I finally finished that damn blanket that I’ve been making for, um, over four years…
It started out as a way to use up skeins of yarn that had sat in my stash forever because there was no way I was using them to make anything I would wear. I mean, I like orange, but I don’t wear orange, generally speaking. So I decided a patchwork crocheted sampler afghan was the perfect way to get rid of… I mean, put to good use all this bulky orange yarn that had been sitting here unused and unloved for close to ten years.
So I made 11 squares. And they sat around my craft room, waiting for the last square to be completed. They sat around my craft room for four years. A good portion of that time, they sat on the floor, just like this. Waiting.
But when one of the dogs started thinking they were her personal cozy space, I picked them up off the floor and stacked them on a table. Where they waited again.
In January, I was in California for my annual girls’ weekend. The husband of one of my dearest friends is suffering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy and all the rest of the unpleasantness that goes along with cancer treatment. And that’s when it struck me: this blanket belongs to him. So I came home and finished the last square.
And then that blanket sat around again while I finished up rehearsals and performances for Old Love. And started and finished a cardigan for me, because I’m a selfish bitch. But I finally sewed the squares together last week, took a few photos, and now I’m ready to send it off. I’m holding this blog entry until I receive word from my friend that they’ve received the package.
Pattern:Sampler Afghan by Darla Sims, 12 selected squares Yarn: Rowan Plaid, colorway 154 Spicy, 7 skeins; Patons North American Shetland Chunky, colorway 03520 Russet, 7 skeins; a total of 1610 yards Hook: Boye, size K Size: Roughly 36 inches by 48 inches, just big enough to cover one’s lap and legs Satisfaction with end product: I like it. It’s cozy and warm and machine washable. I hope they like it. (And yes, I washed it to get rid of any dog hair.) Click here for the Ravelry project page.
Recent blog entries have been so focused on my participation in reading challenges that you may be forgiven if you forgot this was also a yarn crafting blog. Yes, I have been knitting as well as reading over the last couple of months. I finished a cowl of my own design a few weeks ago, but (as usual) have yet to write up the pattern and photograph the finished item. Someday soon. Pinky swear.
After finishing the cowl, I started working on a Christmas stocking for a friend’s baby. Here’s the progress so far.
Yes, you’re right. That is indeed a crappy cell phone photo. I texted my friend with it to show her the progress, and then decided a blog entry was in order as well. And there you have it. Actual knitting content.
We woke up fairly early — not surprising, considering we had crashed at 6:30 the previous evening — and got ready to head out on the town. The Statue of Liberty was our destination and purpose on this day. But our first adventure was discovering I did not pack a hairbrush with which to blow-dry my hair. You’ll see the results of finger-combed blow-drying in the photos. We walked a couple of blocks and found a different diner for breakfast. This one was equally good, and we alternated between the two the rest of the week. (Yesterday’s breakfast was at The Metro; today’s was at The Broadway. Spouse recommends the corned beef hash at either.)
Then it was time to tackle the subway. And here’s where we confess we got hustled. *hangs head in shame* Spouse and I were standing in front of the ticket dispenser, reading the instructions and discussing whether we wanted to buy a multi-day pass rather than trips when some fast-talking guy jumps up and starts pushing buttons and the next thing we knew we were through the turnstile holding tickets in our hands and handing him $60 cash. I mean it was literally nearly that fast. (Yes, we should have known better, but just hold on, there’s more to this story.)
Despite our misgivings, we and the dinosaurs took the train to Battery Park, where we picked up our GoNewYorkCard tickets for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. While we were standing in line, I took a few photos of the skyline surrounding us.
It was a beautiful day.
Next we stood in line for the ferry. Our dinosaurs are very good at standing in line. And they were well-behaved while riding the ferry, as well.
The ride out was splendid. We rode on top of the ferry so we could see everything. We looked back toward the city:
We looked ahead toward the Lady:
The dinosaurs were especially excited to see her:
After disembarking, we wandered all over Liberty Island. Tickets to get into the pedestal or climb up to the lamp were sold out, so we stayed outside and took lots of photos. Here are a few:
Remember what I said earlier about finger-combing and blow-drying? Yeah. This was taken while we were still on the ferry, so we’ve got windblown as well. Not a good look. Let’s look at something more beautiful instead.
After a couple of hours on Liberty Island, we were whipped, sunburnt, and hungry, so we caught the ferry back. Neither spouse nor I were particularly interested in Ellis Island, so we skipped that part of the tour. (I mentioned whipped, sunburnt, and hungry, right?) At the Battery Park subway station, we tried to use our tickets again; and we confirmed our suspicions that we had been taken earlier. So we bought the multi-day passes we had originally intended to buy and caught the train back to Times Square where we grabbed a slice.
After taking the edge off our appetite, we went back to the hotel once more to get some rest before dinner; we had made arrangements for one of my internet friends who lives in New York to join us. I was a little nervous about this because, although this woman and I had been internet buddies since 2002, and had even talked on the phone once or twice over the years, we had never met in person. Ever. I know that’s not unusual in the internet age, but it still feels strange to say that some of my best friends are people I’ve never actually met.
At the appointed hour, Annie arrived. The restaurant near the hotel where we had thought to have dinner was unexpectedly closed, so we followed her lead on the subway and went on a little adventure. We took a walk through Columbus Circle, wandered through Penn Station (where I shot this gorgeous Art Deco mural), caught this train and that train, and wound up in Korea Town somewhere around 37th Street.
I tried bibimbap for the first time. The dinos tried octopus. I think they liked the octopus better than I liked the bibimbap, but one must try new things or one’s horizons remain forever narrow.
And, yes, spouse was kind enough to take a photo of Annie and me.
Isn’t she beautiful? I love her.
After dinner, Annie got us headed back to the right train, and we called it a night.
Whew. We, and the dinosaurs, were exhausted. