Cleaning out the WIP basket

There is nothing more that I like than working my way through a big project. What can be more exciting than finishing that new sweater or gigantic, endless, Find Your Fade shawl after watching it slowly grow day after day, week after week from a pile of skeins to a beautiful finished project? The drama of the whole thing: is there enough yarn, will the colors go together, is my gauge correct, yarn chicken, and all the other questions and worries of the large project are part of the fun.  A little stressful, but a labor of love, each and every one.

So, it was a little bit of teeth gritting that I pulled out the basket of unfinished projects (UFOs) down from the top of the bookshelf a couple of weeks ago.

Basket
My goodness. Now I know where all of my knitting needles have been hiding out. 

I wrote about cleaning up the UFO pile a year or so ago and got trolled by people who hoped I was writing about aliens. Nope. I guess I should follow Ravelry’s lead and call them WIPs. Fine. This is the WIP (works in progress) basket. It is full of smaller knitting projects that should get done in a couple of knitting days each. Check it out:

WIPs
There is a half pair of socks (I did cast on the second sock, but I still put it aside…), and three pairs of fingerless mitts. 
UFOs
I also found a scarf that was half done and a cowl that had just been cast one night when I was curious about how that great Night Hawk colorway from MadelineTosh would knit up.

Well, how long can all of this take? Time to jump in and clear the basket, I told myself. I pulled out the socks (hey, it was snowing outside!) and got started.

Yarn Chomp
MacKenzie helped as much as he could. 

Now, after two weeks of steady work and cat entertainment I am happy to report that I have made real progress. The basket is almost empty, needles and stitch markers are returned to their proper places, and I have gained a number of small knitted accessories.

Finished knitted items
Here they are. I have finished a shawlette, the socks, two small pairs of fingerless mitts, and a pair of long beaded fingerless mitts. 
Socks
The yarn in these socks made them turn out really cute. This simple pattern for a vanilla sock with deep ribbing at the top and a traditional heel is called “Dave” by Rachel Coopey.
Mitts
The long mitts are Akiko MItts by Sivia Harding and the short mitts are my own simple “Scleroderma MItts” pattern that I recorded in the project notes here.
Shawlette
The finished shawlette is the Riverbed Shawlette (this is MacKenzie’s favorite) by Grace Akhrem. I wore it this week to my knitting group and it was quite a hit. 

Now I’m down to the last item in the basket, a cowl. Wow. I thought that this may take me all month, but I should have the basket cleared by the end of the week. Well, there was that one pair of socks that I couldn’t help casting on while I was working on the WIPs, but still, the end is in sight.

Excellent. I have some large projects all kitted up and ready to go.

Wait until you see these sweaters and shawls I’ve got lined up!

Have a good weekend everyone!!

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Update: Knits, Quilts, a New Book and Cold Cats

It has been just crazy hectic here the last two weeks. I have been driving to doctor appointments, cleaning the house, running errands, and staying pretty darn busy getting stuff ready for Christmas. This week I’ve been chipping away on several Christmas makes (with lots of cat help), and while the list of things I’m making seems endless, I finally got several things done all at once in the last couple of days. Finally, some progress! Check it out.

Shawl
I finished the Jujuy Shawl that I’m making for a cousin. I was told to use bright colors; this should definitely fit the bill. Ravelry notes here.
Mitts and Book
I also got these Akiko mitts done while I was reading a book. These babies are made with Anzula Cricket yarn and the cashmere blend makes them feel really yummy. This is the second pair of these mitts that I’ve made. I wasn’t happy with the thumbs on the first pair so this time I moved them over onto the palm of the mitt. Ravelry notes here. Looking at the tops of the mitts they look misshapen and thumbless, but if you turn them over…
Back of mitts
…there they are, tucked away on the back of the mitt. I moved the gusset over 6 stitches on these; I’m still fussing about these thumbs and may do a third pair with the thumb moved 4 stitches… This is a illness, but I prefer to call it a mitt study. 🙂
Table Runner.
I also got this table runner pieced and ready to quilt. The pattern, Waffle Time,  is really fast and easy to make. I bought the fabric last year and finally got going on the stitching this month. Did I mention that I have another table runner and a quilt to get done too?
Fabric close-up
See how cute these fabrics are?

I just want to say that all this crafting wasn’t easy at all since the weather turned dangerously cold for kitties this week and I couldn’t let them go out for more than a couple of minutes at a time. MacKenzie has been especially crabby about the turn of weather events. This morning when I got up it was -10 degrees F and the ground was covered in snow! Yikes! No way could the cats go out in that!

