Friday, April 18, 2014

FO Friday: My first charity blanket

Since starting my  new job, I've joined a great knitting group that focuses on charity projects. I've mentioned it several times and on Monday, I gave you most of a look at most of the finished blanket. I want to share a good finished object picture to celebrate its completion.

This was the first project that I brought to the group finished. I felt a weight lifted once I turned it in. It is odd and unnecessary, but I was carrying around some guilt for all the free yarn they had given me with out having given them anything in return. To defend myself slightly, I took 5 different balls of yarn for this blanket and 2 giant skeins for the second blanket before I brought this in. Now I feel I've proved that I will uphold my end of the bargain and I can be trusted with massive amounts of yarn.

Hubby has been playing and learning with his fancy camera so I've started asking for him to help me take better pictures of my completed knitting. He seems more interested in portraits, but I really appreciate the time he is putting into great lighting and staging for me. They are so much nicer than the quick cell phone shots I'd be sharing otherwise. Thanks babe!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Ralph Askew

A girlfriend of mine is making a big move from Arkansas to Indiana. I don't expect her to have too many winters like the ones that I grew up with in Wisconsin, but I'm hoping she will enjoy a winter that is truly cold and snowy rather than wet and dreary. (I confess... I like snow.) During her last visit we packed the time with yarn shopping and tips on how to winterize your home and keep warm in January. While at my LYS Knitty City we found some really fun yarn: Meow Yarn. It is a lovely fingering weight yarn with colorways inspired by cats and part of the proceeds go to benefit stray and abandoned cats. Everything came together when she found a black and white skein matching her lovely tuxedo cat Ralph.

(Isn't he a cutie?)

(So is that skein)

I knew instantly that she needs her first set of hand knit socks for her first snowy winter. When I unwrapped this skein at home, I got even more excited about the project. It is gorgeous all twisted up, but it is intriguing laid out. It is half black and half white to the length of the skein. I've worked with variegated yarns in a variety of color options. some with just one or two stitches in each color and others with long striping color changes. I haven't however worked with any two color yarn or anything so meticulous in the short repeats. Since these will be socks I'm very excited about seeing how they work up. The potential for one row stripes is making me nearly giddy.
(See? Half and half! and surrounded in toys)

(Look at that beautiful cake!)

My friend and I have also picked an exciting pattern: Skew. The unique construction of this pattern means that I can't predict at all what is going to happen. Even if I do figure it out, something new is going to throw me off all over again. Case in point, I've gotten the first toe done. I am seeing the cool striping that I expected and I love them. They are turning out much more zebra* than kitty though. The only spot of pooling so far is clearly a zebra eye.
(I like that the curled up edge makes a little ear too. Squint a bit if you can't see it, or just love me for my crazy.)

What really has me curious about this pooling spot is that there is no corresponding white pool, or any other pool the opposite side is all stripes.  Ralph Askew is my new subway project and since I am so fascinated  with this yarn, these are going to work up super quick. I'm still riding on the high of my first finished Christmas present, and I'm starting to wonder if I should make her wait for these. It would be torture for both of us, but then I'd have 2 Christmas presents done! That could be enough to inspire a hand made Christmas.


*Random lesson for the day: Zebras are black with white stripes. I learned this on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom so it must be true. According to our safari guide, we know they are black because their nose is black. There are some other more scientific explanations supporting the black animal with white stripes claim, but I like this one so I'm sticking with it. The more you know.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Adventures in Blocking Acrylic

If you learn anything about me from this post, please let it be that I'm not very adversarial when it comes to knitting. I have my opinions and preferences, but I don't really participated in the heated debates about how things should be done. Knitting brings me joy, and I believe that other people should knit in whatever ways bring them joy. As a cheap knitter I often encounter (and slowly back away from) debates about yarn and fiber. While I wouldn't consider myself part of the anti-acrylic camp. I don't generally knit with it and I find the texture rough. I wouldn't buy it without a very special purpose, but I also wouldn't throw away a bag full if it fell in my lap.

This claim has been put to the test because my charity knitting group gives us yarn for our projects. That's right, free yarn for all the knitting I could dream of doing as long as I'm willing to give my FOs to charity. It is all 100% acrylic yarn. It also appears to all be worsted. I am not about to complain. It is the most amazing set up I have ever encountered. Now I find myself working with acrylic yarn on almost a daily basis. Has it changed my opinion at all? Not really. I limit my time working with the charity projects, because they start to feel rough on my fingers. Though all of my other projects feel like butter sliding through my hands. So it is free yarn and it helps my appreciate my expensive yarn more. It is delightful on so many levels.

