Friday, December 29, 2006
Surely this can't be my front yarn (okay, I typed yarn instead of yard which is kind of perfect in a way) in Madison at the end of December. Sadly enough it's true. We love the winter, that's why we continue to live in this climate. When there is no snow it makes everything seem a little gray and sad. My children love bundling up for an afternoon of sledding at a huge hill just down the block. It hardly seems necessary for a cup of marshmallow-y hot chocolate when the temps are in the mid-40's every day. I feel it in my bones that soon we may get completely socked in by a blizzard. I hope for a snow day from school as much as the kids do. It feels like such a freebie, like a little cheat. Oh well, maybe soon.
Yesterday I took my run and listened to The Knitting Cook. This is a wonderful podcast from a young American mother, named Faith, living in Germany with her husband and two boys with another baby on the way. She knits and spins and can she cook! First she talks about her knitting and spinning adventures which are always fun to hear about. Next she tells a funny story about her adventures living in Germany. Her family is a recent transfer due to her husband's job. To finish things off she shares one of her favorite recipes while she actually makes the recipe in her kitchen as she talks. It is great to hear the spoons banging or things sizzling or how she fixes things if she makes a mistake as she goes. Faith has a great voice and right now she has holiday baking recipes on her site, www.theknittingcook.com, that I am definitely going to have to try. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies and these recipes are very appealing. This podcast should be on your subscription list for sure.
Now about those socks, Faith from The Knitting Cook is making a pair of Leigh Radford's Cable Footies from One Skein for her mother. As I was running I began thinking about the Cable Footies I made last year. I hadn't worn them for awhile so I rummaged around in my drawer and sure enough when I put them on this morning, my love for them returned quickly. What I remember most about these socks is that they are fast. I finished the pair in one or two days. But best of all, I learned a new technique while making these socks. I learned how to do cables without using a cable needle.
I learned this cable needle-free technique from Annie Modesitt's blog at www.anniemodesitt.com, where she had a step-by-step tutorial. When I just looked on her site for this tutorial I didn't see it but it is probably buried in there somewhere so just do a search for cable without a cable needle, and you will find her tutorial, which is excellent as always. This is a great technique and once you have it down your needles will fly even faster! Learn this technique, really.
My Cable Footies are made from the recommended yarn, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in black. This is fantastic yarn and there was quite a bit left over at the end of the project. One Skein is a beautiful book, beyond wonderful and one of my favorites. Leigh Radford was also interviewed by Jennifer at the Craftsanity podcast. This makes for an interesting and informative listen from one of the leading designers in knitting today. It's a very worthwhile hour indeed!
You won't regret getting this book, listening to this podcast, learning a new technique, and maybe even baking some cookies by Faith.
p.s. Shobhana from Yarnplay emailed me and asked to put my version of the Sidetracked scarf photo on her Yarnplay blog. Her blog is www.mylifeinstitches.net and the Yarnplay blog is www.wild_deer.typepad.com/yarnplay. Both great fun to read and explore. Shobhana is really just herself in her blog, she's honest, not trying to impress and that ends up being so cool. She's refreshing and talented so head on over there, too.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Did you see that amazon is selling Greetings From Knit Cafe for $4.99 a copy (normally $24.99)? This is a wonderful hardcover book with beautiful photography and some great projects! Sneak on over and get a copy quick before it's over.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The excitement is at an all-time high over here this morning. We are actually in the midst of doing a major clean up before the onslaught of new toys, clothes and gadgets hits our already crowded house. Everyone is pitching in, so that helps.
Have you checked out the crafting blog www.ihanna.nu/blog yet? Go on over there and see what she's all about. I need more time to explore this blog more thoroughly, but it is a popular one to say the least.
I'll post a better shots of the fun stuff I have made and collected over the years that fill up my studio. I can't seem to get the shots to be crystal clear, they are always a little shaky even when I rest my elbows on something for stability. Any suggestions out there? I am new at photography, but I am loving it and I want to get better. I have so much to share.
The buttons that are hot glued to my light switch in my studio were given to me in an ancient tin from a sweet friend of mine. They were her mother's buttons, some of them are extremely old, and when she passed away at age 90 a few years ago, my friend thought of me when she found the tin. When I showed her my light switch, she just loved it! I still want to do more with these, like use some mismatched buttons on a sweater for her granddaughter or make a felted scarf with the buttons applied somehow. I've got to work on that.
