Friday, January 31, 2014

FO Friday - Sweaters & hats for good measure

Woo - it was a productive week!  I love finishing projects, because I get to wear them.  And  those projects keep me warm during the polar vortexes and freak snowstorms we've been subjected to this winter!  Thank goodness for wool!

First up - a sweater for me!

This is the Mondo Cable Pulli by Chic Knits.  I loved knitting this sweater and I don't know why it took me so long to finish it.  I was cruising along and then just lost my mojo about half of a sleeve in.  Wait.  Yes - that was it.  Sleeves kill my mojo.  But anyway, those sleeves are done now & toasty warm!

I really like the fit on this sweater (mods listed on my project page in Ravelry) and I love the stability that the crochet 'seam' reinforcements provide.  One thing I don't like - the body hem rolls when I sit in this sweater for any length of time.  The rolling makes it flare a bit.  That's not cool.  I'm contemplating ripping this back and doing a more traditional ribbing instead.

Next up - a sweater for a baby (someone else's baby, to be clear)

This is a design I improvised to use up some of the pretty washable baby yarn I'd recently used on other projects.  I made some basic notes, but I wouldn't call it a pattern just yet.  I'm planning to make another one at some point & firm things up a bit, at which point I'll share.

This sweater will be worn by the baby of a former student, who was born before Christmas.  Hopefully it will fit her this spring to keep the Ohio chill off of her little arms!

But wait - there's more!

This is the Rosewater hat, by Tin Can Knits.  This was my first lace hat, and other than the k3togs, I really enjoyed it.  (The k3togs were okay, but they took a toll on my wrists after a while.)  I knit this hat out of alpaca from an alpaca named Lizzy at Root Down Acres, an alpaca farm near my parents' house.  The alpaca is beautifully colored, creamy soft to work with and super warm to wear.  The only downside - I found 4 joins in the yarn while knitting the hat, and a 5th when I was re-winding my leftovers.  That hasn't stopped me from wearing this several times, though!

Last, but not least:

Another Barley (this is 4, for those of you keeping track).  This time, out of Crystal Palace Merino 5 yarn - my first time working with it & wow, is it nice!!  I used my first yarn diet exception and purchased yarn that would make a great hat that would be machine washable.
This hat was knit & immediately gifted to the friend of a co-worker who is currently going through chemotherapy in hopes of eradicating her breast cancer.  Her favorite color is blue, so hopefully the soft wool & the calming blues & teals in this yarn will be comforting to her.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hidden Gems from the Grammy Awards Pre-Telecast

In case you didn't know you could watch the Grammys Pre-Telecast (and who did, really?  The hubs found this accidentally while we were looking for some sort of red carpet coverage - and this was far better!), you missed out on a few good acts!! You also missed some really entertaining hosting by Cyndi Lauper.

This is a much less pop-centric version of the show - I wish just a little of this diversity could have been shared with the televised audience.

Watch the entire Pre-Telecast here (limited time only) here - there were a lot of 'accepted on behalf of' moments, but people were sincere.

Here are some of the great acts you may have missed:
  • Summer Horns (including Dave Koz) - HOT jazz on a COLD night (I couldn't resist) 
  • La Santa Cecilia
  • Roomful of Teeth - not your standard choral performance, but well-done (and they won!)
Things I learned during this pre-telecast:
  • Cee Lo Green did a Christmas album - check it out!
  • Snoop Dogg has recreated himself as Snoop Lion & has a reggae album out
  • You can win a Grammy for best album notes - I've gotta get this gig!

The Classy Acceptance Speech award goes to Jennifer Gasoi for her remarks after accepting the Grammy for Best Children's Album.

The most graceful, humble and thankful to receive their awards were hands down at the 'pre-party'.  It was a little long, but a cool thing to know about & check out next year!

The Grammys or Why Do We Watch This Trainwreck?

Do you know where the term Grammy comes from?

From Wikipedia:

Grammy Award (originally called Gramophone Award) – or Grammy – is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and some of the awards of more popular interest are presented in a widely viewed televised ceremony. It is the music equivalent to the Emmy Awards for television, the Tony Awards for stage performances, and the Academy Awards for motion pictures.

My husband and I have regularly watched the Grammys - going back to when we were dating long-distance.  We watched in real time & texted about what we saw, who we enjoyed, who gave a disappointing performances & who shouldn't have been there at all.  It became a kind of tradition.  We were newlyweds the first time we watched the Grammys in the same room, and enjoyed all the same banter in person this time.  The performances were so lacking that year, the hubs (an audio professional, who has done everything from installation & troubleshooting/repair all the way to running live musical events) started identifying the microphones the 'artists' were using as a reason to continue watching.  He posted an interesting one on Facebook & got such a reaction, he continued posting throughout the telecast.  Being a trained musician & a former choral music teacher, it should no surprise that every year, I got Facebook posts, texts or emails from friends & former students asking for my take on different Grammy performances.  Eventually, I just started posting those observations on Facebook as well.   It's become part of our tradition, and other than the hubs' SIL saying that she had to turn off our Facebook notifications so she could sleep, we haven't heard much negative backlash about it.

Until last night.

I saw a multitude of people posting things like: 'I'm getting tired of all this Grammy crap in my newsfeed.' 'This is ridiculous - I'm not watching the Grammys and I don't care' or even people posting videos of 'real music' - operatic icons like Maria Callas & Joan Sutherland - and urging us to remember where our pop music came from or to watch real news.  I don't believe that the posting we saw last night during the Grammys differed much from the sports related posts we see any given Sunday (and now, Monday & Thursday, too), or during other award shows, like Oscars or Golden Globes, especially as cameo performances & musical acts continue to permeate those events.

While you will never hear me dogging Maria Callas, the parallel surprised me a bit. Music, like culture, evolves.  And if last night's presentation was indicative of the direction of our culture, perhaps we should take a closer look at that.

One comment particularly stung.  I posted the following after Daft Punk won their 2nd (televised) Grammy & accepted the award in total silence:
I don't care for Daft Punk. I think that Get Lucky isn't a good song. The lyrics are unimaginative & the vocals aren't anything impressive. It's repetitive & tacky. 
But not nearly as tacky as Daft Punk winning 2 Grammy awards and not even so much as signing "Thank you."
Please don't think I'm morally opposed to songs about sex; I have no fundamental problem with that.  But at least do so in a way that shows artistry, musicality or even a little creativity.  Take a page from Marvin Gaye's book here - that's all I'm saying.

The comment that got me was the first:
I'm starting to notice you don't care much for any of them.

Before I responded, I thought about all the posts I had made on Facebook that night - and it's true that at least half of them were negative.  We all know that Facebook likes to display things with lots of likes & comments ad nauseam.  People love snarky criticism (or at least most of my friends do) and snark draws comments.  Honestly, it's safe to assume that of the posts this friend had seen, it may have come across that way.  I didn't take offense to it.  Instead, I explained myself a bit:
There were a lot of solid performers who were nominated who didn't get the chance to perform. 
P!nk, Taylor Swift, Sara Bareilles & Carole King, Blake Shelton & the Highwaymen, John Legend all did a good job (and I posted about most of them - they just didn't get as many comments, so Facebook's news algorithm isn't showing those...). 
Several people liked my explanation & it didn't bother me any more.

But then it did.

I'm a music lover - anyone who knows me knows this.  Did I really come off as someone who didn't like anything that was lauded as 'the best of the industry'?  Lots of my friends & former colleagues in the music profession, people whose opinions I value, were right there with me, wondering why someone was rapping about tater tots on a night that was supposed to represent the best the industry has to offer.  Then I realized something: the Grammy presentation isn't about the music industry - it's about the spectacle that will bring ratings, appeal to the masses & get people talking.  Their goal isn't purely about music.  When we award spectacle for spectacle's sake, that's when I get critical.

There has been a lot of criticism directed at the Grammys over the years - by lots of artists, including winners.  Of all the critical comments I found about the Grammys, Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, said it best in 2002:
I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don't honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It's the music business celebrating itself. That's basically what it's all about.
While not everyone would think the front man for TOOL would be an expert on artistry, he makes a bold statement.  While I never really got into their music, read a few lines of their lyrics and you'll quickly see - these guys have something to say, even if you don't like their medium for communicating it.

What we see in the telecast isn't what the Grammys should really be about.  The telecast itself has changed the direction of the entire institution.  I don't think everyone has forgotten why they are part of NARAS - the Grammy winning record is currently held by Georg Solti, an accomplished orchestral and operatic conductor and the most Grammy recognized female is Alison Krauss, who's resin dust I'm not worthy to sweep up at the end of a recording session.  But those awards aren't shown anymore.  No one sees the nominees for so many worthy categories.  Why, in a 4 hour telecast, is the only classical musician invited to perform has to do so with Metallica? Sidenote: I like Metallica (and I liked last night's performance, particularly the fist-bumping that happened on-stage afterwards).  If you don't like Metallica and prefer classical music, go to the library and rent Metallica's S&M DVD, done in collaboration with the San Fransisco Symphony Orchestra.  AMAZING.  

Why are classical musicians only recognized when they can jam it out with other types of music?

I used to enjoy the Grammys when there was a glimpse of other genres than pop, rap & country (somewhat) represented.  The Grammys used to give me new artists to learn about, new sounds to explore and sparked interest in genres I didn't previously enjoy.  Those glimpses that used to widen viewers' horizons are gone, washed away in a nearly-4-hour spectacle that I couldn't even finish in one sitting.  The Grammys, as televised, don't celebrate music anymore.  They celebrate spectacle.

If you don't believe me, guess how many of the 82 awards were presented on the live telecast.  This play-at-home scorecard only estimates 12 will be presented live -  and I believe one of those (Darius Rucker's win for "Wagon Wheel") was presented at the end of the un-televised portion, which we caught the end of via the Grammy app.

If you want to win me as an audience member, you've got to make your awards show about what the name of your organization implies - music.  Show me performances that show artistry, talent, solid song-writing.  Showcase artists who have consistently proven they can perform a song & tell a story, those artists who have something to say, something to express, not just those with the most scandalous costumes, best choreography & most-likely-to-physically-harm-someone pyrotechnics.  Stop with the lip syncing & real-time auto-tuning. (TI: you get a pass on this one - auto-tuning is your whole schtick and I won't rob you of that.) If you can't perform live at the Grammys, you shouldn't be there. 

Before you start hating on me for that - think about this: there have always been performers who do all of the above, including the dance routines & the pyro.  I give you Michael Jackson, Madonna, Lady Gaga, P!nk.  The difference between these artists and the 'artist' who was pole-dancing on a broom during an unintelligible rap interlude last night is when you peel all the costuming, set pieces, choreography & make-up away, artists like those I named are telling a story - are singing in their own voices - are playing instruments - are contributing something musical to the world.  They are using spectacle as the vehicle to get their music and message out there and noticed.

Our culture thrives on spectacle and as long as that's the case, the Grammys will continue to serve only as that.

If you don't want that to be the musical culture you live in, I have one piece of advice: vote with your credit card.  Or your iTunes account.  Or your patronage of a local music store.  Expand your horizons, find musicians who are doing the things you like & support them.  That's the best way to ensure they'll keep making music that will stand up to the test of time.

I'm pretty sure we all don't want to listen to robots forever.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

An Open Letter to Parents from a DINK: We don't hate your kids

Dear friends who have children -

There are a few misconceptions that are out there that I really feel need to be dispelled.  After a few years of more than pointed inquiry about the subject, I want to clear a few things up.

Here are a list of common assumptions made as to why we don't have children.
  • We hate children.
  • We don't want to give up our easy-come, easy-go lifestyle.
  • We are selfish.
  • We are avoiding responsibility.
  • We don't value family.
As it turns out, none of those are true for my husband and I; I'm also guessing that this is the case for many other DINK (Double Income, No Kids) couples.

Here is how we feel about your children:
  • Your kids are pretty cool.
  • We enjoy getting to see them grow & do new things.
  • We like being faux-aunts & -uncles to them.
Here are some things we would like our friends who have children to know:
  • We still want to be your friends.  If hanging out means hanging out with your children most of the time, we're okay with that.  Please don't avoid interacting with us because you're convinced we won't want to hang out with you and your children.  Also, when you need time away from the children, we're a good call, too.  We know where the good hang outs are and perhaps the other spouse can help with the babysitting for the evening.
  • We may not have children, but we do have other relate-able aspects in our mutual lives.  While we aren't parents, this doesn't mean we no longer have anything in common.  We still have jobs, extended families, interests - and you should, too - and we would still like to talk to one another about those things.
  • Just because we don't have children doesn't mean we don't want to hear about yours.  We enjoy hearing about the new things they are doing/experiencing.
  • Please don't trivialize aspects of our lives when we do try to talk to you about them.  When my friends who are parents respond to something I'm going through with a 'my life is harder than yours because I have a screaming two year-old' anecdote, it is hard to maintain a friendship.  Any relationship is hard to maintain when one person is constantly trying to one-up the other.  Having a screaming two-year old is hard - don't get me wrong.  That doesn't make that what us DINKs are going through easy/easier.  Once your life changes so dramatically, it is easy to see how things get rosier on the 'other side', the childless side - there is still stress on this side, too.
  • Please don't assume we made this choice lightly and please don't think you have all the facts behind that decision.
At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own decisions.  Let's be supportive when we can & do our best to keep it to ourselves when we can't. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

FO Friday - Hats, Hats, Hats!

Alana Dakos knows leaves.  All kinds of leaves.  And I love them all.

This hat has been in my queue for a long time.  I had the yarn for it last fall, and I just had to have this hat before spring.  The pattern was quick & very easy - not too complicated for a first lace project. Since this is in the round the 'rest rows' are very clear & the lace just flows.  The hat went from start to finish in just a few days.

The yarn is Malabrigo Sock in Ivy.  I used a size 2 needle for the brim & a size 4 for the hat.

Another little one arrived this week - only this one wasn't due to arrive for quite some time.  Facebook has been great with updates and pictures & those pictures just left me thinking - "That little baby looks cold  - she needs a hat."  And hats I made.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I'm on Ravelry as a designer!

I realize that all I did was write down what I did when I needed something specific & couldn't find it elsewhere, but contributing to Ravelry makes it seem so much more official!

Hopefully this pattern helps someone else who is looking for a quick baby gift with chevrons!  If you're on Ravelry, I'd love if you check out my pattern page & favorite this design!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

3 things I really dislike & what those things made me thankful for

3 Things I really dislike:

  1. It took me an hour & forty minutes to make the 30 minute drive to work this morning.
  2. The squeak in my car that was mute for the mechanic yesterday reared its annoying head this morning, consistently throughout the hour & forty minute drive.
  3. Cars who feel that they don't need headlights/working brake lights.
And as much as I could gripe and whine all day about this (along with much of the metro area), once I safely arrived to work, that need to vent quickly passed.  As I sighed in the relief of arriving safely to my office, I realized I have very specific things to be thankful for in this situation.

3 Things I'm thankful for:
  1. I have a working vehicle with very efficient heat, so while I was not moving, at least I wasn't cold.
  2. I had several podcasts to listen to that helped me block out the squeaking sound made by the fan motor.  (Thanks, Abby from Knit Knit Cafe & Jen from Commuter Knitter - Jen, I now have a new appreciation for your drive every day! How do you do that & stay sane!?!)
  3. Even though there were several motorists (all of which were in gray/graphite/beige/invisible in dawn or dusk colors) without their headlights on, I'm thankful that I saw all of them before an accident occurred.  Also, in the case of the lack of brake lights, I'm glad I discovered this when we were in bumper-to-bumper gridlock & not when the offending Suburban was at a dead stop & I was not.  It could have ended badly.  I am thankful that it didn't.
  4. BONUS!  I made it home in a reasonable amount of time to my dogs, who were very happy to see me (and use the bathroom, I'm sure!).
Perspective matters. :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Chevron Baby Sleep Sack

As promised, here is the crochet pattern for the Chevron Sleep Sack!!

Chevron Baby Sleep Sack

Finished measurements: 15” long x 9” wide (flat)

  • worsted weight yarn (shown in Bernat Satin, flamingo & lavender) Main color: 75 grams, Contrasting color: 55 grams
  • Size I/9 hook or size needed to achieve gauge
  • yarn needle

14 st = 4 in. in double crochet
20 st = 4 in. in half double crochet
1 chevron pattern repeat = 2 ½ in.
Row gauge is not critical for this project – if you find you’ve established your desired length before you’ve completed the stripes, simply finish the current stripe & skip to the edging directions.

·         You can carry yarn up the inside of the sack to avoid weaving in a dozen ends.

·         Please do not leave baby unattended in this sleep sack.

ch = chain
sc = single crochet
hdc = half double crochet
dc = double crochet
MC = main color
CC = contrast color

Cast on & Round 1:
Using Main Color: Chain 3.  In 3rd chain, ch 2, dc 11, connect with a slip stitch
Using the Magic Loop crochet cast on, sc 6, close the loop, then dc in first stitch, then dc 2 in each remaining stitch. Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2. (11)

Round 2:  2 dc in each stitch.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2.  (22)
Round 3:  *dc, 2 dc in the next stitch* repeat around.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2. (33)
Round 4:  *dc 2, 2 dc in the next stitch* repeat around.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2. (44)
Round 5:  *dc 3, 2 dc in the next stitch* repeat around. Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2. (55)
Round 6:  *dc 4, 2 dc in the next stitch* repeat around.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2. (66)
Round 7:  *dc5, 2 dc in the next stitch* repeat around.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2. (77)
Round 8:  *dc6, 2 dc in the next stitch* repeat around.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2. (88)
Round 9:  hdc in each stitch. (88)

Chevron Pattern:  *hdc 4, 3 hdc in the same stitch, hdc4, skip 2 stitches* repeat around.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2.

Work 3 rows in chevron pattern with MC.
Work 3 rows in chevron pattern with CC.

Repeat the previous 6 rows in chevron pattern 4 times, for a total of 5 contrast color stripes (or until your desired length has been achieved).
After the 5th contrast color stripe:
hdc in each stitch.  Connect with a slip stitch & chain 2.
sc in each stitch.  Connect with a slip stitch & fasten off.

Weave in ends.

  1. Copyright Donita Westman, 2014.  All rights reserved. This pattern is for personal use only, and may only be used for commercial purposes with the express written permission of the designer.  


