Category Archives: knitting

JP’s Hobby Horse!

The hobby horse for my nephew is essentially done! And by essentially, I mean that I still need to finish stuffing it, weave in two ends, re-sew up the ears, and find a cane/dowel/broom handle to use as the ‘body’ of the horse. But that’s not really so VERY much left, is it? Right.

I do not have all that much experience knitting fair isle, so this was a really fun opportunity to experiment with color and tension while carrying yarn around back. My approach was to twist the two colors I was using around each other after every two stitches, to keep things nice and even. This worked out well, and now the ‘horse’ feels very thick because there is a double layer of yarn, so to speak. The pattern called for eyes to be sewn on using duplicate stitch, but I thought that buttons would be more fun and really pop.

I also changed the colors a bit. The pattern uses a full rainbow of colors, with an oatmeal/tan color as a neutral. While my nephew is turning two next month and might not mind a rainbow-colored toy now, I worried that in a few years he might feel like he shouldn’t have toys with rainbows on them, or be made fun of for playing with one. I struggled with this decision, because these kinds of stupid social pressures that we put on children (or really people in general) bother me a great deal, and part of me said, “I should teach him that it’s ok to be a boy and play with a toy that is rainbow-colored.” Ultimately, however, I concluded that he is two years old, this is a gift for him and not a political/social statement, and it is more important to make something that I think he will like than to ‘teach him a lesson’ with it. So I compromised and switched out purple for chocolate brown. The effect is to make the horse look more colorful than rainbow-y (I think, anyway. I don’t know, you guys let me know if I’m just being crazy here.)

Brandon thinks I should make the mane a little bit fuller than the pattern called for, as right now it looks a little like the horse is balding, or maybe like he has a mohawk. I’m still debating whether to add more or not, so if you have an opinion on the matter, please leave it in comments!

After working on my lace shawl for so long, this project felt like it knitted up in seconds, and my size 10 needles felt ginormous in my hands. I loved everything about this pattern – it was complex enough to be interesting and fun, but simple enough to not be frustrating. It is a very adaptable pattern, with a lot of room for experimentation with color or form. I considered doing something else for the ears besides knitting them on, for instance – maybe a piece of soft leather sewn on? – and there are plenty of other places for extra little touches to be added, such as the button eyes. The sky is the limit with this pattern!

I used Lamb’s Pride worsted weight yarn, 85% wool/15%mohair from Brown Sheep Company. One skein of each color was way more than enough, and I am now using the leftovers for a few fun little projects that I will be blogging about at a later time. The one thing about using this yarn that was a little annoying was that it is variable in its thickness, so at some parts of the horse there are little gaps where the yarn is thin. Other than that, I absolutely loved working with it, and I am planning to buy more for other projects in the future. If you are interested in buying some, there is a link to the company’s website here.

The pattern I used was in the Fall 2012 issue of Interweave Knits, my favorite knitting magazine, as discussed in a previous post. A link to pictures of all of this issue’s projects – and to subscribe to the magazine if you would like – can be found here. Finally, here is a picture of the magazine’s original hobby horse, which can be compared to my own take on it.

So, what do you guys think?

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Filed under Crafting, goals, knitting, projects, Uncategorized, Unfinished Projects

The Shawl – Photos!!

Well, the shawl is done, and here are the photos! I am planning to enter it into the Champlain Valley Fair – please let me know what you think!

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all of the laundry I’ve been neglecting…blocking is more fun! ImageImageImage

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Filed under knitting, Uncategorized

Ladies and Gentlemen…

Ladies and Gentlemen….at 1:06 this morning…..the shawl is completed.

I am in a sleep- and food-deprived daze…I have been knitting for 12 hours straight today, my homework is not submitted, and I have to be up at 6:00am (that’s five hours from now, for those of my readership who were not blessed with stellar math skills.) But the shawl is made. I can hold it and wrap it around myself and it is warming me up right now, and I don’t really feel capable of forming a coherent sentence right now I am so excited and confused. It’s taken almost three years to complete, six months of work, tens of thousands of stitches, hundreds of hours, but this piece is finally done, and I cannot wait to show it to you.

Even though the knitting is done, I still need to weave in ends, wash it, and block it, so I have made the decision to not share pictures until it is in its final, completed, beautiful form. The one thing I will share right now is this:

The Last Stitch

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Filed under Crafting, goals, Jane Sowerby, knitting, lace, Life, Lost shawl, portfolio, projects, shawl, The Cap Shawl, Uncategorized, Victorian Lace Today

My Nephew’s Birthday Present

Today was a great day! Why? Because I went to work for 8 hours and then followed it up with an hour of filling out tedious paperwork! Just kidding, it’s because my fall issue of Interweave Knits arrived in the mail, and with it, an idea for my nephew’s birthday present! My nephew is turning 2 in September, and picking out his present is a big freaking deal. Not only is he the most adorable, clever, fun, and sweet nephew ever (other than my other nephew, Riley), but he lives three and a half hours away, putting me pretty close to the top of the list of World’s Most Terrible Aunts. I don’t get to see him that often, and when I do, I feel like we just start to form a bond and then I have to leave again. It breaks my heart every time. Which is why picking out the perfect birthday present is so important! And I am hoping I found it.

First of all, let me just say that a subscription to a good magazine is one of the best gifts I can think of (though this is NOT the gift I’m getting for my nephew), which is why I am so happy that I was given a subscription to Interweave Knits for Christmas. In my opinion, they produce some of the best content, and some of the best, cutest, and – most importantly – most wearable* clothes of any knitting magazine I’ve seen.  Add to that their great online presence with excellent free content and videos, along with their attention to other crafts in addition to knitting, and I think they offer the best bang for your buck. Plus, there is the major point that I consistently like their patterns more than most other magazines, which tend to be hit or miss for me.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t overly fond of many of this issue’s patterns because they just didn’t happen to be my style, but the ones I liked I fell in love with. And one of these, is going to be my nephew’s birthday present. What is this magical item, you ask? It’s a hobby horse, and it’s freaking awesome.

For those of you who do not know what a hobby horse is, the ones you buy in the store look something like this:

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You can purchase this one at http://www.sunny-bears.com/inv/gund/hobby-horse.php

And the ones you make at home look something like this:

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This one can be found at http://www.ms-notsoperfect.com/2011/04/bugz-horsefly-costume.html

Mine was named Trigger; he was made by my mother and was loved to death. We still have him, but I think he’s missing a few facial features at this point. The point of this toy is that a small child with a humongous imagination will straddle this stick, hold it with one hand and the ‘reins’ with the other, and gallop around on his or her ‘horse’, having all kinds of dangerous and wonderful adventures. I loved this toy, and I am hoping my nephew will as well. It is coming at a good time, I think, considering his new fascination with ‘skipping’, which tends to look more like a gallop anyway.

I will post a pic as soon as I can, but for now suffice it to say that this one is very colorful, with a fair isle motif in big blocks of color all over it, and a funky blue mane sticking out the back!

*By this I mean that many knitwear designers either go too simple with their clothes, so they’re boring to knit and to wear, or too complex so the clothes just look silly and no one except a super model or movie star would actually wear them out in public (I’m looking at you, Vogue Knitting.) Interweave Knits strikes a good balance by featuring beautiful clothing that is complex and interesting, but has classic lines and styles that anyone would feel chic and comfortable wearing. This, I think, is the mark of truly good design.

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July 27, 2012 · 1:52 am

The Tale of the Lost Shawl

I have been graduated for exactly four weeks now, and so far, it’s…alright. I had a lovely two-week vacation from work, which caused me to decide that my new goal in life is to become rich enough to not have to work anymore (Brandon: wow babe, that’s a really original life goal. I don’t think anyone else has thought of that before). I have now been back at work for two weeks, and it has been hectic, to say the least. We have driven down to Massachusetts with my friend Andy so that he and I could perform at the annual Crane Concert to benefit a scholarship for seniors at my high school (have I ever told you guys I’m 1/2 of a folk-singing duo?) We have moved apartments and somehow condensed everything from our previous place into one bedroom at the new place. We once again have roommates (which, as awesome as they are, is a big adjustment). We have had to find a temporary home for Skipper and Boots because they cannot stay at the new apartment (we’re only here temporarily and will hopefully get them back from Brandon’s mom soon). Brandon was flown out to Frankfurt, Germany by a company that we are anxiously waiting to hear back from in regards to a sweet job for him. And I have been trained on approximately 50,000 new things at work in 1 1/2 days and now am supposed to be responsible for all of them starting Monday. No pressure.

Despite all of this, there are a lot of things I have not done: I have not written out my thank you cards from graduation, or my graduation announcements (sorry everyone – I promise I appreciate everything you’ve done); I have not called to shut off the electricity at the old apartment – actually, correction: I have not successfully called to shut off the electricity. I have called roughly 10 times, and each time I get a busy signal. What business still has a busy signal in the 21st century?; I have not finished unpacking from the move; and I have not written any new blog posts about any of these wonderful things: until now.

Side note: Brandon, being the wonderful human being that he is, has just brought me a glass of wine. This could get interesting.

The story begins almost exactly two years ago, when Brandon and I had been dating for a mere three months and decided to move in together. He was 21 and I was 20, and we felt like this was a good idea for three reasons:
1. we were crazy about each other and being in each others’ space 24/7 sounded, frankly, heavenly.
2. Our new apartment was big enough that we each had our own room and our own bathroom.
3. After four months we would be starting our year apart due to him studying in Montreal for the fall and me in Dublin for the spring, so if we ended up hating each other we only had to live with it for the summer.

Luckily for us it seems to have worked out so far.

My dad came up to help us with the move and he, Brandon and I set about the task of packing up my books, yarn, and spinning wheel and moving me from my dorm on campus to the school apartments one town over. At the time of the move, I had been working on this shawl:

You can find the blog of the knitter who completed this one here.

It’s The Cap Shawl from my #1 favorite knitting book of all time: Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. This book was my introduction to lace, which is now my absolute favorite thing to knit. At the time I first laid eyes on it I was unsure of spending $30 for a knitting book. I was working at Northampton Wools, and I now shudder to think what my life would be like if the other ladies working there hadn’t convinced me it was a worthwhile purchase. I had been working on the shawl for about four months, and was a decent way through it. The shawl is circular, starting in the middle and working slowly outwards with each row becoming longer and longer, so even though it looked like I was most of the way done, I still had many hours of knitting ahead of me. The pattern was complex, hardly even a pattern by the strictest definition of the word; this was a piece to work on without a tv show or conversation in the background – just you and the wool and your thoughts.

My hand-drawn pattern notes

At the time of the move I was keeping the shawl in a regular plastic grocery bag, as part of my ultra-sophisticated knitting project organization system. In direct violation of my ultra-sophisticated knitting project organization system, I left the bag very near to a pile of trash piled up in the room.

After we were all settled in to our new apartment, I began hunting around for my shawl, wanting to continue working on it. Huh. It wasn’t with my other knitting stuff. Hmmm….it wasn’t with the kitchen stuff. Nor was it with my clothes, books, or any of Brandon’s stuff. Uh-oh…..I thought back to the last time I remembered having it: when I placed it down on the floor, semi-close to the pile of trash. I thought about Brandon and my dad, each of them having gone out on several trash runs to the dumpster throughout the move. I thought, and thought, and then very quickly worked hard not to throw up. Oh god….it had been thrown out. My beautiful shawl, months in the making, each of the 66,000 stitches lovingly handcrafted by my nimble fingers, gone, forever. Face ashen, I stumbled into Brandon’s new room and tried to keep my voice steady as I told him the news. Then, I broke down and sobbed.

Brandon and my dad both felt terrible about what had happened, and, not knowing which one of them was responsible, I couldn’t bring myself to be angry with either of them. That hangdog, guilty look gets me every time. Slowly, I moved on from the loss. I took the Jane Sowerby book down off the shelf and flipped through the pages, imagining which shawl I might start next. I fingered lace-weight alpaca in my new LYS, Kaleidoscope Yarns, and began to see new projects coming together in my mind. I have made two more shawls since then, and am working on a third.

This picture of an adorable ferret sleeping in bed like a
human is here to break up the tension of this terribly sad story.

Flash forward two years, to last weekend. Brandon, Andy and I had a lovely 3 1/2 hour car ride down to Massachusetts and arrived just in time for sound check at the Crane Concert. We opened the show with four songs, one of which I wrote last year, and had a lovely evening listening to all the acts that followed, including my mom’s band which featured a song with my dad on the trumpet. We had a blast, and went home sleepy around midnight. The next morning Brandon and I had brunch with my parents and then began packing up for our trip back to Vermont – we had to move out of our apartment that weekend and needed to get back. I looked over my home yarn stash, thinking I could use a new mix of yarns to throw into the stash I keep in Burlington. I grabbed some baby alpaca I bought years ago for a super secret project that may or may not be featured in a later post, some baby alpaca lace in case I want to start any new shawls this summer (sensing an alpaca theme? Good, you should be), and then my eyes fell on something right in the front of one of the cubbies. It was a little white plastic bag that I hadn’t noticed before. Curiously, I picked it up, untied the handles, and looked inside. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was my beautiful, half-finished shawl! I ran out to Brandon and my dad and shouted the news in both of their faces. Their expressions quickly changed from confused to elated as they realized that they were not horrible people after all, but good and wonderful people once more.

I have no idea how this miracle occurred, but I am too excited to care about the particulars. Now that we’re moved in I have begun working on it once more, putting all other projects on hold. Unfortunately, circular lace-in-progress looks kind of like some sort of weird hole-filled bag, but I promise I will post a better picture when it’s completed!

Have you ever lost a precious project? I’d love to hear your lost and/or found stories!

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Filed under Brandon, Crane Concert, Jane Sowerby, knitting, lace, Lost shawl, Northampton Wools, shawl, The Cap Shawl, Victorian Lace Today, Wine

The Sweater From Hell

Like most relationships, it started out so well. We hung out together every day for several hours, we went on trips together, we made memories and watched movies and spent quality time with friends together. We were inseparable. But then, about five months after we met, everything went horribly, horribly wrong. I am speaking, of course, about this:

I hate you.

Let me back up. This time last year I was studying abroad in Dublin freaking Ireland, and it was amazing and wonderful and I miss it every single day (for more info, visit my other blog, The Fair Green Isle). When packing for my trip, the amount I could bring was very limited, so alas, most of my knitting supplies had to remain behind, scared and lonely in my childhood bedroom. But I was going to be there for four whole months; I couldn’t just NOT knit for that long! So one of my first orders of business upon stepping foot on the sweet, winding streets of Dublin City was to scope out a potential temporary LYS (Local Yarn Shop). And boy, did I strike gold. In the Powerscourt shopping center off of Grafton Street, there was a small yarn shop charmingly named This Is Knit. It was bright, cozy, and had very friendly and knowledgeable staff: I quickly made myself at home.

Doesn’t it look inviting?

I had an idea for a project while I was in Ireland: to make myself an “Ireland” sweater. Knit with wool from Ireland, needles from Ireland, I would make myself a long, thick, warm, cowled, cable-knit sweater, and I had found the perfect pattern several weeks previously in a European knitting magazine back at home. I was undaunted by the fact that the needles were from England. I was unphased by the fact that I had never attempted a sweater of such complexity before. I was in Dublin freaking Ireland, and I could do anything. How wrong I was.
By the time the semester was half over, I had the front and back of the sweater completely finished. It was a little odd with its variegated brown colors, but I was love with it, and I was euphoric in my triumph. Only the sleeves left to go! I would have it finished by the time I got home, and then have all summer to worry about blocking it and sewing the seams before it got cold again. Hooray! Then, approximately 30 rows in to the first sleeve, I did a small double take. There were five edge stitches on one side, and six on the other. How could that be? I went back through the pattern, scrutinized every stitch I had made. They matched up. But I MUST have missed something, so I frogged the sleeve, gave it a few days to give me fresh eyes, and tried it again. This time 18 rows in, I had seven edge stitches on the right, and eight on the left. What was going on? Five tries later, I had had enough. I was defeated. About the third attempt, I began trying to just fudge the pattern, make it work, cast on an extra stitch, something, anything, to get me through this stupid sleeve. It all ended the same way: a pile of crimped yarn, cruelly unbound, lying in a puddle in my lap.
The Debbie Bliss yarn, Glen, pre-puddle.
After I got home, I took this pesky pattern to my real LYS, Northampton Wools in Northampton, MA. The owner, Linda, sat with me for a half hour, looking it all over with a practiced eye. Eventually, she told me there was simply a mistake with the pattern and that I would just have to fudge it. A mistake! I’m not crazy! The person writing the pattern (upon whom I now wish great personal ill (just kidding)) made a mistake, and made me waste tens of hours on an asinine problem – but I’m not crazy! I quickly went to the magazine’s website to let them know of the mistake and see if there was anything on the forums for solving this problem – finally – FINALLY – I might get some answers! And then, after all my agonizing, all my searching, when I thought my pain was finally at an end, I got a tiny little email, letting me know ever so sweetly that the editor’s inbox was full, and my request for access to the forums could not be delivered. After much cursing and a small (read: large) temper tantrum that was awesome to behold, I threw the stupid thing in a bin and hoped to never look at it again. 
Early this semester, nearly a year later, I briefly picked it up again and tried to figure out where I was, remember the pattern again. It felt brand new again, and for a bit I thought I might actually make it. However, finding myself becoming immersed in the old frustration, I quickly allowed myself to get distracted by an awesome lace shawl (to be featured in an upcoming post), and here it lies, still, to this day, a sad little unfinished sleeve.
I still want to finish this sweater – very much so. Maybe some day after graduation, when things calm down a little bit (yeah, right), I will take another crack at it. For now, anyone who has any knowledge of the Charlotte pattern from Verena magazine’s Winter 2010 issue, please let me know.