Guess who won the battle with the manuscript? That would be me! It is on its way to NYC right now. I feel really good about it.
Another friend of mine dropped off her annual Christmas amaryllis that we watch grow and blossom every winter. What a treat to get such a great gift. I have kept a stash of knitted ornaments, Christmas Peas and Santa Baby hats and oh, I did some needle felting on styrofoam balls that I hand out when anyone stops by. They have been a big hit.
Well, that's enough for now. Have a beautiful holiday and enjoy your loved ones!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This lovely little mug sits on a table in my studio and I just keep adding knitted stuff to it. It looked so sweet I thought I'd share it with you on this dreary winter morning.
I was in Stitcher's Crossing buying up some Manos last weekend, when the woman working there, who is on the board of the Madison Knitter's Guild, asked if I would teach a class on knitted embellishments for a March weekend knitting extravaganza. How fun will that be? I haven't taught for awhile and I miss it so this will be a good thing. I said yes right away.
Then the added plus came. Guess who is coming to Madison to speak at this event? The one and only Annie Modesitt! I love her! She is a knitting superstar. I am so excited about this. I am honored to have been included in the line up, and getting to see Annie is just a big bonus. Her blog is fantastic and just hearing about her schedule for travel and knitting deadlines makes me tired. She is something else. Check her out at www.anniemodesitt.com. She also has a great interview with Marie Irshad from awhile back on Knitcast, so take a listen to that if you need entertainment while wrapping those gifts.
I will fill you in on the details about this event as it gets closer. Annie's coming to town and I am so there.
My daughter woke up singing only 5 days to go! My manuscript is flying out Saturday morning to arrive in New York by Tuesday. The mad scramble is on and I am determined to win this battle.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
The snowman factory is closed and all of the workers are exhausted. A friend of mine first made a version of these snowmen many years ago. Here is a step-by-step recap of our snowman excitement.
fruit by the foot
mini chocolate chips
white rainbow rounds (melted to cover the marshmallows)
long sucker sticks
The white rainbow rounds and the long sucker sticks I had to purchase at a baking/candy making specialty shop called The Vanilla Bean. Everything else I picked up at the grocery store.
Have the kids push three marsmallows onto the sucker sticks, and make sure they are close together. Melt the white rainbow rounds in a shallow dish in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Roll the marshmallows on the sticks in the melted white chocolate until completely covered, let the excess drip off. Place on wax paper. Before hardening quickly place the mini chocolate chips to make eyes and a mouth and buttons. Truly, the kids can do all of this on their own.
Using the frosting as glue, place a peach ring and kiss on the top for a hat. Gently push 2 pretzel sticks in for the arms. Cut the fruit by the foot in 8-inch lengths and then cut in half lengthwise to make the scarf skinnier. Wrap the scarf around the neck and squeeze together to hold in place.
I know the snowman is blurry, but so am I!
Snowman mission accomplished.
My daughter is keeping a countdown to Christmas on a large chalkboard I have in my kitchen. Every morning she changes the number and announces to me how many days are left. I love her enthusiasm but it is making me panic a bit. I am not ready, yikes! I still have that manuscript haunting my every move. I am making good progress with just a few days to go on that. There are too many countdowns going on right now!
In knitting news, I have started some needle felting. It is pretty fun. I made some dots on this felted bag I had made awhile ago. It is an easy way to add some color and interest to your fabric. You'll be seeing more of this from me in the future. I see a lot of possibilities.
I heard from Robin Armstrong that the Knitting for Noggins charity hat drive has currently collected 24,000 hats! This is incredible. She also said they have collected donations from 22 states. I can't get over the success of this project. It's pretty darn impressive. I thought the original goal of 10,000 hats sounded like high number.
Well, off I go to make the cutest marshmallow snowmen with my girls for their classes at school tomorrow. I will share these little creations with you later. This is a project even little kids can really do with just a little adult help, it's the perfect recipe. The snowmen are a sweet tradition at our house every year. The kids love it and it's good winter fun!
Friday, December 15, 2006
I know this isn't the best shot, but I don't have time to re-do it this morning. I wanted to show how you can include some knitting in your holiday cards. I knitted tiny stockings, one for each child. Next, I took their school pictures and cut out their heads and put them peeking out of the stockings. I literally cut and pasted this thing together, only I used Scotch tape. My girls threw in some artwork and voila! Instant Christmas cards.
I took the paper, with the actual stockings and pictures taped on, to the copy shop and ran color copies. Crayon drawings copy really well, by the way. The copies make it look like each card is individually colored by hand. The knitted stockings look so real you can see every stitch. Almost every year I use my children's artwork for our holiday card. Children's ideas and thoughts are meant to be celebrated and shared, it is simply the best.
Cheers to our children!
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
I happened to check out the new winter Knitty issue yesterday, and I had to knit Center Square by London Nelson. What a great hat! I ran out and picked up some Julia by Kristin Nicholas at a shop close to my house. The yarn is used doubled throughout so it is a quick knit, and I mean quick. I made it up this morning, and the result is terrific. I am tempted to keep it because it is so warm with that double-thick yarn and the fair isle stranding on the inside. I will most likely give it for another gift, I just like to dream for a bit. Find this pattern and many other fantastic knits at www.knitty.com.
The other morning treat I enjoyed are these spectacular Honey Crisp apples. I lucked into these at a local market because I thought the season had run out and there they were. These apples have the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch. I've been eating them dipped in cinnamon-raisin cream cheese for breakfast. Yum!
Sunday, December 10, 2006
I have a couple of quickies today.
I finished the set for Piper. The matching scarf is made out of Manos on US size 11 needles. I casted on 26 stitches and worked in a 2x2 rib for 40 inches. I alternated colors in longer blocks and stripes in a random way. I made three poms for each end that are 2 inches and 10 wraps each (I held three strands together while wrapping). It is the perfect child-size scarf. You don't want a long scarf for a child. Another knitted gift can be checked off my list. Hooray! This set was made from 3 skeins of Manos with a little to spare.
The next bit of news is that the Craftsanity podcast with my interview was posted last night. I think Jennifer did a terrific job putting it together. The free Santa Baby ornament pattern is now posted as well so I hope people whip up some teeny-tiny (vs. itty-bitty) hats before the holidays. You can find all of that at www.craftsanity.com so check it out if you get a chance.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Ok, I had to squeeze in one more Christmas hat I just finished. Manos makes some of the best colorways ever. The purples in this mix are glorious and they compliment each other to the utmost. Once again, I used the Stipey Stocking Hat pattern from Itty-Bitty Hats. A little ribbed matching scarf with poms for the ends is being worked up right now. This is for a dear friend of mine's grand-daughter named Piper. I love that name and she is as cute as can be with her white blond hair and rosy cheeks. I can just see her in these beautiful purples. I am getting down to the wire with my Christmas knitting and I may have to resort to shopping (the dread of it).
I promised awhile ago that I would talk about my coffee table. This is an antique table that was in terrible shape when I got it. It is oak, I think, and I gave it a good sanding to remove the finish a bit before I started working on it. Next, I primed the table covering every nook and cranny. Then I painted it in an ivory color.
When that dried I dragged the table outside and got out my handy electric sander. I started in on sanding all of the corners and edgings of the table until the original wood showed through. This table is unusually long and it has that weird octagon shape, so there are many corners and edges to work on. Next I used a brown stain to go over the ivory and sanded sections of the table to give it that antique look.
Banged up looking furniture is a plus at my house with everyone banging around all of the time. I have a big family in numbers and size! My husband is 6'5" and a couple of the kids are following in this suit. Nothing stays pristine for very long, which is why I like to refinish furniture to look used. Then I don't worry about it. With a big family there is no room in our house to have anything off limits and we are just a comfortable-type group anyway.
The fun part of the process came next. I had been collecting vintage luggage labels that I found in these little tins. I love stuff like this. The labels represent places from all over the world. Some stickers show hotels and some show vacation destinations. These were the perfect treatment for my table top. I was going to spread them out, leaving some of the paint sticking through, but then my son suggested overlapping them to create a denser surface. I thought that was a great idea.