I recently finished my first charity project and fell right into a subargument of the pro and anti acrylic debate: Can you block acrylic? After reading articles and watching videos from both sides, I've reached an initial opinion and I'm using my charity projects to test it. First let me hash out the argument as I understand it:

Anti: You cannot wet block acrylic. I tried this with some of my very first learning to knit projects, and I can confirm that soaking a project and laying it out to dry will not do you much good. It also won't do you much harm.

Pro: Steam! Wet blocking is not the only type of blocking and you should choose a method appropriate to your project and fiber. In the case of acrylic, that's steam blocking.

Anti: That's not blocking; it's melting! The hot steam is melting the plastic based fiber into submission and by definition ruining the yarn.

Pro: It works, and it works better than wet blocking because you don't have to re-block every time you wash you FO.

This last argument is the one that sold me. I generally believe that blocking makes projects look better and I do it with everything except my toys (though I've had some toy pieces that made me consider it.) I am not a perfectionist when it comes to my knitting. I'm often fudging fixes rather than correcting mistakes, but I do want my final piece to look its best. I have a clothing steamer that we keep out and use on almost a daily basis, so there really was no hassle to trying. I finished seaming and sewing in ends on my Dream Catcher and it looked a little sad. I wrapped it up in an icord boarder and it still had a wonkyness to it that I couldn't shake.


As you can see the squares didn't want to be square and the boarder was curling under in some places and curling out in others. It is not what I wanted to present to the group as my very first project. Since this was an experiment, I let myself be a bit lazy. I didn't pin this or measure out perfect squares. I just threw a beach towel on my table and laid the blanket down on top (RS down per all the instructions I've seen online.) I went at it with  my steamer pretty haphazardly. I tugged here and patted there and really avoided overly committing or stressing myself.


I'm happy to report that even with my poor attempt it calmed down nicely. Here it is drying. It was a little damp so I left it for a bit and it held its shape wonderfully. I'm certain with a measuring tape and a right angle I could have made perfect squares and straight lines. I only blocked the one side. I've seen some tutorials on crochet blankets recommend doing both sides, but knitting tutorials say only the back. I think the reason is that one side is all that would be necessary for something like this and if you are working very textured, I could see the benefit of only blocking the back and not 'flattening' the front.

My initial conclusions. It works and it is worth it. My blanket now has the pretty finished look that a blocked FO should have. I didn't wash it to test if the blocking was permanent. I suspect that both the pro and anti acrylics are right here and it is a case of slight melting. My yarn didn't get shiny, there were no plastic drippy balls like if I took an open flame to it, and it certainly didn't make the texture rough or unpleasant. I don't plan on this yarn being anything other than this blanket so if I've just convinced it of the same, so be it. My next blanket has a hint of laciness to it, so we'll see if blocking can help open up a project.

Hubby has taken some FO pictures of this project with his fancy camera so hopefully I'll be sharing those soon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FO Friday: Christmas Cowl

You read that right! I finished my first Christmas present! and I am not scheduled to finish another one for... the rest of the year. I have spent years believing that socks were my favorite traveling project, but I might be changing my preference to cowls.



A few weeks ago I headed to San Francisco for a work trip. I had packed some sock yarn and DPNs. What I didn't do was empty the project bag first and it still had my spare ball of yarn  and needles from my Follow Your Arrow shawl. I sat down on the plane and found myself casting on that bright Christmas red. I knit right through the flight. It was a busy trip full of conference sessions and sightseeing so I didn't knit much while I was away, but as my plane landed back home, I had 7 stitches left to cast off. In the cab, I finished those up, sewed in my ends and had a FO before I got home.



It was a delightful project. Simple that didn't need the pattern after the first repeat and complicated enough that it kept me away when jet lag should have knocked me out. I Now I'll pack this away with a few Christmas presents that I've already bought and wait for December to return. (Honestly, don't think I'm so organized that I have started Christmas shopping already. These are presents that arrived too late or were discovered to be duplicates with other friends' gifts.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Treasured Heirloom Blanket

Last time I talked about this blanket, I didn't share much other that a photo. We had friends visiting and they were far more fun than my laptop. Since then, I've continued to make progress.

