that was about 8-10" tall, and it seemed like more trouble than it was worth to take a 2" acorn pattern and make it ten times the size.

Enter the Little Acorn Project Bag by Brigitte Read.  This was exactly what I was looking for, and it was free, and it looked easy enough for my limited crochet skills.

Her version was meant to be a project bag, as the name indicates, but it was a simple step to not include the button closures and just stuff it and sew it up.

I was so happy with how this turned out.  It was easy peasy to make, and I had it done in a few nights.  AND, I was able to use up some of my leftover scraps of acrylic yarn from various projects.  No one really likes acrylic, but it made the most sense for this project because it would be man-handled by grubby little kid fingers all day, and now it can just be tossed in the wash.

Also, it was a very cute little fall project to work on, and it makes me want to make a series of crocheted and felted acorns for decorating my dining table.  At Rhinebeck, there were some really adorable needle felting kits for pumpkins and the like, and I want to try my hand it that eventually.  I realize now that I had the cash on hand to buy one of the kits, but I was holding on to my cash for our food stops on the way home, which didn't end up happening.  Oh well.  I'll put it on my list for next time, and it's one more craft to add to my list of things to do.



Monday, October 21, 2013

A worthy post after months of no action - Rhinebeck 2013!

Hello readers!  Before you even say anything, I'll explain myself.  I went through a bout of no knitting this summer, where not only did I not write any blog posts, but I also did not do any knitting.  I bought a house with Fuzzyhead in June and all of my efforts went to doing all the little things with the house (for your own amusement, you can follow my house adventures at joeyandjanicebuyahouse.wordpress.com).  Now that we're settled in, I think it's about time for me to get back to knitting, and writing about it.

We begin with my most recent knitting excursion to Rhinebeck.  You may recall that Catherine and I went last year for the first time, and we were gung ho about going again.  We went with the same bus group, a bunch of ladies from Georgetown who organize the trip each year.  We were fully prepared for the bus of cackling hens syndrome again, and I think it really helped to know that was coming in advance.  I brought my ipod and I think I chiseled away about more than 12 hours worth of podcasts on the trip.  Let's start the recap!

Here we are, shortly after 8am as the bus is rolling out of the parking lot to begin our journey to Rhinebeck.  As someone who doesn't live in Georgetown, this meant I was up at 5:30 in order to walk a dog and get ready to leave and then drive to Georgetown to meet the group.  The lack of sleep didn't catch up to me until later that afternoon, around the time when I was getting mildly bus sick from the combination of jerky stopping and starting and what I later found out was a vanilla air freshener.

At about 10am, we arrived at ye olde duty free.  They are a well-oiled machine at duty free, since they get so many bus loads of cackling hens arriving each day to load up on booze and designer fragrances, so a kind young lady from the duty free hops on the bus to give us the low-down on the process.  She also handed out two $10 gift certificates, to force us to spend money, and Catherine won!  As soon as it was in her hand, we started chanting "candy! candy!" and the other gals on the bus laughed at us.  Who's laughing now, ladies?  We scored two GIANT Reese's peanut butter bars for $6, with money left over for jelly beans.  Super score.

Our border crossing experience was the exact opposite of what happened last year - this year we were really delayed in crossing to the states, but breezed through the border stop on the way home.  Here we are crossing over to Buffalo, before we even got to the hour long wait in the parking lot before the let us come inside and flash our passports.

In knitting news, this is what I was working on on the bus.  The pattern is Rivercat from Knitty and this is yarn that I bought last year at Rhinebeck.  It's from Cephalopod Yarns, Skinny Bugga in Green Darner Dragonfly.  This is where I was at the start of the trip, and within the last hour of traveling back, I was grafting the toe.  I started the pattern a few days ahead of leaving for Rhinebeck so I wouldn't be figuring out the tricky little parts of the pattern while on a jiggling bus.

We arrived to Poughkeepsie in one piece and ditched the rest of the group at the Olive Garden to run across the street to Chili's.  We were in bed early, and up at the crack of early to get ready for the fair.  Here we are on the bus on Saturday morning, excited for yarns!

I made a list of what I needed to buy on Friday night in the hotel.  I had specific projects in mind, and I jotted down the basic requirements for yardage and yarn weight:

Norie Hat - 260 yards, DK weight

Rockefeller Shawl - 450 yards colour A, 505 yards colour B, light fingering weight

Larch Cardigan - 1580-1720 yards, Sport weight

Hemlock Ring Blanket - 600 yards, worsted weight

And I was open to the idea of picking up yarn for a baby project for a coworker, and I wanted to pick up some yarn for Tyler, who just started knitting earlier this year.  His only request was "red", so that left it open for fun interpretations.

Blurry, but it`s the entrance to the fairgrounds - Dutchess County Fairgrounds, home of the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival!

The line-up.  This is mostly to show the scale of the event - when I tell people I went to a knitting festival, they don't really get that it's a big deal, with THOUSANDS of people.  It was way more crowded on the Saturday than last year, and I'm not sure what made the difference.  A lot of the vendors were the same, the weather was equally nice, so....?

Waiting in line to get our chance to squeeze all the yarny goodness.

We took a different approach to shopping this year; we weren't just going to browse all day on Saturday and miss out on getting the yarns we wanted.  Last year, our "take notes first, and buy later" philosophy meant some of our choices were sold out before we got back on Sunday with money.  This year's plan was to hit up the popular booths first and make impulsive purchases so we wouldn't regret it later.  First up, Miss Babs.

As soon as we were inside the gate, we did a hop, skip, and a jump through the leaf piles and booted it up to Building C to visit Miss Babs.  Last year they were crazy busy all weekend, and I never ended up buying anything from them.  This year I wanted to get something, and I was open to what that would be. I decided on getting the worsted weight yarn for Hemlock, and I picked up four skeins of Heartland Worsted in "Fieldmouse".  The line-up to pay was stretching outside the building, and one could describe her booth as CRAZY.  We waited in line for one hour and five minutes.  No joke.

I was almost more excited about the food options than I was about the yarn.  We chose this cute little food truck for lunch on Saturday.  They make flamms, which are like pizzas, but super duper thin.  I chose the Traditional, which had spiced creme, red onion, scallions, bacon, and some other kind of cheese.

It was so delicious, I can't even tell you.  The only thing I didn't love was the charred edge bits and the amount of flour that they had to use to get the flamms to slide in and out of the oven easily.  Catherine described it as eating an ashtray after a while, and because of it she didn't finish all of hers.

We did more wandering and shopping in the afternoon, and we also hit up the other very popular booth of the weekend, Cephalopod Yarns.  They had a pretty big line-up last year, and by the time we got there, there wasn't much selection.  This year, we were ahead of the game, and we went there with guns a-blazin'.  I picked up a skein of the DK weight in "Arkham" for my Norie hat.

After the two big names were out of the way, we wandered around and took in the sites.  I wish that I could have bought a $10 bunny:

But I'm pretty sure I couldn't get over the border with one, plus it didn't look like they had anything for you to carry it around in.  Too bad.

One of our major afternoon stops was at The Fold and Blue Moon Fiber Arts, which is where I bought the yarn for the lovely sweater I wore on Saturday.  They carry Socks that Rock, and I remembered their booth fondly from last year.  From them I picked up a skein of mill ends heavyweight sock yarn for some winter socks for Fuzzyhead, and the yarn for my Rockefeller shawl in the form of mini skeins of Socks that Rock in "Sabertooth Caterpillar" and "Cozy Fierce and Dirty Orange".

By 4:00, we were tuckered out, and we spent the last hour or so sitting on a grassy and leafy hill, resting our tired little tootsies.

  Back at the hotel, I documented my scores from the day, on my hotel bed, in poor lighting:

That's Heartland in the back, my Socks that Rock for Rockefeller in the middle-right, Socks that Rock for Fuzzyhead's heavy winter socks on the left, and Cephalopod DK up front.

Sunday went by a lot faster, and we were mostly concerned with doing our quick final shopping and getting back to the bus, with food in our bellies, by 11:30.  We went back to all of our "saw it yesterday and kept thinking about it" booths, and Catherine picked up a few more things.  I only needed to grab Tyler's red yarn and a mini skein of white sock yarn from Miss Babs for an upcoming project.  I went up to Miss Babs first thing in the morning, and the giant line was already starting, so I almost dismissed the idea of getting the mini skein.  I left it for the time being, and I went to another booth and got two skeins of Shepherd's Wool in a nice bright red for Tyler.

I still had some US cash burning a hole in my wallet, and I really didn't want to have to exchange it back to Canadian.  And what's the one thing everyone needs more of?  Sock yarn!  I went to TuckerWoods and got a skein of Rory's Toes, which is their tweed sock yarn.

We petted a few sheep and walked through a few more buildings to make sure we weren't missing something fantastic, and then made a break for lunch.  While Catherine was still finishing lunch, I zipped back up to Miss Babs, hoping that the line wouldn't be too big to mess up my timing to get back on the bus.  I saw some other people from my group, so I figured at the very least, we would all be late, and I picked up one last skein.

We were back on the bus in plenty of time, and I got some solid knitting done on the drive home.  We made record time on the way back, mostly due to the fact that we only stopped once before the border (and there was a Starbucks, hallelujah!), and we were through the border control stop in less than 10 minutes.  We arrived back in Georgetown at 9pm, and loaded up our bags for the drive home.

And now, the final yarn round-up:

I've still been taking pictures of all of my knits and yarn purchases, so I'll work on putting together some catch-up posts of everything I've been knitting.  You can look forward to that, and now it's lunch time.