I am a girl born in the 1960's and anything with the names mod and podge in the title is a friend of mine! I think decoupage is one of the top 3 crafts I enjoy. I actually stuck the stickers into place and then I applied several coats of Mod Podge to get a solid finish. I have used Mod Podge on many items in my house like lamp shades, sketch book covers, serving trays, my studio work tables and decorative bottles to name a few. I am thinking about Mod Podging an entire powder room's walls with either comics or maps, I can't decide. I think it would be really cool looking.
Anyway, back to the table, it is a show-stopper. I have it in the front room of my house so it is one of the first things you see when you come in and everyone loves it! Everyone asks about it and studies the labels. It is really fun. This table had been water-stained and taking up room in the basement for years, I had considered getting rid of it many times. This makes it even more gratifying to have it turn into a new piece of furniture in my home. On the table I keep an enormous suede-covered sketch book open and a pot of colored pencils ready for action. When people come over they can leave a sketch for us to enjoy. We've had lots of takers. My daughter and I spend a lot of time sketching in there, too.
Right after I made this table I bought the book Alterknits by Leigh Radford where she decoupaged a dress form with yarn labels. Now I have collected bags of yarn labels just waiting for another piece of furniture to cover with my beloved Mod Podge. I don't think I will cover my dress form because I like to pin things on it. But cover a piece of furniture? Oh yeah!
Mod Podge + me = friends forever.
p.s. Now I am thinking about those yarn labels covering the powder room walls. Double oh yeah!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Did you know you can now watch Knitty Gritty on HGTV? I caught another episode this morning at 10:00am central time today. I know that they are showing episodes every Monday at this time, so I was surprised to see it today. I'll have to check out when they are scheduling this throughout the week. It is fun to watch when they have fun designers on that I am dying to see. Have you been following the Yarn Harlot's sock knitting for the show? Nightmare!
Just now as I am writing I had to stop to answer a knock on the door. It was the FedEx man with my manuscript for book #2! I have editing to do. This is the first round. The manuscript is sent from me to my editor. After he goes through and makes sure it is all together, the manuscript goes to a technical editor for several weeks. Then I get it to go through the changes and answer queries from both of them. This happens 3 or 4 times total, and the editing continues right up until printing time. It is tedious, intense, and at times, really not much fun, but it is necessary to say the least. The amount of work that goes into putting a book together is staggering, but nothing is more rewarding than seeing the fruits of your knitting labor in a beautiful book. I love every minute of it, even the editing. I finished my Christmas cards this morning, and yes, my card included knitting in the picture. I don't have a scanner but I should share this because it turned out really good. I'll have to work on that. I still have a lot of shopping to do. It always works out in the end, so I am not worried yet. Maybe I should open the package before I make statements like that.
The Craftsanity podcast with my interview is coming out later this week (no later than Saturday) along with the Santa Baby ornament pattern. Jennifer took lots of pictures of me and my things when I met her in Michigan, so I have no idea what she will post from those. Maybe some, maybe none. I will let you know exactly when it is available. She just posted an interview with Betty Christiansen a couple of weeks ago. Betty edited Itty Bitty Hats, so it was especially fun for me to hear her interviewed. She did a great job.
I love knitted toys to no end. The shaping and seaming can be a lot, but the toys I make are always small, so the knitting is incredibly fast. This sweet bunny I knitted for my daughter last Christmas. The pattern is from Toy Knits by Debbie Bliss (j'adore!). This book is a must have for any toy knitter. Debbie's a genius at making these clever little toys beyond cute. Toy Knits is one of my all-time favorite books and was published in 1995. It is good to remember older books because they have continued value for today's knitters. All of my books bring back memories for me, and patterns for toys never go out of style, so these types of books remain current. In my book #2, there are many knitted toys and I got the biggest kick out of knitting them. I am pondering writing an entire book on knitted toys. It is one of the most enjoyable forms of knitting for me. I have a major thing for tiny knitted goodies.
Well, off to open that envelope...wish me luck.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Yesterday was all Christmas-y. Every year we cut down our tree at a tree farm, and I say we generously. My husband and one of my sons do most all of the work. The rest of us help a little, but mainly we help select the tree. I love how my youngest daughter sneaks under the tree to help carry it back to the car. It was bitter cold, so those knitted hats are key.