Annoyed cat
MacKenzie: Do I look annoyed? Yes! I would like to speak with whoever is in charge of the weather. This is completely unacceptable.
cat on shawl
MacKenzie: If I can’t go outside I should be able to help with the knitting, right? Yarn chomping time!! I mean, what do you expect a bored cat to do?
Cat
Yellow Boy: Yarn chomping is so yesterday. I prefer to sit on the pattern and stare at the Mother of Cats until she gets me some chicken to eat. If I can’t chase bugs I should have chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken!! Did I mention that I can stare for a LONG time?

When they aren’t yarn chomping and staring at me (sitting on the pattern, of course) the cats have insisted on sleeping on top of me. These are big cats! The little one is over 15 pounds, and MacKenzie is a whopping 18 pounds of dead cat weight.

Book
Luckily this new book was published this week so I can read while serving as a cat bed. Oh, my goodness. This is the latest book in my most favorite series ever, The Expanse. I watched the first season of the television show made from the books last week to warm up for the release date, and as soon as the book was available in the early hours of Tuesday morning I downloaded it to my NOOK. 

I really do love these books. I even blogged about them. I like the characters, the political/social situations created as people move onto other planets and into space, the science is good, the pacing of the plots is excellent, and did I mention that it is SPACE OPERA?!! Hello, Science Geek! Here’s the previous posts about these books:

This new book is the 6th in the series. I didn’t feel compelled to blog about the 5th book, but this latest book has really hooked me back into the story. All my favorite characters are back, the story is moving right along, and there has got to be a space battle coming soon.

Thank heavens it is cold out. What a wonderful excuse to stay inside to craft and read. I may get all of my Christmas makes done on time this year. The cats will get more attention. I will get my book finished lickety-split.

Cat
…and I will get more chicken!! 

Thanks Polar Express.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Hello Autumn: Leaves, Pumpkins and Knitting

This is my favorite time of the year. What’s not to like? The trees are strutting their stuff, the heat is finally letting up, and it is time to fire up the crock pot for some long overdue comfort food. Oh, yeah. The first snowfall is right around the corner. Knitting weather for sure!!

It has been just stinking hot even though we are past the middle of October, but the trees are right on track. Check out the maple leaves in my back yard.

Maple Leaves
The leaves are all off the tree now, but I did get a great shot of the color last week before they dropped.

I’ve been just longing for fall. As soon as the pumpkin farms opened I went with my grandson and DIL for some pumpkin fun. We went on rides, chased each other on tricycles, fed goats, watched pumpkins getting fired from a cannon (!!), and of course took a wagon ride out into the fields to get our pumpkins.

Pumpkins!
Aiden and I at the pumpkin patch. There are about 30 different types of pumpkins planted in the fields; we had 15 minutes to run around to pick and drag out the ones that we wanted. Good thing there was a time limit… there were an awful lot of cute pumpkins!!
Pumpkins
The pumpkins are now hanging out in my living room adding some fall color. Don’t you love the warty one? I’m told it will make good pie, but I don’t have the heart to cook it yet.
Pumpkin and Wheat
Doesn’t this just scream fall?

The pumpkins and leaves are making me feel so happy and longing for the cooler weather.  I pulled out the yarn and patterns to start a couple of quick little projects in fall colors. I knitted like crazy all last week, and here they are:

Shawl
I liked this yarn so much that I actually bought this fig colored sweater to go with it. This pattern is the Riverbed Shawlette by Grace Akhren. 
Shawl
The shawl is knit by making a large garter stitch triangle with the lace edge along one side. I was getting a little worried about running out of yarn when the knitting suddenly turns the point at the bottom of the shawl and then the other side of lace was added to the live stitches as you worked up the other side. Plenty of yarn! The ruffle is knit last by picking up stitches on the other edge of the lace trim. I love the different directions of the color in the final shawl. Ravelry notes here.
Mitts
I started these Akiko MItts by Sivia Harding on the same day that I cast on the shawl. I couldn’t resist; Akiko is a Japanese word that stands for “Autumn” according to the pattern notes. Besides, everyone needs more than one project going at a time, right? The shawl was easy knitting to take with me, and these charted and beaded mitts were for at home knitting time. 
MItts
Check out the detail in these mitts! They fit just perfect and while following the chart was a little tedious, the twisted stitches were really pretty easy to do as the pattern included directions on how to knit them without using a cable needle. I’m making two more pairs of these for Christmas presents. Ravelry notes are here.

Suddenly I finished the little projects within a day of each other. Ugh. Knitting lapses are downright depressing. Resisting the urge to cast on several more little projects I pulled out the sweater I had started a few weeks ago that had been languishing during the heat (OK, it’s only in the 80’s, but that is hot for October!). Surely eventually it will be cold enough to wear this baby. I believe! I started knitting on it in earnest over the weekend.

Sweater
This is the Guernsey Pullover by Norah Gaughan that was in the last Vogue Knitting Magazine. The construction is pretty unusual; decreases in the middle of the front form the shaping for raglan sleeves. I think that the variation in the yarn is adding interest to the knitting, but at one point I was knitting from two skeins to keep the colors from pooling too badly. Ravelry notes here.
Cat and knitting
You know who moved in to help during the photo shoot…
Yarn and cat
and the usual yarn war with MacKenzie began. I won. Barely. He was pretty determined to have some fun this time, and he has those sharp pointy bits on his paws…

How does he know I’m out taking pictures of knitted items? He was upstairs asleep. It’s a mystery.

It’s snowing in the mountains of Colorado today, but was quite warm again today. I knit on the sweater all afternoon anyway. Someday soon the snow will come down here and I’ll be glad for the sweater.

The trees know. Winter is coming.

Sorry, MacKenzie.

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, what happened to all of my knitting needles?

Having dyed the most scrumptious yarn ever, I began the hunt for the correct size needles to cast on and knit a cowl to dye for. Little problem, people: I seem to be missing the correct size tips for the project in mind. In fact, there seem to quite a few needles and tips missing… you know what happened next. I went on a UFO hunt.

OK, if you are reading this blog post looking for information on extra-terrestrials, go away. Once I posted an article titled “UFO Hunt” to this blog and generated a lot of activity and even a couple of messages signaling how disappointed people were with the “click-bait” false advertising. Go away right now. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in life out there in the universe, I just want to find the black hole UFO’s that have sucked down those needles!

Oh dear. After about a half hour of tossing the stash and going through baskets, bags, and looking in the car (Hey, you can’t expect me to be caught without something to knit. I always travel with a project!), the following UFO’s were located.

Unfinished Mitts
These mitts came out of one of my project bags. The pink mitts just need their thumbs and finishing, and it looks like I hated thumbs so much I cast on another pair of mitts. Don’t ask. There were two pairs of needles here. 
Unfinished Cowl
and out of another bag came this cowl. OK, it was in the car. Under a blanket. Sorry little guy, I’ll finish you up too. Another needle found, but not the size I’m looking for.
Unfinished Shawl
Wow, I totally forgot about this shawl. This is a Benevolence Shawl that I was knitting in a cotton and alpaca mix yarn for summer. Technically, I still have a week of summer left. Don’t think I’ll make it…
Unfinished Sweater
More needles! This is the start of the Guernsey Pullover from the latest issue of Vogue Knitting. I started it in a rush of longing for fall color during a rainy afternoon. There were several needles in the bin with the sweater, including the size that I needed. Gee, this is going to be a great sweater. It would be nice to get it done before the snow arrives…
Unfinished Shawl
I’m still cranking away on the Jujuy Shawl too. I’m just getting to a wedge that will be all pink… I can’t wait to see what that will look like. 

Well, no wonder I seem to be missing needles. Here they are, all hard at work supporting fiber art life forms struggling to get born.  I need a new queue just to decide which UFO to knit first. I thought about putting the names of the projects on slips of paper in a jar, and then I would just pull out the name of the next project that would get finished. Maybe I should have two jars; one for large projects (sweaters and shawls) and one for small ones (mitts and cowl). Hey, that actually might be a good idea. I could knit small projects on sunny days and large ones on rainy days. It could be a plan. I could even have a jar with the names of projects waiting to be started. Oops. I suddenly had a visual of slips jar hopping from the “waiting” to the “UFO” jars. Might be a problem.

Forget the jars. Don’t you want to know what did I did? I cast on the new alpaca cowl onto those size 6 needles I was hunting for, of course. I have knit for three days like a demon and I’m now coming down the home stretch. Doesn’t it look nice?

Unfinished Cowl
This is the cowl that I was just starting in my last post about crock pot dyeing. Last one started, it will be the first one finished. Typical. Isn’t that why we all have UFOs?

OK, this isn’t a queue, but it is a list of all these poor, neglected UFOs. Here are their project notes on Ravelry:

  1. Scleroderma Mitts – my notes include the pattern.
  2. Hawkshaw Cowl
  3. Benevolence Shawl
  4.  Guernsey Pullover
  5. Alpaca Berry Cowl – my notes include the pattern

Have a good weekend everyone. Hope you all get some knitting done!