What knitting – or writing, crafting, painting, etc. – skeletons lie in your closet? 

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Filed under Ireland, knitting, Northampton Wools, Sweater from Hell, This Is Knit, Verena Magazine, yarn, yarn store

In The Middle

I am familiar with being in the middle. Born the middle of three daughters, I am of the opinion that the middle is a great place to be. At the very time that I was driving my older sister crazy, I knew exactly how she felt because my little sister was doing the same to me. When I was a jerk to my little sister, I knew what she was going through because my older sister had treated me the same way. This has given me a unique perspective on life, and I feel it has made me better able to see different points of view, and has made me a more compassionate person. However. Being in the middle is not always the best thing.

Anyone who has ever undertaken a lengthy project can attest to this: the middle sucks. You’ve already figured out how to accomplish what you need to, and now you’ve lost interest completely. You’ve already put hours/days/weeks/months of work into it, with the same or more left yet to do. What once was exciting and new is now boring as hell, and the idea of stabbing yourself in the eye with a spoon is preferable to spending one more minute on this stupid godforsaken project that you never wanted to start in the first place.

I have now been working on my Capstone project for two months, and we have two months left to go. And it shows. Morale is low, motivation is even lower, and the stress and craziness of finishing school and finding a job is sucking up all the time and energy we have, leaving none behind to work on our project. As producer, I am tasked with getting my team out of this bog, while I’m drowning in it right alongside them. I’m in it so deep it’s hard to see the way out, and harder still to drum up the motivation to start the long, hard slog. So what’s a girl to do? As with most things in life, I turn to knitting.

Looking around my apartment, I see a dozen projects that are waiting patiently for me to finish them after I put them down for ‘a short break’ during that boring middle section. Here’s my wall of shame:

The beginning of a sweater.
A scarf I started last week.
A scarf to match some fingertip-less gloves I made.
Detail
A lace scarf I started in high school.
A lace shawl started several years ago.
A lonely mitten.
A silk scarf for my mother.
Same scarf for my mother.
Musical gloves for my mother – sorry Mom!
The sleeve from the Sweater from Hell – look for this
again in an upcoming post!
Had to bring knitting to see Star Wars
Episode 1 in 3D, and this was it.
I only got this far because I ran out of yarn 😦

So clearly, I have been defeated by the dreaded middle a time or two in my day – this doesn’t even cover the projects sitting at my parent’s house! So, here are my three tips for getting over the hump and actually finishing projects, knitting and otherwise:

1. If you can afford to, give yourself a break from it; however, avoid giving yourself an open-ended break. Set a time or date when you will get back to it, and make sure you stick to it.

2. Try to remember the things that you loved about the project in the beginning – make yourself fall in love with it all over again. Staying enchanted can help you finish it!

3. Try looking at it from a different angle. Sick of that stupid cable running up the front of your sweater? Put that part on a stitch holder and get cracking on those sleeves you’ve been dying to try. Getting bogged down in paperwork? Switch to a more hands-on part of the project for a bit until you’re refreshed and ready for another go. When becoming bored and/or frustrated, working on a different part of the same project can help to keep you interested and sane.

How do you guys get over that hump in the middle of a big project? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Filed under Advice, college, Family, In the Middle, knitting, Management, projects, Senior Team, Thoughts, Unfinished Projects, yarn