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.