Friday, January 17, 2014

FO Friday - 18 Days of Christmas Socks

Sometimes you start socks and they fly off the needles.  Sometimes you start socks & you never finish the second one (I've never succumbed to that temptation, but trust me, I get it.).

I started these socks on Christmas Eve, thinking that it wasn't foolish to start Christmas socks on December 24 because there are 12 days of Christmas, not just one & I could surely finish a pair of socks in 12 days, especially since I wouldn't be working all of them.


But now, I have at least one pair of Christmas socks done for next Christmas!

These are basic vanilla socks with a star toe & slip stitch heel flap.

Comfy & Christmas-y!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stalking Blindly

Being as I'm working on knitting from stash, I had initially resisted immediately jumping on this bandwagon when it popped up on Ravelry a few weeks back:

(graphic from Ysolda's Ravelry MKAL pattern page)

What is this voodoo?!  A Choose Your Own Adventure knit shawl by Ysolda Teague?!  OH. MY. GOD.

I've never done a mystery knit along before, because a knit shawl is a lot of time, a lot of yardage & I have trust issues. (I'll own it.)  I love Ravelry for this reason:  I can see a pattern, fall in love with the designer's photos & then look at real pictures taken by real people of their real projects.  You can learn if it doesn't turn out like it should have or if there are glaring errors or if this only looks good on the model the designer knit it for.  But with mystery knit-a-longs, all of those little security blanket squares get ripped out of your hot little hands.

Here is my rationalization for allowing myself to be drawn like a moth to wool on this issue:

  1. It's Ysolda.  She's fantastic.  And even if the shawl isn't exactly my personal style, I'll still have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind shawl that I might fall in love with even though it's not my usual OR I'll have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind shawl that I can give to a knit-worthy recipient in my life.  One who will promise to hand-wash it only (or just give it back & ask me to wash & block it appropriately).
  2. It's Ysolda.  Her pattern aesthetic is consistently whimsical & beautiful.  I'm pretty sure that of the 32 options in this pattern, one of them will speak to me.
  3. It's only 700 yards - the commitment isn't tiny, but it's not an entire sweater either.
  4. I found yarn in my stash that will work. YAY!
  5. The pattern was around $5, after conversion from euros.  And as others' FOs pop up in Ravelry, I can use this pattern again & again, using the attributes I see & like, without knitting the same exact project 5 times.  This is a huge deal!
As an added bonus, I received an email that one of my LYSs is doing a knit-a-long group for the MKAL, so there will be a social aspect to this, too (provided I can get there with the hubs' crazy erratic work schedule)!

I'm. So. In.  Anyone else?

Friday, January 10, 2014

FO Friday - Baby Ruby's Jacket

Another baby gift.  When they said 'Tis the Season!, I don't think they meant babies, but that's the way it worked out this Christmas!

A friend, who was expecting this winter, recently gave me some partial skeins of Red Heart Soft Baby Steps yarn that was given to her along with a baby gift. As she doesn't have any time for yarn crafts, with 3 little ones under 4, she thought I might be able to use it.  With about 80 grams of each color, I thought I could make something cute for her baby out of this washer-and-dryer-friendly yarn.  I'm not a fan of Red Heart historically, but the Soft Baby Steps was new to me and very true to its name - soft.

I have used the Top Down Garter Stitch Baby Jacket pattern several times, but I wanted to switch it up with some color & texture.  I liked the idea of mixing stripes with color blocking and also wanted to play with garter on stockinette - which ended up reverse stockinette & worked equally well.  The blue perfectly matched a spool of grosgrain ribbon I had purchased for another project, but hadn't used.  And this baby's theme animal was owls, so Baby Ruby's Jacket  just fell together!

Mods - alternated colors throughout the yoke increases; continued garter in MC throughout body; picked up sleeves in CC, knit for 6" + 3 rows in k2, p2 rib & bound off in pattern.  Sleeves are reverse stockinette, worked inside out in the round.  Added grosgrain ribbon along the button band & added backing button at the top. 

I followed the directions from The Knitmore Girls grosgrain ribbon button band tutorial and couture button tutorial for this little sweater & was very pleased with the effect!

Who doesn't love a line of little owls peeping out from a wee baby sweater?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Goals & The Great Yarn Diet of 2014 or Enjoy What You Have, Silly Girl

January.  A fresh calendar.  Fresh snow on the ground.  A polar vortex to makes you wish you could hibernate like a bear.  Don't you love it?

The first full week of 2014 has been frigid.  Dangerously frigid.  Wind chills were down to -45 degrees F here and I initiated Operation Wear All The Wool.  Wool sweaters, hats, cowls, gloves, socks (all of the above sometimes worn in duplicate - 2 hats are warmer than one!). Goose down coats.  Layers galore.  Oh, and Carhartts. This is Ohio, after all.

