Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas tree

My friend, R, requested some pix of my Christmas tree, so here they are:

I like to collect Christmas ornaments and have gotten many of them while traveling or to celebrate some particular milestone. Our tree was a little smaller than what we've had in the past (real Christmas trees are so much more expensive out here than they were in Chicago!), so we couldn't put all of our ornaments on the tree. Here's a sampling of what we had:

Here is a Las Vegas ornament at the top to commemorate driving from Chicago to Pasadena when John moved there, the one with the Eiffel Tower is from when John and I went to France, the blue ball is one I got at the Christkindl Market in Chicago, the white one with the blue tip in the lower left is one I got in Genoa, Italy when John and I went there. The British phone booth on the right was a gift from me to John because he likes Dr. Who.

In this one, you can see some of the ornaments from the previous picture, plus a green and white ornament toward the top that I got at Disneyland when I visited this year, a green and silver one that is a car from the T, the subway in Boston (BU, where John and I went to school, was on the Green line). Just above the red one with the gold half moon (which I got for John for Christmas one year) is a little San Franscisco trolley I got when I went to the American Society for Cell Biology for the first time (it was in SF). At the bottom is a green one you can't see the logo on, but it is from the observatory John goes to in Hawaii.

In this one, you can see a teddy bear with a blue coat that I gave John one year, a Hawaiian Santa that John gave me one year, an M&M guy that John got me one year and a gold ornament from Disneyland.

There are lots more, too, and of course there are the ones that didn't even make it on the tree this year. John has a whole host of ornaments that are ships from Star Wars and Star Trek that plug into the light string or have batteries and light up or say something when you press a button that didn't make it on the tree this year (for example, there's one that's a shuttle from Star Trek that has the voice of Leonard Nimoy saying Happy Holidays). Maybe next year we'll get a really big fake tree and be able to put all of the ornaments on it. Or maybe I should put the ornaments on a rotation so that they are on a schedule for getting on the tree every other year or so.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Red scarf and gifts

I have a slight backlog of finished objects to show off.

First up, the Red Scarf:


Pattern: A simple pattern from the depths of my brain. Seed stitch with a simple 8 stitch cable in the middle.

Yarn: Cascade 200, 100% wool.

This was a charity project for the Red Scarf Project run by the Orphan Foundation of America. The OFA puts together care packages for kids who were previously foster-children who are now in college. The scarves go in the Feb. care packages, hence the preference for red. I like how it looks, but I find it a tad itchy. I think this is a product of the yarn, the fact that I did seed stitch instead of something smoother, and the fact that I am a delicate flower. It wouldn't preclude me from wearing it, though, so I decided it was worthy of being sent to the OFA. I apologize for the glare of the flash obscuring some things. In the picture is a card with a few words of encouragement and an iTunes gift card that I sent along with the scarf. They like you to put a little something extra in with your scarf. What college student wouldn't like some $ to spend at iTunes? Also not really recognizable is the tag I attached to the scarf.

I printed up some of these to put with the gifts I made this year. This particular one has washing instructions on the back.

Next up are two little stuffed toys I made for my nephews:

I included a marker for scale. This was a Burda pattern that I sort of followed. That is, I eliminated the machine embroidery applique and hand-stitched the patches on the belly, ears, hands, nose and eye. I also hand-stitched the mouth and used plastic safety eyes. Considering how difficult it was to get those damn things in, I don't think they'll be pulled loose anytime soon. The main body is fleece and the patches are quilting cotton. I used embroidery floss for the stitching on the patches. I also used double-sided applique bond stuff (don't actually know what that stuff is called) so the patches are stuck on there in addition to being stitched on. Again, not coming off anytime soon. There really should be three toys because there's another little nephew of mine I was planning on making one for, but I had to get two of them done super quick because my family does Christmas the weekend before and I wanted to get everything to them on time. Now, I'm running out of steam on making Christmas gifts, so nephew H may get some NASA onesies or something like that (there's a gift shop at the NASA center) to go with his Mickey Mouse (I got one of those for each nephew at Disneyland).

Next up, a bath gift set for my SIL:


Pattern (bag): I made it up. I knit in the round for around 8 inches, then did yo, k2tog around, then knit in the round for a couple more inches, bound off, then sewed the bottom of the bag together.

Pattern (washcloth): Dapper Dab from a leaflet called Color-Splash Discloths.

Yarn: Cascade Cotton Club, a cotton/acrylic blend

I originally was just going to make a couple of washcloths and pair them with some nice soaps, but then decided to make it look more complete by making a bag to put a washcloth and soap in (the soaps were from Cost Plus World Market). The bag is lined with the material it is laying on in the picture which I hand-stitched in:

Finally, a scarf for my MIL (seen here under the tree with the completed bath set):


Pattern: Also made up. Very similar to the red scarf except that I made a 12-stitch braided cable up the center.