Alpaca Days

My friends at Alta Vida Alpacas have gotten the first mill run of yarn made from their animals back. Woohoo!! It is Christmas in May! Cari Corley (of AVA) gave me samples to be knit up to help establish some critical characteristics of the yarn: mostly she is concerned with how the knitted fabric will wear, its gauge and the hand of the knitted fabric. They have two types of alpaca on the ranch, Suri and Huacaya, and the sample packages that she passed over the Starbuck’s table to me contained undyed yarn made from both alpaca types. Knit some stuff with this, she said. Like I said, Christmas in May. I quickly stuffed the bags into my knitting tote before she could take them back.

Huacaya alpaca
Look at this guy! The fiber he (she?) produces is to dye for. That’s right, this  fiber will take dye like a charm. The yarn is white right now, but it won’t stay that way for long now that the yarn has arrived.

She gave me some unbelievable Huacaya yarn in a light bulky weight. We decided to knit it into a hat, and the pattern that her husband Dan chose is the Man Hat by Haven Ashley. I knitted it up in a jiffy (OK, it took an evening…) and this is what I got.

As soon as I finished the hat I shot off a selfie of the finished product to Cari. Poor light, yummy hat.

The light isn’t great on this shot because it was late at night (Hello…Midnight Knitter here!) but you can see the details of the hat. I added four rows of K1, P1 ribbing at the bottom as I wasn’t too sure about the elasticity of the yarn. As it turns out, it was not a problem at all. The yarn maintains shape really well and shows the stitch definition through a slight halo. On my head it feels like a cloud of soft warmth. Forget Man Hat; I want this hat. How about dyed a nice red? Should I add a pom pom? A crocheted flower?

There was enough yarn left over from the hat make a mitt (one, only one…) using the same stitch pattern and gauge. Here is the finished set:

Hat and MItt
I need to talk Cari out of enough yarn to make the second mitt… The mitt that I have is like heaven on my hand. 🙂 Ravelry notes are here for the hat and the mitt.

Once I had made the hat (actually, I made a second hat of another run of the bulky yarn that was processed a little differently so that the two yarns could be compared to each other) and the mitt it was time to take on the other yarn that was given to me, a sport weight silky and shiny yarn made from Suri alpaca.

Lace
I decided that this yarn cried out to be made into lace. Since the ranch has pines on the hill by the house I chose the stitch pattern “Fir Cone”. Cool pattern, huh!
Scarf
The yarn is turning into a 7 inch wide scarf that is a joy to knit; once again I’m coming up short on yarn and will have to talk to Cari to get some more so that it can be finished. How long should this scarf be? I’m thinking 60″, but I would love some input.

I steamed the lace to block it a little for the pictures and an amazing thing happened: the yarn bloomed, lost some shine, bulked out a little as it fluffed, and moved way up the softness chart.

Maybe Cari won’t make me give this stuff back.

What color should I dye my new set of alpaca accessories?

 

Rocking the Week #2: Knitting, Weaving, the Super Tuesday Caucus, and a trip to a Howitzer.

Here we are again: not even one little finished object for the dang exhausting week. Every day was a whirlwind of activity, however, so once again I’ve decided to share the journey with all of you with pictures of the highlights.

Colored Mitts
This pattern is Dueling Gradient Mitts being knitted in Kauni bought years ago. 

 

I kept knitting on the Dueling Gradients Mitts that I started the week before, but the colors are changing really slowly in the yarn and I started to get bored. I played with the color placements and am thinking about doing a little Fair Isle somewhere in the mitt. I have more balls of this yarn and can introduce another color (or two) earlier in the mitt. I’m still thinking things over, so the project got parked. I’m considering a little rippage for this baby. Maybe I’ll put a band of Fair Isle above the thumb on this mitt and below the thumb on the next one. Hmmm…

 

While the Duelling Gradients are
This is my own simple pattern. Here it is on Ravelry.

While the Dueling Gradients are hibernating and growing up some new ideas I pulled out some Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 to make some mitts for the Scleroderma bin. These are the mitts that I sell to other patients in my support group for the cost of the yarn. Simple, lightweight, warm and absolutely mindless knitting.

Tuesday was Super Tuesday here in the United States. Along with 150,000 other people I went to caucus for my candidate that night, Yowza! What a night!

Sock
Purple Dragons for my feet. Take that Raynaud’s!!