While we spent as little time as possible outside, including avoiding errands as much as possible, we got a fair bit of cleaning & organizing done inside & had some time snuggled under afghans to talk about what we wanted out of this year.  We set some personal & financial goals for the year & this year, I intend to post those in a visible place in our home to help keep us mindful.  Goals can be revisited and revised, but it's good to have them nonetheless.

Cleaning/organizing & focusing on financial goals brought me around to a major crafty goal/realization of mine this year:  I need to go on a yarn diet.

I'm calling this a yarn diet for the same reasons we call a food intake reduction plan a diet - It's still going to happen, it just needs to happen in less quantity & more mindfully.  Rest assured, we're not in the poor house because of my yarn buying habits.  Nor is this a situation that is approaching Hoarders-esque proportions, with yarn stuffed everywhere and bags of yarn that I'm hiding from my husband, afraid he'll find out where I've really been going when he thinks I'm running errands.  I actually feel that I've expanded my stash quite responsibly:  I shop sales, I only buy yarns in large quantities that are proven winners, I take chances on new yarns in small amounts, and I'm realistic about my color choices.  While I love fuchsia, I already have one fuchsia sweater and no black or gray ones. (Inner monologue: Put down the entire bag of fuchsia and look for a more neutral wardrobe staple color.)  The hubs & I also have a discretionary spending limit that applies to any purchase where we don't consult the other, regardless of which account it is coming from & I stick to that when we're not shopping together.  There aren't any unhealthy habits surrounding my stash acquisition.

The point of having a stash is so you always have a great selection of yarns to work with when you're ready to knit something new.  I have achieved that.  I enjoy looking through my stash.  But you know what I enjoy more?  Wearing hand knit socks, sweaters, cowls and hats every day.  Before I can truly get the most enjoyment out of those yarns, I have to knit them (which I also enjoy - BONUS!).  So I want to enjoy my stash while knitting it & wearing it this year, not just pawing through it and saying, "Oh, I still want to make that sweater... and those socks... and that sweater... oh, and that hat..."

What I am not going to do is post any stash-shaming pictures.  Nor am I going to weigh my stash or add up all the yards of yarn in my stash and gnash my teeth and rend my garments and whine, "what was I thinking?  why did I ever buy all this yarn?" Who has time for that?  Shaming myself into getting rid of a bunch of stash will likely result in a similar fashion as crash dieting - a lot comes off up front, but then you rebound to more than where you started.  I bought the yarn because I liked it.  I still like it, so I am going to knit it.  No shame required.

I love structure.  I'm pairing that love of structure with this determination to enjoy what I have more, which should result in wanting what I don't have less. Sweater quantities of madelinetosh vintage, I'm looking at you!  This combination requires I set some boundaries to keep myself honest.  Here goes:

Yarn Diet Goals & Boundaries:

  1. Knit only from stash for the first half of 2014.
    Yarn purchases for gift knitting/crocheting are allowed, but I have to check my stash for appropriate yarns first.
    Commissions are also excluded.
    If I attend any shows, I'm allowed to purchase 1 golden skein per show.
  2. During the first half of 2014, move $40 into savings every time I'm tempted to go to my LYS or Etsy to buy yarn.
    My right brain just screamed, I'll totally be able to buy sweater quantities of madelinetosh guilt-free after this!!, as I typed that.  This is working so well already... The point of this boundary is make sure I don't spend my yarn budget on other things that we don't really need or truly have space to store.  I'm also planning to donate some of this squirreled money to the #podcasterthrowdown for Halos of Hope.  Win-Win!
  3. After the first half of 2014, new yarn can be purchased, but only in yardage amounts equaling what I've already knit in 2014.
    Sweater quantity knit into an FO -> sweater quantity can come back in, etc...
  4. Work projects that have been marinating in my queue before casting on ALL THE THINGS from a newly purchased/released book/pattern collection.
    This is to help me enjoy the pattern collections I've already purchased & are in my library waiting to be loved appropriately.
  5. Enjoy the process & the product!!
Because I'm an over-achiever, I have other goals, too!!

2014 Crafty Goals:
  1. 20,000 yards of yarn worked this year.
    I worked 19,000 in 2013 or just over 10 miles... I think this is doable!
  2. Learn two-at-a-time sock technique.
  3. Learn toe-up two-at-a-time sock technique.
I already have books sitting on the shelf for both of the new techniques I'd like to learn & part of the reason they are on the list is to knit up a few partial balls of sock yarn that I want to get every last bit of yarny goodness out of!

Next up - transforming this pile into a baby sweater for a former student's newborn girl.  Keep warm!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Stalking Saturday - Bayside Pullover

I've been staking the Bayside Pullover for months.  There's just something about it that I really like, although, I'm not sure exactly what draws me to it.  But I knew I wanted one.