Yarn: Crystal Palace Merino 5, 100% superwash wool

I was planning on making my MIL a bath puff and giving her soap to go with it, but I didn't like how the bath puff came out. The red scarf worked up surprisingly quickly, so I decided to make a similar one for my MIL. I did the bulk of the knitting while at knitting group or while listening to an audio book (I'm making my way through the Dresden Files series) so the fact that in the last couple weeks I have knit 10 feet of seed stitch plus cable didn't drive me insane.

So, that's it for the Christmas gifts. I need to wrap the bath set and scarf and get the NASA thingie and wrap it then everything will be set for the in-laws and I can send the stuff out (FIL got a mug from the observatory J goes to and coffee and BIL got a t-shirt from the observatory so they are all taken care of as well).

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A waste of perfectly good panic

After completely freaking out about the Christmas deadline, I went and finished a couple of gifts lickety-split. I feel a little silly now for panicking.

Mom's socks:

Pattern: On-Hold from Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson with two stitches removed from either side of the central pattern for fit.

Yarn: Socks that Rock lightweight, Jasper colorway

Needles: Addi Turbo size 0

These were not as much fun to knit as my sister's socks. I think because the yarn was so stiff and I was knitting them on smaller needles. They feel great as socks, though, and they're slightly small for me which means they'll be perfect for Mom. I've decided I'm not a huge fan of Socks that Rock, though, which I think might be sacrilege in some circles.

For nephew B:

Pattern: Oh Balls! from Ravelry

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-Ease in Lime, Maize, and Cherry

Needles: US size 5 dpns

These knit up so quick I could see that they could become addictive. It was a really satisfying project and I have decided that I really like working with Cotton-Ease. These balls will be just the right size for a toddler to throw and since they are stuffed with poly fiberfill, they're not going to do any damage. Conceivably, they could knock over something very lightweight but that's about it. These will be going with the braided ball I made and a stuffed Mickey Mouse from Disneyland. So, I'm all finished with my gift for nephew B.

AND, I started a Red Scarf!

The guilt got to me. I really felt I should do a charity project for the holidays and they really need scarves for this charity so I sucked it up and started a scarf. I'm using Cascade 220 and just winged the pattern--seed stitch with an 8 stitch cable in the middle. I'm cabling every 8 rows. It's been going pretty fast, I've got 46 inches so far. With just 14 more inches to go to meet the suggested length, I think I'll be able to send it out on time. I'm really liking the Cascade 220--so much better than the wool-ease!

So, I've got two Christmas gifts completed and a charity project almost done. Not bad for the first of December!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Braided ball


Pattern: Braided ball from Ravelry

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-ease in maize, lime, and cherry; probably about 1/4 to 1/3 of each skein, maybe less.

Needles: US size 3 bamboo

I made this braided ball for my nephew, B, for Christmas. He is 2 years old. I have feeling he will have the ball for about 2 minutes before he pulls it all out of shape, but I hope he will have fun with it, regardless. Also, if you pull the braids apart a little, you can put something inside it which I think might be a fun thing for a toddler. I think I might make several little regular balls to go with it and those, plus the Mickey Mouse stuffed animal I got him from Disneyland will make up his Christmas present.

I'm making a lot of Christmas presents this year and it makes me a little bit nervous that I might not get them all done. I've got the socks for Mom, these balls for B, and several little stuffed animals that I am sewing for my three other nephews, L, G, and H. And, if I get all of those done, I might knit little purses for my step-nieces. I started one purse and then never finished it and now I'm not sure I'm going to get those done. I have other stuff for them for Christmas so they might not get something handmade this year. Also, I'm crocheting a bath puff for my MIL and a washcloth for SIL both of which will be paired with some fancy bath soap/shower gel.

The deadline for Christmas is looming. I know it's not even Dec. yet, but my family celebrates Christmas the weekend before and since I'm not going there, I need to ship it all in time to get there by Dec. 19. We're not going to the in-law's either, so those gifts also need to be shipped, although they can be shipped a little later.

With all of the handmade stuff I'm doing for my family, I don't have much time for other handknits. I wanted to make something for charity, specifically, the red scarf project since they are in such need of scarves, but the deadline for it is Dec. 15, and when I started a scarf for that, I completely freaked out about not meeting any of my deadlines and I had an actual panic attack and spent half the night in bed feeling like I was going to puke which was terribly unproductive. I even bought some wool-ease for the project and now I'm going to have to return it. Even if I somehow get everything done superquick and still have time to knit a scarf, I have decided I hate wool-ease. I have knit with it in the past and not had a problem with it but this time it seemed really cheap and, I don't know, acrylicky (new word). I don't know if they have changed it recently or if I have become more of a yarn snob. Anyway, I feel bad about not making anything for charity, but I don't want to risk another panic attack, so I'm going to let it go.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On-hold socks, now off-hold

Sometime in Oct., I started my Mom's Christmas present, a pair of socks using the On-Hold pattern from Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson. I got a little over one pattern repeat done and then stalled. The socks were coming out too big. *sigh*

So, I kinda stopped working on them. The On-Hold socks were on hold. It didn't help that the pattern wasn't something I could work on at knitting group because I had to do too much counting and would keep getting distracted.

Last weekend, it occurred to me that Christmas was approaching (this is, of course, exactly what the stores want you to think with all of the Christmas decorations hanging from their ceilings). I really didn't want to get down to the wire with the knitting (or worse, miss Christmas entirely) and given that I was going to have ship these babies since I'm not going home for Christmas this year AND the fact that my family celebrates Christmas the weekend before Christmas, I knew I had to get working on these socks again.

So, I got out the size zero needles and started over. Unfortunately, there wasn't much difference in size (read almost none at all) between the first sock I started and the second sock. I almost gave up and started a new pattern, but I realized I could remove a few knit stitches on each side of the central pattern (and off the sole, then, too, of course) so that's what I did. Now, I've done four pattern repeats and am about to start the heel of the first sock. Still a ways to go, but I'm getting there!

While knitting, I've been listening to the first Dresden Files book, Storm Front, by Jim Butcher. I've only read (listened to) three or four chapters but I'm finding it entertaining so far. I download audio books from and I'm pretty pleased with audible. When I first started downloading books from them, you couldn't listen to a clip of the book (you just had to go on the reviews and there would be some where people both loved and hated the narrator) and I ended up getting one or two books that I never listened to past the first few minutes because I hated the narrator. These days, you can listen to a clip and that makes me very happy.

You're probably wondering what I've been knitting on at knitting group if I haven't been knitting on Mom's socks. Another pair of socks, of course. This pair is for me. I have no idea when I started the first sock, but I had gotten it all the way to the point of kitchnering the toe and then stopped, letting it languish for months. I finally picked it back up when I needed something mindless for knitting group and now I've completed the leg and the heel of the second sock (in addition to stitching up the toe of the first sock, of course)! The yarn is a bamboo blend from Regia and the needles are size 2 so it's zooming along. Pretty soon, I'll need to find some other mindless knitting for knitting group.

I'll get pictures of Mom's socks and my socks up one of these days.

Random anecdote: Today, I was at Starbucks and I ordered a chai latte. The person at the register asked me if I wanted a shot of expresso in it. Um, no.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

M's Socks Christmas 2008: Done

Last night (Monday), I wove in the ends* for M's 2008 Christmas socks! Hurray!

For some reason, the second sock had more pooling than the first sock...

...but I'm not complaining.

I even found the perfect card to go with them at the LYS:


Pattern: Diagonal Lace Socks from Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson

Yarn: TOFUtsies in the Feet First colorway (I think that's the right colorway, I seem to have lost the ball band

Needles: 2.25mm INOX Express circular--magic loop method. I really like the INOX Express needles. They are pointier than regular Addi Turbos and slicker than the Addi lace needles. I wish more stores carried them. I've considered trying the Knitpicks needles in the same size because I bet they'd be pointy and slick enough for me, but I've heard not great things about the joins. I feel like they'd be more likely to give out when you're doing magic loop, but maybe that's just my perception.

Ravelry link: here

Other Notes:
  • Turkish Cast-on
  • Russian Bind-off
  • After doing the increases for the toe, I knit seven rounds even so that the toe would be a little longer
  • Started in August 2009. Ripped out the first sock twice (!) so I could get a good size
I'm slightly nervous these may be a smidge too small for my sister because they seem to fit me perfectly and her feet are a little bit bigger than mine. However, I've got leftover yarn and am prepared to rip out the toes and make them longer if necessary.

So, what is my next project?

Another pair of toe-up socks, this time for my mom for Christmas 2009 (trying to get a head start here, maybe I'll actually have them done in time!).

Pattern: On-hold Socks from Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson (can you tell I like this book?)

Yarn: Socks that Rock-lightweight in the Jasper colorway. On my screen, the color is looking more purply, but in real-life, it's more maroon. This is my first time using STR yarn and when I bought it, I was surprised at how overspun it seemed. The yarn curls up on itself in places which I haven't seen in other yarns. It's a nice, firm yarn, though, and gives beautiful stitch definition. The lace pattern is really going to stand out. I think a lighter color would be really great for a cool knit-purl design.

Needles: 2.25mm INOX Express circular--magic loop method.

I did the Turkish Cast-on for this one since it went so well for M's socks. Other than that, there's not much to say about these socks--I've barely gotten them started!

