Posted in Blog Week, Crochet, Finished object, Knitting

2KCBWDAY4 — Where are they now?

Whatever happened to your __________?

Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

Last year, the word came that the daughter of a friend had been diagnosed with leukemia. She was four. After the initial shock, I started thinking about I could do to help the family cope. “Oh yeah! Chemo! She’s going to lose her hair!” And so, Emma’s Hat Project began.

Angora/mohair eyelet capCotton sun hat
Cotton knit with flowerBeige cotton crochet
Green linen 1

I started the first hat on March 10, 2010, and finished the fifth on March 24, 2010. These five hats were mailed to California within a few days of being finished, where they graced the tender bald head of Emma Alice until her hair started to grow back a couple of months ago. Emma’s doing just fine now. The leukemia appears to be in complete remission. And I’ll be darned if I can find her website to show you all….could have sworn I had it bookmarked.

Find out what happened to other people’s projects here.

Posted in Blog Week, Miscellaneous

2KCBWDAY3 — Tidy mind, tidy stitches

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry about my craft room and the beginnings of re-organizing and decluttering. (You can read it here.) Since that entry, I haven’t made much progress, but I did buy a rug, a chair, some shelves, and some shadow boxes. The rug is on the floor; the chair is by the sewing machine; the shelves and shadow boxes are on the tables, telling me I should be doing something with them instead of allowing them to gather dust. Oh well. At least my little stuff is more or less in proper order.

I was lucky enough to already have plastic bins for yarn storage when I returned to yarncraft in late 2006. What I didn’t have was somewhere to put the rest of the stuff. Last year, I finally found the perfect tool to organize my tools.

I love these totes.

They hide a multitude of sins…

I originally bought the smaller “tackle box” intending to use it as a tote for stage makeup and other theatre supplies. Once I brought it home, though, I realized I needed a sewing box more than I needed a makeup box. And so, inside this tidy exterior, you’ll find mostly sewing notions: spools of thread, skeins of embroidery floss, zippers, buttons, T-pins, seam binding, Velcro, needles for hand sewing, needles for machine sewing, bobbins…all manner of bibs and bobs related to the fine art of sewing. These items were once in a flat cardboard box, like a shirt box, and lacked any sort of organization whatsoever. The thread came unspooled and tangled, the needles and pins spilled from their respective containers, and heaven forbid trying to find that one particular replacement button for my husband’s dress shirts. I also could never find black or white thread when I needed it; consequently, I was constantly running down to the fabric store to buy another spool.

With all of those tiny things contained and corralled in slots and compartments, I can easily find the right needle, the right button, and can see right away if I have black or white thread. (Currently, I have three spools of black and two of white. I think we’re well-stocked for the foreseeable future.)

The larger box has four separate compartments: one immediately below the lid, and three slideout trays behind the clear plastic front.

Knitting and crochet tools and accessories live here. The tray beneath the lid holds things that won’t fit into the other trays: 14-inch straight needles and hairpin lace looms, mostly. Because the lid is usually up, though, lots of other things find their way in here, like leftover balls of yarn, the circular needles I used three or four projects ago, stitch gauge, row counter, Fray-check…it’s sort of a catch all. Better cluttered here in this box than scattered to the winds throughout the house.

Tray number one holds tiny things like stitch markers, yarn needles, pompom makers, cable needles, row counters.

Tray two is for 10 inch straight needles, DPNs, and circular needles.

Tray three holds the crochet hooks and the French knitters.

Before I acquired these cases, all my knitting tools were piled here and stuffed there, in the living room, in the dining room, in the bedroom. Made my husband nuts and drove me to distraction because I couldn’t find what I wanted when I wanted it. These boxes have saved both my marriage and my sanity. Gratuitous merchandising plug: You can find these marvelous totes at Joann’s. The big one. The small one. Not all that expensive, relatively speaking, and worth every penny.

See other blog entries on this topic here.

Posted in Blog Week, Finished object, Knitting, Technique

2KCBWDAY2 — Skill + 1UP

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

Normally, at the end of each year, I write a year-in-review blog entry, with just this topic in mind. I didn’t do one this year. Looking back, I can’t think of the reason why, other than the fact I’ve been obsessed with Netflix and Facebook and haven’t done much blogging at all in the past several months.