In fact, I've passed the halfway point and have started the decreases. This is the project that I had queued up and planned before I was anywhere near finishing the first charity blanket and it has been everything I hoped for: mostly mindless comfort knitting that will work up quickly for the charity group. Sadly though, I think this is my last day taking it on the subway. It has just become too bulky and doesn't fit in my bag anymore. It is going to make great tv knitting at home. Now I just have to decide what to take on my commute. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Jeanie Continues

I am dedicating this WIP Wednesday to math. I started Jeanie in September of 2010 and since starting up knitting again it has been competing with my brother's blanket for the project that will never end. It is a great pattern with enough going on that I don't get bored, I have a happy little cheat sheet that keeps me on track but doesn't require that I reference the pattern or charts anymore, and I am very excited about the finished wrap. For some reason, it just doesn't seem like it is getting any bigger. I can work and work and work on it, and I swear it should be somewhere between 8 to 12 feet long by now. Oddly though, it is only 40 inches. My goal is 66 inches. To help me get through it, I am going to try to rephrase my goals. Let's work some math magic, and maybe one of them will be more manageable.


1) 26 inches - Well this one is obvious.

2) 3 balls of yarn - that's all I've got so it has to work. The first ball knit up about 23 inches so in 6 more inches I'll be starting number 3. Then I'll only have 20 inches left!

3) 8 and a half more pattern repeats. One full repeat is about 3 inches so this is a bit more digestible of a goal.

4) 34 more cable rows. This isn't completely accurate because some cables twist more than others, but it makes sense to me because I really recognize the full cable rows.

5) 17 more dropped stitches. Really this is the fun part; these are the rows I'm really looking forward to so why not count them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

FO Friday: Follow Your Arrow

A month ago I shared my Follow Your Arrow shawl as soon as I cast it off and proceeded to whine about blocking it. It is odd to think it, but this mystery lace knit along is just the project that I needed to get back into knitting. While I love lace, it isn't my favorite, and usually registers in my mind as a lot of work. Ysolda Teague is an incredible designer, but we seem to have different tastes so I've never immediately fallen in love with her patterns.

So why after nearly two years of ignoring my knitting was this the project that brought me back to my hobby? Part of it was the structure and schedule of the clues and the excitement of all the bloggers and other knitters I follow. Most of if however was due to one amazing friend.
Katy has been the best enabler a woman can ask for. She has brought me amazing yarns from across the country, sent me gorgeous pattern suggestions, and kept my family wrapped up in wool while I was neglecting my craft. The stars aligned so that I had a new job, a new routine, and time that could clearly be dedicated to knitting. Katy, in her usually loving and excited persistence suggested that I join in for the KAL and convinced me to get hooked. I picked my needles back up for this project and haven't put them down again. I owe a lot of rediscovered joy to her and appropriately this shawl is now hers. I love you Katy! Thanks for enabling.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Another Charity Blanket


Since I was having yarn issues with the other charity blanket, I decided to cast on a second and stay productive. This is the queued pattern that I mentioned before and is knitting up delightfully quick. 

Just a quick post to share today. We have company in town so I'm off to enjoy my time with them. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

TableTop Day - Ideas Needed

TableTop day 2014 is almost here!



Saturday, April 5th is just around the corner and I still don't have a great TableTop day plan. We are certainly going to have company and play games that night, but during the day I'd love to do something extra special and include the girls. They aren't avid board game players yet. At nearly two years old, they haven't quite grasped the concept of taking turns or not tasting meeples. So I'm looking for your ideas!

To get the brainstorming started, here are some ideas that I've had:

Roll & Play -
This one is a simple and quick idea. The girls already own their first dice game. We will practice taking turns learn more about colors, and Daddy will probably have to balk like a chicken.

The girls are really starting to get good with this game, but it still is only about a 20 minute activity and since we play most weekends it doesn't feel particularly special. I want to do something a little extra to make the day stand out.




A New Game -
There are lots of toddler games and it might be something special to just get a new one and play that for a while. I really wish we could get it from our local game store though. A trip to the local game store seems like an outing worthy of TableTop day, but they don't really specialize in games our speed. A trip to KMart or Target doesn't hold the same magic for me. There is one game that I think our local store might have that could do the trick...

Giant Cthulhu Dice -
If you've played Cthulhu Dice, you already know what a simple and fun game it is. If you haven't, you are holding on to far too much of your sanity and should give losing your marbles a try. We could take a trip to the store to pick up a huge die and maybe go to the park and find some parents and other kids for a pick up game. If we wanted to play really risky we could use goldfish to track our sanity and just assume that any toddler instigated rolls or sanity theft is due to their possession by the elder gods.




Off the TableTop-
Speaking of the park, I've been trying to think of a game that we could easily transfer from table top to the park for big, physical playing. The best I've come up with so far, is doing something similar to Candy Land and using our Roll & Play to dictate moves. We could use sidewalk chalk to make squares or even just tape down some construction paper for a quick set up. Roll the dice, move and the first one to the end wins! It still seems better for just a bit older than our girls, but if we could get some other park goers invovled they could be good role models.