Then the color stumped me for a few months.  I really liked the look of the natural color shown in Coastal Knits, but came to realize that the light color, combined with the crew neck of this pullover and my ample bust, was not gonna work.  Stumped for a few more months.

But during a recent reorg of my stash, I found this gem: an entire bag of Knit Picks Palette in Mulberry. 

It had been purchased as part of a color work kit, but I kept not knitting it.  I loved the main color, Mulberry, and decided that the darker color & some bust darts would resolve any concerns I had about the fit/appearance of the front of the sweater.

But now, I have no reason not to cast this on.  And it's happening.  Soon.

Friday, January 3, 2014

FO Friday Two-fer - Minnie Mouse-Inspired Skirt & Hat and Chevron Sleep Sacks

I recently was asked if I could make an outfit a friend found on Etsy.  As it turned out, it was a pattern I could purchase from Etsy, so the answer was yes!

I downloaded the Minnie Mouse Inspired Diaper Cover Crochet Pattern, busted out my crochet hooks & started this the Sunday after Christmas.  This was a quick project & it was delivered by Friday.  Despite some of the comments I saw on Ravelry, I didn't find any glaring errors in this pattern (which could be because I'm not as experienced with crochet patterns as I am with knitting patterns).  Also, the pattern is very reasonably priced at $3.99, when for-purchase patterns on Ravelry average $6.00, AND the pattern author generously allows you to make unlimited numbers of this project for sale, provided that you credit her design.

Here is my FO:

I made one change to the pattern - regarding the spots on Minnie's skirt.  I made them according to the pattern directions once, but they left a huge hole in the center - I've never been able to start with a few chain stitches, then crochet in the round without a huge hole, so it could be user error.  Instead, I used the Crochet Magic Loop cast on, chained 1, single crocheted 6 into the magic loop, did not join in the round, pulled the loop tight, and finally half-double crocheted 2 in each stitch (12 st).  I then joined with a slip stitch & sewed onto the skirt with the long tail.  This eliminated the gap in the center of the spot & resulted in a spot very close to the size the pattern called for.

I also opted for the drawstring waist option of connecting the skirt to the diaper cover so it could be cinched & worn any time after the baby was born.  I made the 3-6 mos size, as some babies are born not fitting into the newborn sized-clothing & wanted to be sure that they were able to get pictures of Baby Minnie in her outfit!

Being as this was for a baby & most likely will need to be washed frequently, I used Lion Brand's Vanna's Choice yarn for this one.  I was happy with how it worked up.

And so was Minnie's momma, Amy!  Below is the 'before' shot.  I'll update with 'after' photos when Minnie arrives.

Also finished this Friday - my newly improvised pattern, Chevron Sleep Sacks.

Amy had requested some pea pods for baby Minnie, with chevrons, in pink or purple & gray.  After a few minutes at Jo-Ann's, I had selected a few skeins of Bernat Satin & thought I would be good to go. Until I got home & found nothing on Ravelry that resembled a sleep sack with chevrons or zig-zags.  There were waves and ripples, but nothing pointed enough to qualify as a chevron.  Zig-zags are close enough to chevrons, as long as you adjust the length adequately.  After a hot minute of swatching, I had an idea of how many stitches I would need to get an appropriately sized sleep sack.

Here's the final result:

I was happy with the way they turned out, and so was Amy!

I have written out the pattern & will share here as soon as I have a friend finish test-crocheting it!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Crafty Year in Review

2013 was a productive year - and while I don't feel like my drawers are necessarily over-flowing with hand-made items, my Ravelry projects page tells me I was a knittin' fool this year. I suspect the lack of over-flowing drawers was due to some very /over/-due purging of clothing items that were still good, but weren't being worn, for whatever reason.  Better to give those to someone in need than keep them for moth-fodder!

New endeavors this year:

I haven't touched a sewing machine since college, when I realized that I could sew sets of Greek letters for myself, my brothers & my other Greek friends for much less cost than the embroidery shop in our one-horse college town (KKPsi 'til I die!!).  It's been 10 years since I graduated and figured it was high time to see if I could still run a machine.  I had plenty of fabric remnants from making sets of letters, and after seeing a litany of adorable project bags in etsy shops, decided to make my own! $20 in grosgrain ribbon & 2 days of toiling later, and I had these:

I am happy with them, and have gotten a lot of use out of them already.  I also have a few ideas of how to make the finishing a little cleaner when I make more.