A survey of the projects completed in Calendar Year 2010 reveals no major leaps forward in techniques or skills learned. In fact, the only thing worth mentioning is my tentative step into the world of knitted lace.

I’ve done crocheted lace forever. When I ventured back into yarncraft a little over four years ago, after a hiatus of 20+ years, almost the first project I made was a lace baby blanket for a dear friend. The written directions nearly drove me out of my mind but then a kind-hearted soul on Ravelry shared the chart with me, and the project became a piece of cake.

Finished lacy baby blanket 3

Knitted lace, however, was somewhat intimidating. But one day I found a pattern for an adorable summer hat. I loved it, but it had a lace brim. And a provisional cast-on. The charts looked so arcane, with funny circles and slashes and weird upside-down tree-like symbols. Of course, the chart key was included in the pattern, and I refused to let any sort of yarn thing defeat me….and so, I sallied forth. I followed the directions for the provisional cast-on — a new technique — like they were scripture, knitted and decreased to the top, and turned that puppy over to start the lace border. The result?

Green linen 1

I was rather proud of it. Then, a few days after posting the finished pic to Ravelry, I received a PM from the designer wanting to use my photo as an example on the pattern page. Totally made my day!

Thus emboldened, I went searching for another lace pattern suitable for a lace newbie. Hey Teach! caught my eye. I had an appropriate yarn in stash, and so cast on. It took a while, but in about ten weeks, I had a cute little cardi for work OR weekend.

Hey Govt Employee

Lace has taught me the importance of keeping the stitch count correct. Lace does not forgive counting mistakes. Lace is forgiving of flubs like K2tog instead of K3tog, as long as that extra stitch gets removed somewhere along the way. And missing a yarnover isn’t a project-killer either, again as long as that missing stitch is added back somewhere along the way.

Look at these socks:

Belle Epoque 1

See what I mean? I bet you can’t even tell where I screwed up in the lace columns. What do you mean, the picture doesn’t show enough close-up detail? Pshaw. Don’t be a whiner. 😉

I have my eye on a couple more complicated lace projects now, like the Sideways Cardigan:

or the Apres Surf Hoodie:

or maybe the dainty lacy Tribute Socks:

Whatever the next lace project may be, I look forward to the challenge. You can be sure you’ll hear all about it in the pages of this blog.

See what others have posted on this topic here.

Posted in Blog Week

2KCBWDAY1: A Tale of Two Yarns. One day late. Um. Oops.

I came home from work yesterday totally focused on watching the last five episodes of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix and completely forgot about the start of Blog Week. Oops. So I’ll bash out yesterday’s entry now, and today’s entry in a couple of hours.

Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

Cascade 220 Superwash. Oh my word, how I love that yarn. So many colors to choose from, and at roughly $7.00 per 220 yard skein, it’s arguably the best bargain in the “upscale” yarn category. It knits and crochets beautifully, it drapes beautifully, it washes like a dream…I’m hard pressed to come up with anything I dislike about it. Well, except one thing. It’s a worsted weight, but sometimes it seems a little thin in comparison to other worsted weights. Or maybe it’s just me, and I’m comparing worsted to Aran and can’t tell the difference. Maybe we need to make a new category for heavy worsted — 4.5 weight instead of 4. That might help ease some of the confusion. Yeah, I know, I’m the only one confused. After four years of knitting I’m still operating at the level of Yarn 101.

Anyway, more about Cascade 220. This was the first non big-box store yarn I ever bought. I used it for a simple scarf, one of my earliest knit projects.

Mooreen models a scarf

Sadly, Mooreen, the model, was lost in our move across country last year. The box she was in never showed up. We miss her very much.

After the wonderful experience I had knitting this scarf, I started buying the Cascade whenever I needed a 100% worsted wool. Several skeins of this fabulous workhorse yarn currently rest in my stash: one red, and five brownish gray. The red was left over from a mitten project.

(The remaining partial skein of the yellow was used in another project, and the remaining partial skein of blue is sitting here staring at me with accusation in its eyes, I mean center pull cake.)

