Thursday, January 29, 2009

One thing I've learned from knitting

No one expects you to knit something for them. This came as such a shock when I realized it sometime in the past year. Since I'm always knitting, it seems there must be some compelling reason. Perhaps my family will suffer from chill all winter through my failure to clothe them. Perhaps shoes will rub raw spots on naked feet. I think it's the puritan work ethic slipping its insidius tentacles into my brain. I think the failure to realize that no one is expecting anything is the reason so many knitters go absolutely nuts in October/November/December trying to make the perfect gift for every single person they know. Surely it isn't because we can't find enough great things to make for ourselves? Or is there a guilt switch here (i.e., if I'm buying yarn that will become a gift, I'm not really spending the money on myself)?

This winter I decided to make knit gifts for all of my relatives who have never received a knit gift from me (see previous post). I did it on a lark, as a bit of a challenge to myself. The great part was that if I failed, no one would ever know that I meant to make 5 hats and only finished 4. No one would ever know that I meant to make 2 pairs of socks but got distracted by some other sexy project halfway through sock #1. For me this took the stress out of holiday knitting.

It is with this in mind that I can admit my obsession with sock knitting.

No one really cares about socks. You can buy them damn cheap at any store. Target even has some really fantastic argyles right now. And yet the patterns and yarns and books just keep sucking me deeper. And it's OK, because since no one is expecting anything, no one cares if I churn out sock after sock rather than sweater after hat after scarf. Plus they're portable. The only downside is the you have to make two, though some people dispute this as a true necessity...

This book has me excited all over again (especially the sideways blue and orange pair, though it could be the color combo that got my attention). Grumperina has a great review with some pictures here. Now that I've made half a dozen pairs of socks from this book and am over my Cat Bordhi obsession it may be time to move on to something different. Interweave Knits had a teaser in their most recent issue, so I'm going to start there and maybe buy the book down the road (unless mom can use her 25% magic coupon and get it sooner!). And there are so many "classic" socks I haven't tried, like the Monkeys and Jaywalkers and the other beauties that come out regularly on Knitty. And there is the book I received for Christmas...and the two patterns I received in a recent swap...

And the yarn! The three (!) new skeins of sock yarn Mom gave me...and the skein from Sarah...and the three great skeins already sitting in my bin...

So yea. Socks socks socks. At the moment I'm finishing a pair for mom, slowly progressing on the second sock of a pair for myself, and just started a mindless stockinette sock in self-patterning yarn for a cousin. I think 3 is a good number of socks to have on the needles...though baby socks don't count and I was just invited to a baby shower next month. And swatching for the next pair that I'll cast on as soon as mom's are done isn't cheating - is it? I can't help feel the urge to knit and finish at least one pair so I can start something new! (Don't worry mom, yours are in the lead)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kool-Aid dying

It was quite the crafty weekend last week. I took my first shot at yarn dying using some yarn I've been staring at for a while. The yarn was a gift from a friend whose grandma raises her own goats in Vermont (one more reason to want to relocate!).

The yarn was a bright peachy-orange, nothing I could ever imagine using for myself, and no one I could think of would be a good match for this either. Since I couldn't even think of giving the yarn away, I wanted to do something with it.

Enter the drink from days of yore. Many great tutorials exist, so I'll spare you the details. With the careful combination of one part strawberry and one part tropical punch, I soon had a bright flamingo pink yarn. It truly is magical that something I downed as a pre-teen could do such pretty things to wool. Oh, and the sweet smell of the brought back all sorts of random memories.

After staring at it hanging from the shower head for a few days, I decided it was worh trying again. I'd read that the amount of "dye" (kool-aid packets) to use was empirical, so I decided to repeat the process with three times as much dye.

I give you, with the help of four packets of grape and two of cherry:
This, now, is something I can live with. Hues range from a cherry red to a deep maroon. Very cool. And all done with hardly any effort on my part (you just let it sit on the stove and voila! dye zaps into the yarn), active toddler in tow, and not a single stain anywhere in my kitchen!

I was also gifted with the December zine from Craft Leftovers last month. On a whim I decided to make both of the recipes that were included. The soup turned out well - who doesn't love swiss cheese in their soup? - but as with all potato-based soups it was a bit bland for my taste. Next time I'll use more pepper. But the exciting recipe was the eggnog! I had absolutely no luck finding eggnog in the grocery store this holiday season, and was thrilled to come across this very simple, 4-ingredient recipe. I made the cooked version, without alcohol, and it turned out great. (And in case the idea of raw eggs makes you squeamish - check out this reassuring site. As yummy as it was, I did need some reassurance.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009


1) Knitters give the best birthday cakes
Thanks to Sarah for the yarn cake and to Sa for the TWO fabulous cakes (well, a cake and a pie) for my men back in September.
cakes cut
yarn cake

2) Knitting is the S&M of crafting
Sa called to complain that she'd spent 7 hours knitting her sock*. I applauded, but she said, "but I didn't enjoy it! I was ripping and reknitting the whole time!" I laughed cruelly into the phone. Crochet may be faster, but knitting is so much more addictive.