On Wednesday I go to my knitting group at a local yarn shop and for some reason I wanted a little wild color along with simple knitting to take to that. Hello Vanilla Socks!  These socks are toe up and have an afterthought heel. I keep seeing other people making these socks in their blogs and decided that I should jump on that bandwagon too. Look at how cute they are turning out! This yarn is from MJ Yarns and is Simple Sock Fingering Weight. This colorway is Purple Dragon and I absolutely love it! I bought some Purple Dragon to make some mittens too, but that is for another week’s post.

Howitzer
My son tells me that this is a self-propelled Howitzer

Yesterday I hit the road to return the materials from the Project Learning Tree workshop I facilitated for the school district I live in. How fun! I had to drive across town to historic Camp George West near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The old buildings of the base are now used by many Colorado State agencies, but they still have old armaments out on display.

It sure does fill like Spring, although March is traditionally our snowiest month. The plants in my garden are starting to come back to life. The prairie dogs are barking and playing in open lots across town. We’ll be seeing baby dogs before long; I always think that I should bring leftover veggies to these little guys but it is probably best to leave wild critters be, 🙂

Bag and flowers.
How could I resist the cute floral tote and some flowers from the nursery! The rose will have to stay indoors with me but the pansies are the type that can survive snow so they go into the ground next week. 
Dishtowels on loom
Oh, yeah. I almost forgot! The major activity of the week has been weaving. I’ve been binge watching Shades of Blue and throwing my shuttle to make dishtowels. This towel is using a white weft, but the next towel will be plaid with the weft in the same colors as the warp. I just love this process; throwing the shuttle, creating the fabric and winding it onto the cloth roller is just a source of joy to me. It is a little hard on my hands so I only weave an hour or so at a time, Still, I should have the whole set of towels before long. 

See: lots done, nothing finished! Even as I write this I am thinking about going upstairs to wind some more yarn and am fighting an urge to play in the stash to find yarns/colors for shawls. A whole set of shawls!!

Guess next week will be much like this one. 🙂

Cats, Mitts, and Baby Booties

The weather continues to be cold here. It is too cold (and snowy) for the cats to go outside so they have been hanging out upstairs on my bed. OK, the truth is that these two boys aren’t really the best of friends. Yellow Boy (AKA the PuffMuffin) steals all of MacKenzie’s kitty treats and hogs the toys. MacKenzie beats up Yellow Boy when he’s feeling grumpy. When he is cold and can’t go outside he is grumpy a lot. Life is tough for Yellow Boy on snowy days… And yet, here they are huddled together on the bed looking miserable together…

Cold Cats
Only these two would sleep back-to-back trying to stay warm. That little red feather comforter just isn’t cutting it anymore I guess…
Happy Cat
So I went shopping for a new warm throw to put on the bed for them. Instant hit!! Can you feel the purr through the screen? 

Happy (and warm) cats means that I got lots of knitting done without them trying to get warm laying on my legs and shedding clouds of fur. Here’s the week’s accomplishments:

Finished Mitts.
What a shock: I made another pair of the Sugared Maple Mitts (by Melissa Schaschwary ) in the last skein of Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK. I think that these may be my favorite. They are mine, mine, all mine!! Here are the Ravelry notes.
Mitt
I also made another pair of the cable and rib mitts with the thumb moved over so that the cable would stay parked on top of the hand. Since my sister suggested the change these are now Selma’s Mitts; I made the ribbing at the top and the bottom of this pair a little longer. I think that these are cute: I’ll have to see if I can talk a friend into taking a picture of them on my hand. They are really comfy and I think I’ll write up the pattern to use with the alpaca yarn from Alta Vida Alpacas. This yarn is Malabrigo Rios in the colorway Zarzamora.
Baby Booties
I also got an order for baby booties this week. The new mother requested that they be black (!!!) so that is what I did. The lace doesn’t show as well as it would in a light colored set of booties, but they are still soft, squishy and should work. Look!! Almost all of the snow has melted away because today was windy and warmer. The cats came out to run around while I was taking these photos. Everyone is happy again. This pattern is our family pattern from days of yore but can also be found on Ravelry. The yarn is Anzula Squishy.

I think that I have worked my way through the immediate urge to make mitts. I sent a RSVP for the Scleroderma Holiday Party today and it dawned on me that perhaps I should finish up on the Christmas presents. I have knitting (a shawl and a hat) and some quilting to get finished.

And cookies to bake…

And the decorations to put out…

And I will never hear the end of it if those cats don’t get a Christmas tree to play in…

Good thing I bought them a nice cuddly blanket for the bed. 🙂