Thursday, February 28, 2008

Snowflakes and Soybeans

We are having another snowy winter with over 20 snowfalls since Thanksgiving. In addition to that we've had tornadoes, thundersnow, and snowfog--all unusual weather phenomena. Monday night we went to bed with a forecast of snow during the night. We awoke to a very wet snow clinging to every branch, acorn, and bit of ground. The shoveling was tough because the snow was so wet. My husband got a good start on the driveway before he left for work and I finished it off in two work sessions during the day.

The birds would say "thank you" if they could. They do thank us with their energy, antics, and music. They are beginning to sing these days as the mating season approaches.

Although I've had very busy days recently getting ready for an Open House for my business, I did sneak in some knitting time to start on another Garter Stitch Baby Cardigan. The true color is a bit softer than it appears in the photo. I am using Bernat's Soy Natural Blend. I love the feel of this yarn and I like the idea of using soybeans which are grown all over my home state.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I've been reading a lot of fluff lately. Although I don't devour mysteries as some readers do, I do like the occasional light mystery with the backdrop of the English countryside. M.C. Beaton has a light-hearted series that takes place in the English Cotswolds. The detective is an eccentric middle-aged woman by the name of Agatha Raisin. Agatha is a self-made woman who has retired in middle-age from her public relations firm to move to a cottage in the Cotswolds. Agatha is a hopeless romantic, always dreaming of romantic encounters, while puffing away on a cigarette and eating microwave dinners. She is so hilarious in her own quirky way and can't seem to keep herself out of trouble. M.C. Beaton also has a series of novels with the Scottish detective, Hamish MacBeth, as the central character.

Going from a fluffy mystery to a novel about the bubonic plague does seem like an extreme jump. I am currently reading Geraldine Brooks A Year of Wonders, a novel of a small village in England in 1665, which is beset by the plague. I'm just about 20 pages into the book. The writing is excellent and the subject matter interesting.

The Newfoundland Mitts Revisted are finished. I highly recommend this pattern. Not only were they an easy, quick knit but they do promise to be one of the warmest pair of mittens ever! I did add a few stitches to the thumb as they seemed to be a bit tight, even on my small hands. It could be that my gauge was a bit tight.

I heard recently that one of the keys to keeping yourself young is having a passion in life. Oh my goodness....where do I begin? Saturday night I went to bed having finished my mittens and the Agatha Raisin book so I was plotting my next knitting project, next book, next piping tune to memorize, butterfly gazing soon in the spring...Uh, no problem with passions here! I think I'll live a long time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mostly Mittens

The Fiesta Mittens are finished and blocked. They were a pleasure to knit although turning the corners on the dpn's and keeping the yarn loose enough on the carries was a challenge, as I mentioned previously. Still, the end result is quite fine! Don't you just love those thumbs?

I started on a pair of Newfoundland Mitts Revisted, a pattern by Creative Whimsey. The real thrill was getting into my stash and finding two yarns that are a match made in heaven. The solid color is part of a kit I bought from Blackberry Mills. It is a bit of an odd color: green with teal overtones. Then I discovered a rolled brim hat in my stash that I had made from the top down in Kureyon. It was finished except for sewing in the ends. After knitting it I realized I would probably never wear it, nor could I think of anyone who would. The yarn has bits of the EXACT same green/teal color in it. The color is so perfect that at times I've been momentarily confused, thinking I was picking up the wrong strand. This pattern is so fun to knit and looks so cozy to boot! I just started knitting last night, after making a gauge swatch and the first mitten is already a good couple of inches past the thumb opening. The photo does not do justice to the color, which is not as close to teal as the photo indicates. I was photographing in poor light. I will get a better photo as I progress.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

More Loopiness

Thanks to those who have encouraged my Magic Loop Knitting. I started on a baby sock to become more familiar with the technique. I am still rather clumsy when I reach the end of one needle and then have to make the other needle the working needle. I am not sure whether to push or pull. Neither seems natural yet but I am working on it. I also need to figure out how tightly to pull the yarn on the first stitch. Too tight and it is difficult to get it onto the cable next time and too loose and you end up with a gap, the same that can happen when knitting on dpn's.

The Fiesta Mittens are finished and I will post a photo after blocking.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Magic Loop Knitting

Several months ago I purchased The Magic Loop from Knit Picks. This booklet plus Knit Picks' 32" circular needle with an extremely flexible cable were the combo that enabled me to teach myself the technique. Although I am not that quick at it yet, I am reserving judgement until I complete a project and give it a fair shot. I am pretty fast on DPN's so I'll have to gain a lot of speed on The Magic Loop in order to make it a viable option for circular knitting. It is always fun to learn a new technique which surely will come in handy sometime in my knitting life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Harmony Knitting Needles

I've been peering out my door daily for my package from Knit Picks. Today I was rewarded and tore into the package. I had ordered 4 32" circulars in small sizes and the set of Harmony Wood DPN's in sizes 0 through 3.25. I am IN LOVE with all these needles. Although I know it is not a good idea to switch needles in the middle of a project I had to do it once I felt the Harmony needles. My Fiesta Mittens are being knit with bamboo needles from my local yarn shop. What a difference the Harmony needles make! Some of the other needles of this reputable brand felt like the ends of toothpicks. They were sharp and hurt my fingers. The Harmony needles are perfectly named because they do make knitting more harmonious! THANK YOU, Knit Picks! Not only are these the best but they are also very reasonable. As for the Knit Picks circulars, I can already tell I will love them also. The cable is very flexible and the join is very smooth. I am going to work on learning the Magic Loop method for knitting in the round.

Tonight I have my beginning knitters class at church and can't wait to show them these new needles.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Books

I see it has been a while since I updated. The Fiesta Mittens will be finished soon. I am almost done with the second mitten, except for both thumbs.