*I couldn't find my thinner yarn needles (I swear there is a green Chibi around here somewhere with two needles perfect for weaving in the ends for fingering weight yarn), so I went to my new LYS to pick some up, thinking I'd get a new Chibi and they didn't have Chibis! What kind of LYS doesn't have Chibis??? Fortunately, they did have yarn needles in the size I was looking for, but I am flabbergasted at the lack of Chibis!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

One down, one to go

Well I finished one of M's Christmas '08 socks.

This sock fits me so well, I'd be tempted to keep the pair for myself except that this is a seriously late Christmas gift. If they were this year's Christmas gift, I don't think they'd stand a chance of making it all the way to Iowa when it would be so easy to put them in my own sock drawer instead.

I really like how the diagonal lace pattern turned out and I like the stripiness of the yarn. This is my first good toe up sock (I tried it once in the past and while I wear those socks from time to time, the leg is really loose and floppy and the yarn is too thick to make the socks comfortable with regular shoes--I have to wear my Crocs). I learned a couple of new techniques: the Turkish cast-on (lots easier than I thought it would be) and the Russian bind-off (also easy).

I tried the Turkish cast-on because when I've tried doing a short-row toe in the past you could see where the provisional cast-on had been. Maybe this would have gone away in the wash, I don't know (since I never took those socks to completion except the pair I already mentioned which are too loose to really tell anything on), but I thought it would be worth trying a new technique to avoid that potential complication.

As for the bind-off, I first tried my regular bind-off (knit 1, knit a 2nd stitch, slip the first stitch over the 2nd stitch), but it was too, well, binding. So, I decided to try one of the bind-offs suggested in Wendy's book (from whence the pattern came) and the Russian bind-off looked easiest. I did the bind-off as loosely as possible and while it looks a little ruffled off the foot:

When the sock is on my foot, however, it lays nice and flat and is non-binding which is everything you want a bind-off to be in a toe-up sock.

So, now all I need to do is knit the 2nd sock which is easier said than done as most people know. I think if I cast-on (Turkishly) for the sock right away (like, as soon as I finish this post) I might stand a chance actually getting the sock done. Also, I am resisting starting the socks for my mom's Christmas '09 present until I get this pair of socks done. I really want to get Mom's socks done to avoid another situation like the one I have for M's socks so that'll push me to get the 2nd sock done. I think.

Off to cast-on, now (Turkishly).

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Dusting off the old blog

I'm probably not on anyone's blogroll anymore, so I'm not sure why I'm bothering, but it suddenly seems like a good idea to dust off ye old knitting blog and talk about knitting.

First, a little bit about what I've been doing. I finally finished all of my research and am in the middle of (slowly) writing my thesis. After almost 3 years of living apart from DH, John, (he was in CA and I was in Chicago) I moved to Pasadena because there was no reason for me to stay in Chicago while writing. Then, John started a job at the NASA lab, Ames (coincidentally the name of the town in Iowa next to the town I grew up in), and so we moved to the SF Bay area a couple weeks ago.

So, here I am with time on my hands (because I'm having trouble keeping myself working on my thesis because it is boring as hell) so I figured, "Hey, I could write on the knitting blog again." So, here I am.

I've been keeping track of some of my knitting projects on Ravelry (my rav name is e-beth in case you want to look). My current project is a pair of socks for my sister, M. They're a Christmas present. Last year's Christmas present. I bought Wendy Johnson's Socks from the Toe Up and I'm doing the Diagonal Lace Socks (Ravelry link) pattern using TOFUtsies. According to Ravelry, I started on them in August, but it doesn't seem like it was that long ago. Probably because I got most of the first sock done, decided it was far too loose, and started over with smaller needles (size 1).* I've been working on that sock for about a week and I've already got the foot and part of the leg done. Now, I'm slightly worried that the foot could be too small. M's feet are slightly bigger than mine and these socks fit me pretty nicely, but I think there is room for stretching (if not, I'll get them back from her, take out the toe and extend it, but I think it's going to be okay). I haven't decided how tall to make them, yet. I divided the yarn into two halves before I started so I can keep knitting until I run out of yarn if I want, but I probably won't do that since I don't like very tall socks (and neither does M, I think).

At any rate, here are a couple pix from this weekend:

And the Ravelry project notes are here.

I'm also working on a purse for a little girl, but I don't have any pix for that, so I think I'll save it for later.

So, that's it for now. No guarantees I'm going to be particularly regular about blogging, but I'm feeling the urge to talk about my knitting these days, so I'll probably keep it up for a little while anyway.

*Actually, the first time I started the sock, I started the large size and that was WAY too big so I ripped it out and sized down to the medium. To get gauge, I needed to use size 2 needles, but those turned out to be too big. It was one of those situations where you got gauge but somehow it was coming out the wrong size. That's when I switched to the size 1 needles and started over again.