I had been toying with the idea of learning to spin for a while, and it seems I can never find the perfect yarn, in the perfect color & perfect fiber blend for my dream projects.  I was struggling with this when I found myself at the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, Ohio and I found this:

It's the most perfect gray ever.  Literally.  It's beautiful.  It's practically perfect in every way.  And I bought 2 1/2 pounds of it, just to make sure that when I learned to spin, I would have enough for the perfect sweater.  I also found this gorgeous cream (which is as close to white as I get without a tan... White + no tan= looking like an extra on CSI), so naturally, I had to get 2 lbs of it, too.

If you're in the Midwest, check out Ohio Valley Natural Fibers.  Their fiber is creamy & delicious and they have colors just as gorgeous as their neutrals!

I also bought a drop spindle & have started spinning some very inconsistent singles.  I have decided that while I get the concept, I'm not quite coordinated enough to spin on a spindle.  The park & draft is tedious to me, and I can't get my spindle to spin for any length of time, so there is a lot of parking.  A wheel is in my future, but this fall ran away with my life, as well as my brain-space to learn a new discipline.

Finished Objects: WOO!
This year I had 40 finished objects.  I have one sweater that only needs sleeves & that other sweater that only needs a yoke - those will wait & be two quick wins right out of the gate in 2014.

Here's the breakdown:
Sweaters: 5
Mr. Bluejeans Cardigan from Knitty
Lauriel from Little Red in the City
Breezy Cardigan from knitbot
Rocky Coast Cardigan from Coastal Knits

Right now, the sweater that has gotten the most wear is the Breezy.  It's the perfect weight & I love the colors in the yarn. My favorite is the Lauriel.  I got the yarn as part of a gift from a co-worker last Christmas & then took a class at the Knitter's Mercantile, a local LYS, on how to perfectly fit this sweater.  It turned out wonderfully (thanks to my sweater yoda, Kathryn!!) and got to wear it to the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet festival in March.  My friend and I overheard another group of ladies chatting behind us about this sweater, and one commented, 'she's a real knitter - look at the fit on that sweater.'  It made my day!

Pairs of Socks: 4
These were improvised off of my friend's basic sock recipe.  She knits socks in her sleep, I'm convinced of it, but won't tell me how she does it!
3 pairs are made of Paton's Kroy, the 4th are from Knit Picks Felici.  I'm in a vanilla sock knitting phase right now.  They are just scrumptious & with fun colors, I don't need to work hard at reading charts, etc... to make them pretty!

Hats: 12
Barley by Tin Can Knits - oncetwicethree times a hat lady...
Oak Trail from Botanical Knits
Seedling from Never Not Knitting
Baby Tri-Peak Hat from Woolly Wormhead, adapted for fingering weight yarn
Minion Hat from Pink Monster Knits
Sockhead Hat from BohoKnits - first one in my undergrad school colors, and again for a co-worker's family member going through chemo
Celtic Knot Work Hat by Joannie Newsome
Hitchhat from Strickmich!
Malabrigo Head Thingie by Anne Sahakian

I found two go-to hat patterns this year, as evidenced above.  But the most stimulating hat knit this year was the Oak Trail by Alana Dakos.  I kept reading the pattern, being completely mystified as to how it was going to become a hat, telling myself to trust Alana, and then saying aloud to my knitting, "THIS IS SO SMART!! OH MY GOODNESS, ALANA, SO SMART!!"  I LOVE this hat.

Baby Sweaters: 2
Five Hour Baby Sweater
Top Down Garter Stitch Baby Jacket

Cowls/Shawls: 13
Devil Fish
Honey Cowl - and another from Madeline Tosh
Intertwisted from Knit Purl Hunter
Jeweled Cowl, which I called the Girl on Fire Cowl
Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West
Twigs Stole, for my SIL's wedding by Feminine by Design
Hitchhiker - more Martina Behm
Color Affection
Mostly Warmness Cowl - even more Martina Behm
Leftie - again, Martina Behm
Malabrigo Neck Thingy
Oats by Tin Can Knits

Can you tell I work in a chilly office?  Most of these are for me!!

Mitts/Handwarmers: 4
Mostly Warmness Mitts -  I have a knit-crush on Martina Behm - it's obvious to everyone at this point...
Malabrigo Hand Thingies
Maize by Tin Can Knits
Vancouver Specials

Again, with the chilly office - 3 of these are mine, the 4th a request from another woman in my office!

This is a pretty impressive list.  Perhaps I should look at my finished objects 2013 tab in Ravelry the next time I announce to my husband I have nothing to wear!

2014 Crafty Goals

More socks.  More sweaters - pullovers this year, too!  More custom fitted garments, regardless of how I feel about my body on that given day.  More knitting from stash.  More knitting that makes me happy.  Less finishing things that don't 'make my heart sing', as Gigi from The Knitmore Girls would say.

Happy New Year!!