The microwave smoke damage is almost cleared up completely. I began putting food back into the cupboard today. As for the microwave itself, we'll have to see whether we can restore it to its former self. The lingering odor of smoke is very unpleasant. At the moment it is banished to the garage.

A book order arrived from Amazon today. It seemed to take a very long time in comparison to other orders I have placed there. I ordered 4 books--all about knitting! Isn't that amazing? (I noticed that I use exclamation points too frequently and there is one cropping up already.)

One of the new books is Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. There is a lot more to this book than the title implies. In addition to some fun projects there is a chapter on exploring color, wrapping handknit gifts, and some basic knitting instruction with clear drawings. I'm glad I bought it. More on the other books later.

These photos are just to remind me that spring is coming soon. We've had a very snowy winter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Flames in the House

Last night I was cooking dinner and decided to cook a potato in the microwave. As I bustled about the kitchen putting finishing touches on the meal, a sudden BANG and flash of light from the microwave sent me running across the room to the microwave. There were flames inside the microwave, which shut itself off about the time I got there. Smoke was billowing out of the oven and cabinet into the room. I turned on the kitchen exhaust fan and began opening windows. Fortunately, the temperature wasn't that cold, in the mid-30's. I raced around the house like a madwoman,waving at the smoke and opening windows and hoping the smoke alarms would not go off. When my husband came home we both tried various methods to remove the stench of the smoke. We removed the microwave from the house and put it in the garage, wiped the cabinet with vinegar, set out baking soda, boiled cinnamon sticks and orange peels on the stove, and kept windows open. You wouldn't believe the stench that could come from one little potato! This morning it is a lot better but the cabinet still has a strong odor. I have trays of baking soda sitting inside of it to absorb the odor, but I'm afraid it will take a while. We think this particular potato might have been drier than usual which is why it burst into flames. Anyway, BE CAREFUL! Never leave the room if you have something in the microwave. I know I have been guilty of walking away for a few minutes and I will never do that again.

And now another caveat (also related to flames). On the weekend my husband discovered an old jacket he had been wearing in the fall when he cleared the lot next to us. He had taken off the jacket in the basement and laid it over a cardboard box. He discovered a hole in the sleeve in the crook of the elbow. My first thought was MICE; however, the edges are melted all around the stuffing. We believe the hole must have been caused by a burning ember. The hole is about the size of the palm of my hand. We hate to think what might have happened if that coat had caught the cardboard box on fire!

I finished the first Fiesta Mitten (minus the thumb) last night while listening to election returns. Thanks for you kind comments! In retrospect a braided edge on that cuff would have been perfect! I am contemplating starting over so I can add that detail but I'm not sure I REALLY want to do that. I may have enough wool left over after mitten #2 to make a child's pair and then could add the braid.

The Flying Swallow pattern is great fun to knit and really is easier than it looks!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Party Time! Fiesta Mittens!

I started a new project although I am not finished with the cupcakes for the fundraiser on Saturday. I have 5 "frostings" to make and then need to stuff the cupcakes and sew bottom top. I have already made enough of the cupcake bottoms and I knew if I did that much I would at least finish them all. I just love the Bernat Soy Blend, so much that I bought more for my stash. It will be soft and cuddly for baby items. I used to be totally a wool person but the reality is that most young moms today do not want to be bothered with handwashing. Wool items, unless they are treated so they can be machine washed, are likely to end up as accidentally felted items and then of little use to anyone. Also, the new blends are a lot better than they were 20 years ago.

My new project is Fiesta Mittens, a kit I bought from Lucy Neatby, when I attended a Knit-In sponsored by the Janesville WI Knitting Guild several years ago. It took me a while to get my gauge small enough: 10 st to the inch on a size zero needle. Inspired by someone on Ravelry, I dressed up the cuff a bit. I'm not sure how much I like the garter stitch border, but I like it enough to not rip out and start over. I have mixed feelings so far about the kit pattern itself. The pattern could be a bit clearer. The actual color pattern is fairly simple as you are only working color every other round so you can snooze on the plain rounds. The carries on the sides are making it tricky to keep from pulling there.

I just started working on this mitten Sunday, so it's moving along fairly well. I took my cupcake knitting to a Super Bowl Party since I can work on those and look at the television occasionally. The Fiesta Mittens are a more concentrated effort, especially in the beginning. Now that the pattern is established, they are a lot simpler.

Friday, February 1, 2008

It is a SNOW DAY!

Last night we had several inches of snow. From the looks of the table on our back deck, it is about 5 or 6 inches. Some areas near us got as much as 10 inches. With all the blowing and drifting, all schools have cancelled, including the university where my husband teaches. In all his years of teaching they have only cancelled classes 3 times. While he is shoveling I am baking whole grain bread and playing on the computer and (soon) knitting.

Snow makes me think of mittens and I realized that some of my mittens did not make it into the "pod". The blue ones are fingerless and I sometimes use them when our pipe band plays in cold parades, which is sometimes the case on St. Patrick's Day. I can't play well with them on actually, but I play better than I do with frozen fingers.

The cream, blue, and brown mittens are from Robin Hansens Fox Geese and Fences book. The pattern is called Fox Geese and Fences and is so fun to knit. I have worn these mittens so much that they have worn out several times and I keep repairing. The first time I repaired them I tried actually knitting a patch that would match but since then I have just darned them rather clumsily. They do deserve better treatment and they need darning now.

The brown pair with red stripes on the cuff are just ordinary everyday mittens. They are very servicable and have a homespun look to them.
Does anyone using blogger have advice about placement of photos? When I add photos onto my blog there seems to be no rhyme or reason about where they show up. It is often difficult to place them where I really want them. Thanks in advance!

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