Sometimes Its the Simple Things

I consider myself a pretty experience knitter. I have tackled most techniques and, while some are not my favorite, I would say that I can execute all of them fairly successfully. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love to grab a completely simple mindless project from time to time. For example, dishcloths.

Each spring in Portland, a lot of the local yarn shops (we’ve got a lot of yarn shops in Portland) get together and throw a “Yarn Crawl”–it’s like a pub crawl, but instead of stopping at a bunch of pubs for a drink, you stop at 13 yarn shops to ooogle yarn. There are delightful trunk shows and demonstrations and lots of knitterly camaraderie. I’ve yet to get through a crawl on budget (my personal budget) but I always end up with some fabulous stash additions.

During the 2015 crawl, Yarnia had these delightful Dishcloth Kits made from 100% cotton yarn strands. The kit had enough yarn for 3 small dishcloths or one small dishcloth and one larger hand cloth. I was very drawn to this pink-black combo and snapped it up. The pattern for the dishcloths is a very simple knit purl pattern that I memorized quickly after only one or two repeats.

Yarnia is quite unique for a yarn store. They sell yarn by weight. They have many very fine strands of yarn/thread. You can choose up to six in various fibers and colors and then Yarnia uses a special machine to cone all of the strands together so that you can knit with them as one single “yarn” strand. There’s a video of the process here. It’s fun! I may be slightly biased since its the first yarn store I ever worked in, but it gives you a lot of creativity in creating a special yarn for a project. This particular kit had 5 strands of cotton in different thicknesses–equaling a worsted weight when held together. There is two black strands and three different shades of pink.

I made the three small cloths a gave one dishcloth and some homemade sugar scrub to each of my admin staff for Christmas. (Yes, Christmas 2015. I’m a wee bit behind on posts.) I really love sugar scrub for taking dry skin off my hands, legs, and face. After buying quite a few scrubs for $15-20 a pop I realized that I could easily make my own. The recipe I use is very simple:

  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil (can substitute coconut oil or almond oil if preferred)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Honey

Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. That’s all! Use it like you would any other exfoliator. You’ll be baby smooth and smell like vanilla to boot. I have always used olive oil and never tried the suggested substitutes (only because of cost) so I can’t speak to how they might change the formula, but I’m sure it’s still amazing. I’ve been told it can keep for up to three months, but I’ve never had a batch last that long. Its the perfect last-minute gift.

 

1 Hour Herringbone Cowl

Be forewarned, the 1 Hour Herringbone Cowl takes significantly longer than an hour to knit up. I used this pattern in a 2 hour knitting class and most students had about two inches of fabric after two hours. That being said, that’s still some pretty quick knitting!

 

I used slightly more than one skein of Malabrigo Chunky that I’ve had in my stash since college. Stefanie Japel‘s pattern is very easy to follow. There are just two rows that you alternate to make the herringbone pattern. The chunky yarn paired with the stiff stitch makes a fabric that is very warm and plush.

 

The colorway of this yarn is Violetas, but my skein was much more purple than the ones I have seen on the shelves lately–they seem to have made the color much more blue over the years. The slight variations in this skein look really great in the herringbone pattern.

I stuck this away and used it as a Christmas gift this year. I frequently make projects because I want to knit them, not because I actually need them. Those go in the closet for when I need a last minute gift. These days, so many people are having babies that I should probably throw some baby things into the emergency box. I’ve knit 3 projects on pretty quick deadlines recently. And I’ve got 2 more to plan.

I wanted to knit this to try out the herringbone stitch, but I knew it would be going in the box. I like long cowls that can be doubled up. Maybe someday I’ll double the number of stitches and make myself an extra cozy version.

Resistance is… Essential

I was not able to attend the Woman’s March on Washington (Portland edition) because I was lending support to someone going through some family health issues. All day my facebook feed was packed with photos from friends around the country at various marches. Plus there were photos all over the news of huge crowds around the country. It was very powerful and reassuring to see so many women gather and raise their voices. And of course, as a knitter, the prominence of the Pussy Hat as a symbol for the March made my heart happy.

 

The idea of thousands of knitters clicking away counting down the days until the revolution is so very Madame Defarge, I can’t help but want to overthrow the patriarchy. I’ve had this skein of Madelinetosh A.S.A.P. in my stash for about 2 years… basically since it first came out. When I placed my order, this skein of the color “Coquette” was one of the few left in stock. I never really had a plan for it, but as soon as I saw a post about the Pussy Hat, I knew I had the perfect skein.

There are a number of different patterns for Pussy Hats on Ravelry. The particular one I chose was Brooklyn Purl Alley Cat Hat by Claudette Brady. The pattern is free on Ravelry. My one slight critique is that the pattern uses “left twisted stitch” and “right twisted stitch” without explaining them. For the left twisted stitch, you just knit into the back of the second stitch on the left needle, then knit into the front of the first stitch on the left needle and take both the first and second stitches off the left needle together. The right twisted stitch is even easier. You knit into the second stitch on the left need, then into the first stitch on the left needle, then take both stitches off the left needle together.

I really like the way the twisted stitches paired with the purls were used to set off the “ears” of the hat. The super bulky yarn really lets the ears stand up a little bit too. And the coquette is the perfect shade of aggressive pink. Viva la revolución!

Miracle

So, I’m pretty sure that I performed a miracle the other day. I didn’t turn water into wine or anything that awesome, more like a light miracle. I found buttons for a sweater in under 10 minutes at the craft store.


I know. I’ll give you a few minutes to pick yourself up off the floor. It’s true. Here I am sheepishly entering the craft store sweater in-hand only 30 minutes before closing. Oh, and it was raining like crazy, contributing to the stress of the moment.

I was fully prepared to beg and plead with the staff for just-five-more-minutes to find the perfect buttons for this darling little Gramps Cardigan I knit for Bob’s new baby nephew. As it turns out the perfect buttons found me almost the minute I walked into the button aisle. If you have ever tried to buy buttons for a sweater, you know the painstaking process it can be… Too blue. Not blue enough. Too small for the button hole. Too big for the button hole. Perhaps worst of all, exactly perfect, but the store only has 3 buttons and I need 7. We’ve all been there.


Not this time. These weren’t even in the actual button aisle. They were on the end cap. I looked at them and though “wow, that looks like it might be close” but almost immediately dismissed them as too good to be true. Surely, they must be flawed in some way. I’ll find out when I hold them to the sweater that they’re actually chartreuse and it was a trick of the light making them look blue. They were perfect.


This darling pattern by Kate Oats knit up in no time at all. I made the smallest size (6 mo.) and felt like the second I cast on, I was casting off again.

The patten calls for dk weight yarn which makes adorably plump cables. I used some yarn that’s been in the stash for ages. I originally bought this Cottonwood by FibraNatura to make a summer shrug but never got around to making it and just lost passion for the pattern. When I was stash diving to look for something to make this baby sweater with, this jumped out. It’s 100% organic cotton and incredibly soft. It’s still cotton though so working the cables did make my hands sore because the cotton just doesn’t have the same stretch and give as animal fibers. For a small project, totally worth it.


I was rewarded for my hard work with this picture. Looks like it will be keeping him warm for the rest of the winter. (Possibly he is the real miracle part of this story… but my trip to the button store is an easy second.)

Bright Orange Honey Cowl

Continuing my breakneck catch up of things left unblogged, I give you… my November 2015 Honey Cowl. It’s made of the tragically-discontinued Cascade Souk.

Honey Cowl

I managed to snag two of the last skeins from my LYS after the discontinuing became official. The yarn is deceptive in that it has a rustic scratchy look to it, but it’s actually very soft to the touch. With the yarn in hand I went looking for a pattern that would work with the bold colors. I settled on this lovely but simple pattern by Antonia Shankland.

Honey Cowl

She has several really great cowl patterns, this being one of the easiest. I also really like Bubble Wrap Cowl and Tempo. This was a perfect brainless project for pulling out on my commute or in a spare minute. After reading the pattern once you never need to look at it again.

Honey Cowl

Orange is one of my all-time favorite colors and you just really don’t see very much good orange yarn at all. What is “good” orange yarn you ask? Basically anything that not hunting blaze colored. For some reason, most companies come up with one very bright orange and nothing in the red or yellow end of the spectrum. This lovely gradient hits all the high points.

I knit every last scrap of my two skeins and I spit-spliced the join between the two skeins so there was no waste. I followed the cast-on directions for the large size, and I do wish I had had a third skein to make my cowl extra-wide. With two skeins, it’s about 7 inches tall. A third skein would have brought it to 10 inches which would be super cozy. As it is, it still keeps my shoulders nice and warm when it’s tucked into my coat.

Tensfield

Please do not let the snow on the ground in these photos fool you. There is no snow in Portland, only cold, dreary, rain. We are just wrapping up one of the wettest Thanksgiving weekends in as long as I can remember.

Tensfield

This snow is actually from January… that’s how long it’s been since the photos were taken for the blog to the actual writing of the blog post. What is life if not a constant struggle to do better…

This is the Tensfield I knit last winter for Bob. The pattern comes paired with another version called Langfield, which is essentially the same hat but slouchy. Both patterns are by Martina Behm. I’ve knit several of her shawls patterns and this was equally well written.

Tensfield

Of course, the fact that it is a well-written pattern doesn’t mean that I didn’t manage to screw it up. At one point the instructions clearly tell you to knit “until 20 stitch before marker.” Well, I just knit 20 stitches and continued on to the next part of the pattern… which was much too soon. Once I realized my mistake (after rereading about 100x before I realized my error) it was easy enough to get back on track.

The yarn is Araucania Huasco DK. It’s super tightly spun so the yarn has a lot of “sproingy” bounce to it. It was fun to work with.

Tensfield

(I like that action shot of rummaging in the trunk.) The variegated yarn really makes it easy to see the unique construction and the different directions you work to all meet together at the crown.

I never much like to remake patterns. Too many good ones not to try something new. But since this pattern is written so that you can use any yarn and needle size that you want I could see re-doing it again in different weights to get a different effect. A super chunky one would be really cute and cozy!

Tannenbaum

I have not had a Christmas tree since I stopped living with parents at 18. I always traveled home to spend actual Christmas day with my family, so there always was a tree on Christmas day, but I haven’t lived with a tree in… a number… of years. Until now!


We put up a tree on Saturday. I’ve been so busy (at least in my mind) for the past so many years that it’s been a really long time since I felt like I had a Christmas season. Recently, Christmas has been a long weekend at best–a quick exchange of presents, one delicious dinner, some hugs and kisses, and back to work. Having a tree at home really makes it feel like I’m getting into the holiday.


This is also the first year that I’ve actually cut down a tree. Well, I didn’t cut it down, Bob did the actual cutting, but I was there and I held the top of the tree while the cutting occurred, so basically, I cut down the tree. We went to a tree farm about 30 minutes from where we live. One of the things I love about the area is how quickly you can go from city to country. The farm gave us everything that we needed–saw, piece of tarp to lay down in the mud so you don’t have to kneel in the mud, then they shook the tree and bound it up so we could throw it on top of the car. They even gave us the twine to tie it to the car.


That’s the tree shaker… It’s harder to see what’s going on in a still photo. Once we got the tree home there was a small amount of grief over getting it not to lean in the stand, but we got it.


Then we got the lights and star on.


Then the ornaments. My mom started a tradition the year I was born (I’m the oldest) of giving Christmas ornaments as a gift. He favorite ones to give are Hallmark keepsake ornaments. She sent mine to me this year. I had enough to cover the whole tree!


What a nostalgia trip. Also, when I was a kid my favorite movie was Wizard of Oz, so about 75% of those ornaments are Oz themed. I’m going to pretend that it’s not weird to have 9 wicked witches on your Christmas tree… Do you have a Christmas theme? (Intentional or not…)

 

Looking back

I can’t believe how long I’ve left this poor blog unattended! I’ll admit I’ve been so busy that it was completely forgotten until I got the notice from GoDaddy that it’s time to renew the domain name… Ooops. I guess it makes sense, given that my knitting has really dwindled as well.

2007

Looking back, I started knitting “for real” in about 2007. I finished 7 projects that year–including my first pair of socks and my first gloves. In 2008 I was on fire–22 projects complete (5 were baby sweaters, but still!) 2009 also fantastically productive–22 projects complete again.

2008/2009

Then came law school. In 2010, I still had a respectable year with 20 projects off the needles. Looking back though, I was making a lot of hats, cowls, and other 1 skein-projects. I’d go months without knitting then crank out a few hats.

2010

2011 was my banner year. I started attended a regular knit-night and the camaraderie and inspiration helped me to fully embrace the craft. I finished 32 projects that year including sweaters, shawls, socks, 2 blankets, learned both stranded color work and intarsia, and designed my first knitting pattern (and my second, and my third). I also started working at a yarn shop with a HUGE selection of luxury yarn and did some serious damage with my employee discount.

2011

2012 brought the bar exam and “real” job hunting. Turns out, as terrifying as the test is, studying for the bar exam mostly involves watches videos of lectures covering the same materials as many times as you can to drill the content into your brain. I finished 36 projects that year–all fueled by nervous energy. Many of them were sample pieces for the shop I was working in so a few were single mittens/socks for display. A respectable number of projects nonetheless. I also publish one more pattern that year.

2012

In 2013 I got that “real” job I was hunting for and knitting virtually stopped. I finished 13 projects that year. Almost all of them hats or fingerless mittens. I stopped working at the yarn store and rarely made it to knit-night. It was a brutal year in so many ways, and I just didn’t pick up the needles. I’ve never really gotten back into the swing since then.

2014

2014 was much more optimistic, any way you look at it. I had a better (though not perfect) job, better place to live, and more of a work-life balance. I finished off a lot of projects that had been floating around the stash for years–like 5 years–and it felt like a fresh start. 13 projects were finished that year but some were large–a blanket, a sweater, two giant shawls. My 5th pattern was published. Overall, I’ve got no complaints with 2014.