What are your ideas? Have you played games with 2 year olds, or gotten them exited about TableTop day? Please share your successes (and fun failures!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Cody's Blanket

I love my brother, and that love is what keeps this blanket chugging along. I started this project in August 2010. Granted I took a sabbatical from almost all knitting but this is still moving slowly. I dedicated all of my Olympics viewing time to this and probably 90% of my tv time since including the Grammys. Here is my before the Olympics progress 

And here is after the Grammys

Just one new white section is all I have to show for all of that knitting. The good news is these white sections are the final round of the blanket. I'm thinking I will round it out with an Icord boarder. 

Right now I'm trying to decide on the boarder color. I have enough yarn for any of the three. I'm thinking brown and blue on their matching sides. Or maybe a striped boarder that is white/accent color. The stripes might be too busy. I clearly have hours and hours left to decide.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Queued: Treasured Heirloom Baby Blanket

I don’t have a FO for this Friday, so instead I’ll share with you a Queued. 
My new knitting group has been driving a lot of my Queue additions lately. NYU has a wonderful knit/crochet group that is making an incredible number of charity projects. Just look at this baby blanket hall from last year-
image
They provide all the yarn, and we donate whatever we make. My Queue has been exploding with hats, scarves, blankets and anything that fits into their year-long charity goals. We’ve been doing baby blankets since I joined and I am lagging behind the super fast crocheters that make up most of the group. Today’s Queued is what I hope will be an interesting but quick knit that can help me catch up (even though there is no quota or competition among any of them I feel behind.)
image
(image source - membership free but log-in required)
This is a diagonal knit square blanket with alternating garter stitch and lace panels. This is a free pattern from Lion Brand while it is written to stop each panel at a certain stitch count, I think I am going to make adjustments and do the panels based on row count. That way I can use any weight yarn  and I’ll just switch from increasing to decreasing when I hit 5.6’ across (Wolfram/Alpha helped me figure that out.) I love this plan because it also means no swatching! I have two other charity blankets on the needles to work through first, but my goal is to get this one into the mix too.
Have you knit any charity blankets? What are your favorite patterns.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Teeny-Tiny Minions

This past month I have started playing Dungeons & Dragons with a Meetup group in Manhattan.  I've never played before, but the group has been great and very helpful teaching me the rules. There are basically two ways to play. You can be an adventurer and try to take take on the bad guys or you can be the dungeon master and lead the adventure and control the bad guys. Most of the time I am an adventurer, but the way our group works every takes a turn being a dungeon master.

I still don't have a great grasp of the rules, so when my turn to lead the group came up, I decided to play to my strengths. To set up the game board I knit all the bad guys using Anna's new book Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi. My adventurers had to face panthers, gnomes and eladrin, so I had to improvise, but I was able to get the point across.

DnD Panthers
DnD Gnomes
DnD Dudes

I confess they probably were not as intimidating as teeny-tiny knits, but now the whole group knows what they are in for when they play with me. Now I need to go work out a teeny-tiny wolf.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wintercrest Wizard

I got so excited about this that I forgot to blog.





- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, September 12, 2011

False Starts

I finished flock, and need a new project. I cast on a quick little toy for Hubby and got this far before I realized my yarn just wasn't going to work.

Kcycle 1

I started again with new yarn and got this far before I realized I was using the wrong needles.

Kcycle 2

 I took it as a sign and cast on for a pair of socks instead.

Gsocks

This is how far I got before I realized that I messed up my ribbing and it needs to be started over again. I knit, but I did not accomplish this weekend.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Follow Friday: Geek Dad & Geek Mom

Since it has been so long since I've offered up a Follow Friday and these two fit so well together, I'll give you a two for one deal.

I am not a parent, but I am a geek with a special interest in children's media. These two blogs are a perfect fit for me because they are intended for geeks who are immersed in children's media.

From Geek Dad


I discovered Geek Dad just after grad school and I've been an avid reader ever since. It is a great resource for updates and reviews of gadgets, games, comics, movies, books and Phineas and Ferb!

From Drop Box


I confess, I was leery of Geek Mom when it started. It is a spin off from Geek Dad and my initial thoughts were that separate is inherently not equal.  Women were posting on Geek Dad for as long as I had been reading, so I didn't really find Geek Mom necessary. Geek Mom seems to have some extra parenting tips, education related discussion, and healthy food ideas, but overall it is just more great information. There is a little bit of cross posting with Geek Dad, but they do a great job of organizing theme topics without having overlap redundancy.