Sunday, January 13, 2013

Angry Birds



I was browsing through Ravelry yesterday and found this adorable free pattern for some Angry Bird mittens. A couple years ago, I would sometimes have to beg my son for a chance to play the game on his phone while we were waiting at restaurants and such. (He has a smart phone while I don't. In fact, my phone is so old I figure that I could someday donate to the Smithsonian. It still works so I don't plan to get a new one just yet.) I never really got that great at the game but it is oddly addicting. My son wonders why that game has become so popular when there are so many other games.

My son is too old to wear Angry Bird Mitts, but I know a seven-year old who might. He wore an Angry Bird costume for Halloween and had an Angry Bird themed birthday party so I figured he would love these mittens. I was so eager to try them, that I dropped my current project, ran downstairs to dig through my stash for yarn to make them. I found some Cascade 220 and cast on.

I had a difficult time getting the eyebrows to be symmetrical. I re-did them a couple times on one of the mitts and still didn't really like how they turned out. Finally, I got some black sewing thread and reshaped the black yarn with a needle and thread. Tomorrow I will mail them out.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Swapping



A few years ago, I started swapping on Swap-bot. On this site you can sign up to participate in a variety of swaps ranging from exchanging post cards to more elaborate packages. I usually stick to swaps that involve handmade themes. You are assigned one or more partners who can live anywhere in the world depending on the parameters of the swap. You then prepare a package for them based on the theme. I was fairly active on the site but now I only participate every couple of months. There doesn't seem to be as many handcrafted swaps as there once was and I'm not really interested in exchanging store bought items.

However, I recently saw an interesting swap with a winter theme...you choose 4 items to send to a partner. Each person has a profile on the site where they can list preferences. I'm sending my package out to my partner today and this is what she will get. First, I knitted a scarf/shawlette in a self-striping yarn I chose because my partner mentioned she liked black, white and purple. This swap is not specifically for handmade items but I included two. The second is a crocheted basket that I filled with a sampler of tea bags. I made several of these little baskets out of dishcloth cotton I have in my stash and filled then with Ghiradelli chocolates for little holiday gifts. I think the tea bags look great, so that's another use for them.



I rounded out the package with some Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate, a box of Sanders mints, a locally made candy and two unscented votive candles.

I like to wrap gifts in plain, white tissue and attach a crocheted flower as a ribbon. I make them out of leftover scraps and try to have a supply on hand in a plastic bag. I wrapped the scarf up in just such a fashion.

The package will go out in today's mail. I am still waiting to receive one from my partner. I haven't swapped in awhile so this is fun!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

First Projects of the Year


My first project of the year is the Lucy Hat which I knitted with Madelinetosh Vintage. It was the actual yarn called for in the pattern and I just love it. I've been collecting skeins, mostly discounted onesies, from Jimmy Beans Wool  of Madelinetosh Merino Light but I've discovered that I love Vintage as well. My skeins are piled up and I actually am reluctant to knit with them. The colors are so rich and the skeins look so lovely. I figure a project has to be really worthy to use them.

With the yarn leftover from the hat, I made a pair of Waiting for Winter Mittens. I was going to design mittens using the woven stitch band featured in the hat, but I opted for expediency since I wanted to get this set mailed out to my aunt. I had promised her over the summer I would knit her a hat. I don't see her that often because she lives in another state, but she really appreciates handmade stuff.

I read many blogs and most of them contain entries about New Year resolutions or goals. I never have really jumped on the resolution bandwagon. I have to chuckle though because this time last year I actually was pretty serious about a goal of not buying any more yarn until I used up a bin of stash yarn. I'm not sure how long that lasted, but Jimmy Beans Wool just sent me a thank-you gift for being one of their most-appreciated customers.

a thank-you gift


I do have a knitting-related goal for this year though and it is to complete an actual adult-size sweater. I have yarn stashed to make several sweaters but just can't seem to finish them or even start them. I like the quick satisfaction of a small project. I'll see a pattern on Ravelry and want to dive in. This means that my knitting bags (yes, I have several) contain languishing projects...an unfinished cowl, a single sock. In a somewhat feeble attempt to organize for the new year, I rummaged through my bags and ripped out some unfinished projects and resolved to complete a couple others.

Here's one that I rescued. It was probably two years ago that I started these granny squares.

granny square scarf crocheted with Noro Silk Garden sock


Now it is almost done but not before I was distracted by a new purchase. I bought eight  balls of Crystal Palace kid merino for only $2.60 at Jimmy Beans. As soon as they arrived I started in on another flower scarf. I don't know what I'm going to do with all these flower scarves!


This one is very soft and lightweight.