3) Maybe drinking coke isn't so bad
According to a story I heard on NPR last week, an attempt to poison the leader of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1980-something was thwarted because they put the poison in his Coca-cola and it neutralized the poison.

4) Lace knitting isn't hard
It's the unknitting, fixing mistakes, and figuring out how the *&?!*! you can possibly have 103 stitches when you started with 105 and you just know you were being extra extra careful.

5) Apparently you can survive on 1.5hrs of sleep a night
But I wouldn't recommend it unless your place of employment provides opportunities for random outbursts of weeping.

5b) Coffee doesn't make me feel any less tired
But I can feel the film on my teeth, the beat of my heart, and the tips of my fingernails are extra sensitive.

5c) I know you're tired of hearing about this. It does not change the fact that I am still not getting any sleep.

6) It's 2009
Happy New Year. Go sign up for Ravelry if you haven't already. If I continue blogging, it will be boring family things. Ravelry is a much better venue for the details of projects. I'm trying to think of a great screen name for my mom to get her to sign up....will keep her posted. QuilterKnitter? MeSoCrafty (probably taken)?

7) I've signed up for newsgator
Now I just have to figure out to get my blog on an RSS feed. Then, if you "subscribe" to my blog you can be notified when I update it, rather than checking in here during the long, long winter between posts.

7b) I'm planning to blog every Thursday. So far I'm 2 for 2. Anyone want to take a bet on how long this lasts?

8) I'm hopelessly addicted to knitting socks
I use the excuse that the husband is too big (long arms, not big belly) to knit garments for, and the WeeMan grows too fast. But really? It's just that I have this bizarre obsession with socks. (edited to spare you - will need to devote an entire post to this topic)

* FWIW: the sock is only her second knitting project - her first was a scarf that looked like a typical first knit scarf until she had to whip out the wicked crochet skills and make it look killer good (and me a bit jealous that I'm such a bumbler at crochet).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Parade of hats

Somewhere in October I had the thought -
Wouldn't it be fun if I could knit a hat for each of my in-laws? Reality check - that's six hats.

When I had this thought I was finishing up what would be hat #1:
stans cap2
There's a great series of photos while I tried to capture this hat. There was some assistance from a little man. A little man who thought the game was "grab the hat" which resulted in several photos of the floor, sans hat. Here's one out-take below.
stans cap3
The hat is the Jacques Cousteau hat, and if I knit it again I'd use fewer stitches and maybe not run out of the precious handspun that a friend gave me from her grandmother's farm. Knit mostly driving to/from Michigan this summer, this gave me a bit of a headstart on the 6 by Christmas plan.

I quickly moved on to hat #2:
brians cap3
This one was of my own devising, using some yarn from a yarn swap I participated in. Notice a theme here? Hats from stash yarn, maybe?

Knocked that one out in a week and moved on to hat #3:
hat subway
sorry for the blurry photo - we were on the subway
Please not that I am not wearing this hat in my kitchen. I'm wearing it in Manhattan. Which means I have claimed it and it is no longer gift worthy. But there's a sad, sad reason. The same day I cast on for this hat, my beloved Shedir, knit while I was visiting Grenada, was rudely stolen by some nefarious thief at the New Brunswick train station. I miss Shedir, and though this new hat fits perfectly, and was probably meant for me, it lacks the intricacy of the other. (That and grey isn't really my color)

OK, one set back, not to bad. So I cast on for #3, take two.
blue hat
Please not that I am ALSO not wearing this hat in my kitchen. My SON is wearing this hat. Knit from this pattern - a lovely pattern, don't get me wrong, I'll totally knit it again - the pattern is lacking in any mention of guage. So, fine, a beautiful hat for my son. There are worse accidents in the land of knitting.

OK. Two set backs so far, I wanted to knit six hats, and by mid-November I'd made 4, which would have been totally on track had they all been gift-worthy.

Hat #3, take THREE.
kens cap2
Ah ha! This pattern is awesome! Knit sideways using some clever short-row shaping, it was a super duper easy, fast knit, and I think it turned out really well. A bit roomier than intended, but the recipient seemed undeterred.

Hat #4.
I was really tired of hats. And none of the yarn that I had in my stash seemed appropriate for a hat for the recipient I had in mind. Then I remembered the beautiful O-wool that was originally slated to be a pair of socks for mom:
green sock on
And had been sitting in a box since then. Oh, how painful it is to rip 3/4 of a sock, even when you know it is too small for any foot you know (you don't want to know how hard it was to get the sock on for that photo). But rip I did, and the results were scrumptious:
Arboreal Cowl
I never quite understood the cowl craze until I pulled this over my head. But the next time I come into some soft and scrumptious yarn, a cowl for me it will be.

So in the end I didn't get my 6 hats knit, but I did knit 5 hats and a cowl - and everyone I am closely related to has received at least one knit item from me.