The brownish-gray was purchased by my mother for a vest, but she found a yarn in my stash she liked better.

Which is cool, because I have the perfect pattern for this bit of loveliness:

I had previously attempted the Gathered Pullover using another lovely yarn, Mirasol Cotanani, but said yarn is mostly cotton and the garment turned out both too heavy and too stiff. There is much to be said for proper swatching. Speaking of which, the Cascade swatches up just right, and this project is next on the list. (The Cotanani is now being used in a pattern which calls for silk, and it’s working out great.)

Bamboozle by Crystal Palace. Bamboo, cotton, elastic nylon. I have a like/hate relationship with this yarn. Like, because it’s beautiful, has gorgeous stitch definition, and comes in lots of colors. Hate, because it’s difficult to use due to its splittiness. Yes, that’s a word. It splits like crazy, meaning the user must pay very close attention to each stitch to avoid stringy leftovers. The elastic stretchiness can be both good and bad. I have experience with both.

Crystal Palace Bamboozle

I bought this yarn for a knit-along project at the LYS where I used to live. The project itself went just fine, with the aforementioned difficulty of the split problem. Even with the splittiness, the stitch definition was beautiful. The finished product, however, was a definite “ugh”. The elasticity made the top much too short, and the shape didn’t flatter my figure at all.

Finished front

So, I frogged it. Later, I found a crochet project that seemed perfect. Now aware of the shrinkage tendency, I purposely added four inches in length front and back, and came up with a top I wear with relative frequency.

Ring Around the Posie 2

(The neckline isn’t really crooked…I adjusted the cami strap underneath it just before spouse shot the pic, and hiked the rest of that side up at the same time. *sigh*)

In this case, the elasticity works because the crochet pattern isn’t all that stretchy…there’s some give, of course, but the Bamboozle gives it just that little bit of extra to make everything fit just so. Although I’m satisfied with this particular project, I don’t like the yarn well enough to use it again.

And there you have it. Click here for other posts on this blog topic.

Posted in Book review

Book review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of TimeThe Map of Time by Félix J. Palma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, where to begin…

Perhaps with Jack the Ripper, whose murder of Mary Kelly sparks the suicidal despair of young Jack Harrington which opens the novel. Perhaps with H.G. Wells, whose novel The Time Machine plays a pivotal role not only in saving Jack Harrington’s life, but in saving literary history. Perhaps with Gilliam Murray, who was inspired by Wells to market his own method of time travel to the London public. Perhaps with John Merrick, or Bram Stoker, or Colin Garrett of Scotland Yard, or any number of other players, both historical and fictional, that populate this sweeping steampunk portrait of Victorian England.

It’s virtually impossible to synopsize this story without giving away its twists. So let me just say this: between the covers of this book you will find two love stories, a murder mystery, a fabulously complex swindle, clanking steam-driven automatons, a tale of African adventure, a discussion of the contradictions and paradoxes of time travel, and much bouncing about through time to witness future events or set past events right.

I began reading this book late one Friday evening. I stayed in bed reading it the following Saturday morning…in fact, it was nearly 12:30 PM when I finally looked up after consuming nearly 400 pages. Yes, it’s that good. The remaining 200+ pages were sped through the following Saturday morning, and left me wanting more more more.

So go! Buy it. Read it. Love it.

Many thanks to LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to read this book.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review

Book review: Headcrash by Bruce Bethke

HeadcrashHeadcrash by Bruce Bethke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My, how things change, and how they stay the same.

Headcrash tells us the story of one Jack Burroughs, a sysadmin for a multinational conglomerate, who keeps his day job only because it finances his excursions into cyberspace, where in virtual reality he is cool dude MAX_KOOL instead of a nerd. Unfortunately, due to internal politics and the innate inability to keep his mouth shut at inopportune moments, Jack loses said day job. Thus unemployed, he plunges head first — or butt first, as the case may be — into his virtual world, eventually taking on a commission to do a little cyberpiracy in exchange for a considerable remuneration. The fact that he’ll be looting the database of his former employer has nothing to do with his acceptance of the job. Nope, nothing at all.