I'm taking these pictures at 5:30 am and it is pitch dark outside. I get up with my teenage son who has swim practice at 5:45 am at his high school three mornings a week. I used to have to drive him but now he gets picked up by a friend. I make him coffee and a lunch. Parents take turns bringing in breakfast for the team. Yesterday was my turn and I got up at 4:45 am and made two large pans of hash brown casserole, baked 32 cinnamon rolls that I had made yesterday, and cracked 3 dozen eggs that I scrambled on site with my electric skillet. Another mom brought in chocolate milk, applesauce and yogurt. Those boys are certainly well-fed but I figure they deserve it. If I had to jump into a pool at 5:45 am, I would certainly look forward to a nice breakfast afterward. By noon, I was getting pretty sleepy at the office. And those boys had another practice from 3 to 5:30 pm! I don't know how they do it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holiday Trip

the famous Golden Gate Bridge



This year my family did something we never do...take a vacation over the Christmas break. The four of us flew from Michigan to San Francisco, California. It was the first time in California for my kids and about 15 years since I was last there. One of my co-workers, who owns a business there, warned me to expect rainy weather and boy, was he right. Despite the rainy weather, we had a great time.

Sausalito, CA houseboats
We stayed three nights in Sausalito, where my husband is enamored of the houseboat communities there. That would be a dream come true for him to be able to live in one of these.

Then we head about 40 miles south for a couple of nights, including Christmas, in Palo Alto. My son, who is in the middle of his high school swim team training, arranged to attend a practice at Stanford. While he swam 9500 meters in very chilly weather, at an outdoor 50 meter pool in the pouring rain, my daughter and I headed to the Stanford Shopping Center.  We dodged raindrops as we darted into the stores...more upscale than are typically found in our neck of the woods. My daughter bought a Kate Spade purse, at a significant, after-Christmas discount and she was thrilled.

We then trekked south to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a lovely drive, where we passed fields of brussels sprouts and artichokes. I was transfixed by the jellyfish exhibit at the aquarium.


Despite spending the day at the aquarium, my kids were in a serious mood for a sushi dinner back in Palo Alto.

Port Reyes National Seashore
Our final stop was back north to Bodega Bay. I loved the Port Reyes National Seashore. It was one of only two sunny days we had and the scenery was stunning. I wish we had taken the time to hike the Earthquake Trail, which follows along a portion of the San Andreas fault...but I only read about afterward. We did see some beautiful sights, though.

Sea lions plopped on the beach





On our last day, we headed to Healdsburg in Sonoma county, a pretty town chock-full of art galleries and restaurants. And there was a yarn shop, called Purls of Joy, which I think is a cute name. In this picture, you can see a sign advertising a 25% off sale. In the window, the igloo is made of plastic milk cartons, covered in cotton. I was relatively modest in my purchases...only two skeins of Noro Taiyo sock yarn.
yarn bombing in Healdsburg, CA




Rodney Strong winery, Sonoma Valley
 We visited a couple of wineries on our way back to our Bodega Bay inn. The grape vines look rather forlorn in the winter.

Kendall-Jackson winery



I appreciated this single blossom of color, although there is much more greenery in California at this time of year than in Michigan. We returned home to a coating of snow on the ground, a modest 4 inches or so...hardly anything compared to my friends in Vermont and New York who had to cope with 14 inches of the white stuff. My kids still have the rest of the week off from school, so vacation hasn't ended for them quite yet.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mittens and Scarves



I made these mittens earlier in the year and recently hauled them out for gift-giving. Although given the warm weather we've been having in southeast Michigan...I think it's almost 50 degrees today...I'm not sure when we will be needing these. Nevertheless, I embellished them and will soon wrap them up and give them away. I love these felted mittens which are great to wear when you're outside walking the dog or strolling the neighborhood.

I'm still having fun experimenting with Photobucket. My poor Facebook friends are getting an overdose of my doctored photos but I'm sure I will soon get tired of it. I still haven't utilized all the special features though but I'm working on it!







I've been addicted to crocheting these flower motif scarves. I dug into my stash of Noro yarns..the beautiful self-striping yarns from Japan. I literally have a whole Rubbermaid bin of different Noro yarns but I'm making a dent with these scarves, which take about 500 yards to complete.

This is the first scarf I made. I'm embarrassed to admit my first attempt was a disaster. I sat down one night and worked up a 10 petal motif. I ended up making 2 rows of these motifs, attaching them as I went along. But when I went to attach the third row, I couldn't make it work. And worse, it took me forever to actually realize why! Being geometrically-challenged, I failed to understand that I needed a 12-petal motif to make it work. I ripped out all the motifs and literally spent hours using the Russian joining method to get usable size balls of yarn. I recently learned that technique...there are youtube tutorials to show you how to attach yarn without tying knots. Noro is perfect yarn for this technique so instead of ending up with dozens of golf-ball size yarn balls, I got 3 good size hanks.


Here's a photo of my scarf in progress with a different flower motif than the previous two. It's a six petal flower. Although it drives me crazy, I don't weave in the yarn ends as I go along. I'm finding as I go to attach additional rows, that I occasionally have made a mistake with either attaching the motif or with the actual flower. I'm easily able to rip out just the one motif, correct it and move on.