I had a similar year in 2015. Only 12 projects completed that year, but I loved all of them. Again, I cleared out more lingering UFOs–3 sweaters, 3 shawls. While I was feeling good about my knitting, I virtually stopped blogging about it. I guess it was just one too many balls to keep in the air and that’s the one that got dropped. The last time I blogged (in January!) I was still telling you about projects from July of 2015. I designed another pattern but never got around to publishing it. (Maybe 2017?)

2015

2016 has been… one hell of a year. I feel like my personal life is going so well while at the same time the world is falling apart all around me. Feeling both content and devastated has taken a weird emotional toll. So far I’ve got 10 projects off the needles.A small number, for sure, but for the first year in quite a while I’ve been knitting consistently again–not frantic bursts followed by long absences. Several of the projects I’ve focused on this year have contained large patches of garter or stockinette stitch. Most of my knitting these days happens on my morning commute. The simple stitch patterns not only make it possible to knit on the train, they also provide a soothing way to “wake up” on my way into the office.  Anyway, long story short, after a rocky patch, I’m finally starting to get back into the swing of things with my knitting. Maybe blogging will fall back into place as well.

2016

What is your knitting history? Did you ever hit a rough patch?

Edie spring t-shit sweater

Hi! Happy New Year!

I know we’re a few days in already but I’ve been slow to start this year. Something about the first just didn’t feel like New Years. After a quite few days that “new beginnings” feeling is starting to sink in and I feel like trying to clean house (metaphorically!)

I spent a day doing my traditional new years stash toss. Going through what I have to make sure nothing crawly has gotten to it in the last year, but also to remember and re-feel everything.

I also updated my Ravelry account with some things I’ve been lax in getting posted. 2015 wasn’t the most productive knitting or blogging year for me, but I did finish a few things I have yet to show you.

Edie

That is the Edie sweater by Michele Wang. Yarn recommended was the 100% wool Brooklyn Tweed LOFT. I’m sure that would make a great layering piece for fall and winter, but I wanted a summer tee. I substituted Rowan Panama for the LOFT.  Panama is 12% linen, 33% cotton, and 55% viscose. Perfect for spring!

I started knitting this because I was asked to teach the pattern as a class. As it turned out, not enough people signed up for the class so it didn’t end up happening. After that I put the project away for a long time. I found it this spring and thought it would be a good wardrobe addition so I set to work. Mostly I knit for the process and don’t generally care when things get finished. (If you’ve read any of this blog and can feel you rolling your eyes and signing “I know!”) This time though, I wanted the sweater.

The yarn is so comfy to wear. It feels nice and cool and soft. It’s not so comfy to knit with. Cotton and linen doing have the spriong that wool does and the lack of give is just murder on my hands. Especially on those cable rows.

Edie

The end result was totally worth it though. The viscose in the yarn is a bit shiny. The cotton and linen are not shiny at all so the knit fabric has a subtle depth of color.

I pretty much followed the pattern. My gauge with the Panema was a bit bigger than the pattern gauge. It worked out pretty easily that I could just follow directions for the size smaller and end up with the right size for me. The only “alteration” i made was to make the waist 3 inches longer. since I’m not wearing this as a layering piece I didn’t want it cropped.

Edie

I did cast on a New Year’s day project (I wasn’t that off my game.) It’s Fractal Danger by Martina Behm. I have the first 10 rows done!

Elektra off the needles and blocked

Somehow I managed to go five months without a post even though I actually have been knitting and have a few things to show off. I could resolve to do better, but you know how effective that’s been in the past… This July I finally cast off the Elektra I’ve been working on since October of 2012.

Elekra

This Romi Hill pattern is from her 7 Small Shawls Year One collection. I started it, like so many other projects, because it was part of a knit-a-long that I joined. The knit-a-long only lasted one month and when it was ended I didn’t really continue to give the project any attention. My finishing kick this year made me pull it out and finally get it off the needles.

Elektra

The pattern is beaded down each of the “spines” and around the lace motifs. I used cheap size 6 seed beads from Michaels. The match the yarn color I used very well so they blend in and just add a bit of sparkle. The yarn is Dream in Color Baby which is unfortunately discontinued. The yarn is 100% merino lace weight and has an interesting “crunch” in the texture. It’s still quite soft but also somehow a little rustic. The colorway is called Aqua Jet and has an overdyed kettle quality to it.

Elektra

I used the crochet method to attach my beads, and while it definitely makes the project go slower than normal but it was much more manageable than stringing hundreds of beads in advance. Like all of Romi’s patterns this one was very well written and easy to follow and I had no troubles with it at all. Now I just have to wait for fall scarf weather to reach us. We’re having a long summer here in Portland and even though it’s October its still reaching the 80s here on the regular. Soon enough.