The Christmas gifts are still flying off my needles. The stripey gloves are for another niece, who is 16 years old. I made them using the same pattern from Louisa Harding I mentioned earlier, only this time I used some Jo Sharp 100% dk wool on a US size 6 needle. I have tons of this wool in a lot of colors from at least 8 years ago. I made a sweater for my daughter and I had way too much yarn. This is the perfect way to use up some stash. I love mis-matched socks, mittens and gloves for some reason, and I like to knit them, too. I think it's about not following any certain pattern for the second item in a pair. It makes the knitting more interesting and the final product more fun. I hope she likes them.
This morning, as I wrapped up my second-grade daughter for school in her knitted sweater, knitted hat and knitted scarf, I told her she looked like knitted goodness today! I could tell she was smiling by her eyes peeking out. The rest of her face was hidden by her scarf and hat. I feel like she is wrapped up in my handmade love when I see her wearing all of that knitwear. It is the best way to start a cold Monday morning.
Friday, December 01, 2006
One more knitted Christmas gift in the can! I love these big chunky mittens because I can literally sit down and have them finished in no time at all. I have a few more pairs of these to go before the season is through. These also make wonderful teacher gifts because they are relatively inexpensive, they are heartfelt, and they are perfect for recess duty in the dead of winter. The felted balls are from www.ornamentea.com (thanks to Betz White for this site-it is fabulous). I also ordered larger felted balls, felted rings, and felted flowers. These all can be used for a quick embellishment for any knitted project-it's a great find.
I am providing the pattern below so you can whip out some mittens of your own for family and friends. I wrote it up quickly, so let me know if you find any errors. I can finish a pair in about 45 minutes from start to finish. I know I am speedy, but I used to teach these to very new beginners and they could finish one mitten in an hour (I am talking about knitters who didn't even know how to purl when they sat down). So with any amount of knitting experience these will be fast for you, too.
You can vary the length of the cuff (some like it shorter or longer) and you can always add length to the thumb or hand if need be, try them on as you go. I had students do this who were knitting these mittens for their husbands with larger hands. Watch the yardage when adding length so you don't run out of yarn, if you make them much longer you may want to pick up an extra ball.
I also know someone at my old shop who knitted this pattern using worsted weight yarn and US size 7 needles and they were the perfect young child-size mitten. I am not sure about the sizing on those, but they would be worth a try if you are so inclined.
What about a mitten ornament using a dk, sport or fingering weight yarn? Just add a crocheted chain stitch loop for hanging. It could happen and it could be cute!
1 ball Rowan Big Wool (I used Tricky #030 for the mittens above)
US size 15 needles (I used 24-inch circular needles, Addi Turbo)
2 balls Tahki Baby
US size 13 needles
Felted balls (optional)
Sewing needle and thread (optional)
Size: Average-size adult, large child or teen
Gauge: 8 ½ sts to 4 inches
Cast on 22 sts. Begin with a knit row, continue in stockinette stitch for the entire mitten.
Shape for thumb:
Next row: k15 and stop. Cast on 5 sts using the backward loop method, and turn.
**Next row: Purl the 5 cast on sts, p5 more (10 sts total for thumb) and turn.
Work 6 more rows on these 10 sts only. End with a purl row.
Next row: (p2tog) repeat across the row (4 sts remain).
Cut the yarn leaving about a 6-inch end, and place on a yarn needle. Thread through the remaining 4 sts. Pull up tight and join thumb seam, using a mattress stitch or whip stitch.
Next row: Decrease 2 sts at base of thumb while purling across the row. (20 sts remain)
Work a further 14 rows straight on these 20 sts, ending with a purl row.
Decrease for the top of the mitten as follows:
Row 1: (k3, k2 tog) repeat across the row (16 sts remain).
Row 2: purl
Row 3: (k2, k2 tog) repeat across the row (12 sts remain).
Row 4: purl
Row 5: (k2tog) repeat across the row (6 sts remain).
Cut the yarn leaving about an 8-inch end, and place on a yarn needle. Thread through the remaining 6 sts. Pull up tight and join side seam using the mattress or whip stitch (see the note above about seaming).
Work the same as for the right mitten to *.
Shape for thumb:
Next row: k10 and stop. Cast on 5 sts using the backward loop method and turn.
Complete the same as for the right mitten from **.
Turn up the cuff and sew on felted balls around the edge with a sewing needle and thread.