Written in 1995 and taking place in 2005, the storyline is somewhat dated and improbably technologically advanced from the perspective of 2011. And, being neither a gamer nor a computer geek, I can’t say whether the virtual reality environment as depicted here is realistic or even possible. The story moves at a frenetic pace, with hardly a break to catch one’s breath. Regardless, it’s great fun, full of inside geek jokes and pop culture references.

And seriously, how can you not like a book that begins:


View all my reviews

Posted in Book review

Book review: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So, here’s the thing. I know this is supposed to be one of the seminal works of American literature, and blazingly funny to boot. And while I have no doubt Catch-22 will maintain its place in the canon regardless of anything I write, I found the whole thing quite tedious.

Perhaps that was Heller’s point: that war is tedious, that war doesn’t make sense, that the only way for a soldier to survive a war with sanity intact is to develop a sense of the absurd and act on it. But after 144 pages, I knew I didn’t care enough about Yossarian or any other character to follow the absurdity for another 300 pages.

Thus, a two-star rating simply because I didn’t care. No reflection on writing quality. Just bored with content.

View all my reviews

Posted in Miscellaneous, Project planning, Work in progress

WIP Wednesday — The craft room

Last Friday the UPS man paid my house a visit and left behind a box. A big box. From KnitPicks. My husband rolled his eyes. “What did you buy this time?”

A classic “But honey, it was on sale!” moment.

But the swift and ballwinder could not stay mounted to the ironing board. I took a good look around at my craft/junk room.

and decided it was time for some organization.

So, the books and magazines were rounded up from several places, including the living room, and placed on the shelves to await reorganization. The boxes of electronic junk and tools got hauled out of this room and into my husband’s office so he can finally sort through it (like he’s been telling me he will do for a WHOLE YEAR! But I digress.). Various plastic boxes of gift wrap, miscellaneous household items, and just plain trash were pulled out from under the table and examined for any potential treasures and/or useful items. Anything that was old, wrinkled, soiled, torn, broken, or just plain ugly was pitched.

Then the magazines and books were removed from the shelves, sorted and organized, and reshelved. The crochet thread was gathered from its various resting places and placed into a couple of large baskets. The WIPs that were lying all over the tables were gathered into one bin. The yarn bins were moved from the top of the craft tables. The tables were pulled away from the wall and set so they could actually serve the purpose for which I bought them: a bona fide work surface. The sewing machine was set up, the blocking squares were laid out, the steamer was re-assembled, the swift and ballwinder found a new home on a small folding table. Omigosh! I think I found a craft room!

All is not yet complete…my desk area is still pretty sad.

I need some display shelves to hang on the wall between the doors to show off the collectible figurines currently hiding among the desk clutter. A big rug for the middle of the floor would be nice. More magazine cases are a necessity. I also intend to frame a couple of my grandmother’s doilies as art pieces for the large wall above the ironing board.

Eventually, I’d like to install one of those Murphy beds with storage and a drop down table so the craft tables can be removed and the room can double as a guest room when necessary.

Oh, and just so you all can see OCD in action…take a look at the pincushion. In the midst of all this decluttering and rearranging, I managed to find time to group all of the straight pins by color.


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Posted in Knitting, Work in progress, Yarn stash

Put down the hooks, pick up the needles

After the last several weeks of nothing but crochet, I decided to cast on for a pattern that has been in my Ravelry queue forever.

The pattern is from Knit Simple Summer 2008, and calls for a 100% cotton DK yarn (Classic Elite’s Provence). I decided to use the Mirasol Cotanani that’s been sitting in stash for almost as long as that pattern’s been in my queue…
Mirasol Yarns CotananiCotanani is 60% cotton, 40% wool, and feels soooo soft. I expect by the time I finish the knitting, the weather will be too warm for this piece, but I don’t care.

I love Mirasol’s yarns. Not only are they beautiful and come in gorgeous colors, proceeds from the sale of the yarn are used to provide schooling and health care to the Peruvian community from whence it comes. Gorgeous and socially conscious! What more can one want?

ETA: When I re-read this after posting, I realized it could come across as an advertisement. And so, clarification: I have no connection with Mirasol. I just really love their yarns.