This one is my favorite:




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Experimenting

I haven't been happy with the rather lifeless quality of my photos. I have a small point and shoot camera and the lighting has been so bad due to the endless stream of grey days we've been having. So I thought I would experiment a bit with some online photo editing programs. These pictures are from Photobucket. I  especially like the ability to add text to photos. I've been having fun the last couple hours editing various photos in my iphoto library.

These are pictures of a cowl I'm making for a gift although I'm not quite sure who will receive it. I sewed on buttons from my considerable stash. The flowers can be moved and attached at random. I used the super bulky Lion Brand Thick and Quick but I want to make another one using worsted weight yarn.

However...

I've been in quite a crocheting mood lately so I'm making several flower motif scarves. I'm a little geometrically challenged however and I run into problems when I try to crochet them together as I go along. I'll post some pictures of them tomorrow. I'm excited about the photo-editing possibilities!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Bucket of Snowballs








I have been pretty busy knitting and crocheting Christmas gifts. The one I'm sharing today is a bucket of snowballs that I plan to give to the little guy who loved my dragon so my much. I was inspired to make this after thumbing through an Oriental Trading catalog where I saw white, fabric snowballs you could order. Those snowballs had funny faces on them which I thought about for mine but in the end decided to leave them plain. I went to Jo-Ann's and bought a skein of blue Wool-Ease and a skein of white with a thread of sparkliness which I thought perfect. Here's how I made them:

Bucket of Snowballs

Pattern notes:
 Use a removeable marker when crocheting the rounds and move it up as you go along. Snowballs and bucket are worked in the round in a spiral and not joined by a slip stitch after each round.

To avoid holes showing when you decrease use the invisible decrease method. You can find video tutorials on this process if you Google it.

invisible decrease: without doing a yarn over, insert hook into front loop only of next two stitches. Yarn over and draw up one loop, yarn over and draw through all three loops. Decrease made.

Snowballs measure about 3" across and bucket measures 6" across bottom circumference and is 5.5" high.


Snowballs

With a size US G crochet hook, make an adjustable ring

Rnd 1: 6 sc
Rnd 2: *2 sc into each sc* (12 sc)
Rnd 3: *1 sc in first st, 2 sc in next st* (18 sc)
Rnd 4: *1 sc into next 2 sts, 2 sc into next st* (24 sc)
Rnd 5: *1 sc into next 3 sts, 2 sc into next st* (30 sc)
Rnds 6-8: 1 sc in every st
Rnd 9: begin decrease round, using invisible decrease method described above.
             *1 sc in next 3 sts, sc 2 tog in next 2 sts*
Rnd 10: *1 sc in next 2 sts, sc 2 tog in next 2 sts*
Rnd 11: *1 sc in next sts, sc 2 tog in next 2 sts*
Rnd 12: *sc 2 tog*

Stuff snowball with polyfill and close up with yarn needle.

I was able to make 10 snowballs with one skein of Wool-Ease.


Bucket:

With blue yarn, and G hook, make an adjustable ring.


Rnd 1: 6 sc
Rnd 2: *2 sc into each sc* (12 sc)
Rnd 3: *1 sc in first st, 2 sc in next st* (18 sc)
Rnd 4: *1 sc into next 2 sts, 2 sc into next st* (24 sc)
Rnd 5: *1 sc into next 3 sts, 2 sc into next st* (30 sc)
Rnd 6: *1 sc into next 4 sts, 2 sc into next st* (36 sc)

Rnds 7-14: continue in this manner, working one more sc per round before increasing. You will be increasing 6 sts per round.

Rnd 15: working in back loop only, sc in each st around
Rnds 16-20: working in both loops, sc in each st around
Rnd 21: to make the bucket shape a little better, decrease 4 sts evenly spaced. You don't have to do the invisible decrease here.

Continue working rounds, sc in each st until bucket measures 5.5" or until desired height. Work one row reverse sc for top edging. I get good results when I use a hook one size smaller for this.

Handle: Make a slip knot and chain st for about 15" or desired length of handle. Sc in each chain until the last st, 3 sc in last st, then turn work and do a sc in each loop on the bottom of the original chain. Finish with 3 sc in last st. Work another round of sc and then fasten off. Sew handle to sides of bucket.

Snowflake:
With white and G hook, make an adjustable ring
Rnd 1: 12 sc in ring, st st to join
Rnd 2: sc in same st as joining, *ch 3, skip 1 sc, sc in next st* join with sl st. (6 ch-3 loops)
Rnd 3: *in next ch-3 space, 2 sc, ch 3, sl st in first ch ( picot made) 2 sc, sl in next sc, ch 9, slip in 4th ch from hook, ( ch 4, sl st in 1st ch) twice, sl st in remaining 5 chains and in original sc*

I used white sewing thread to attach my snowflake to the bucket because the yarn seemed too bulky. I also added a row of decorative slip st to the top of the handle.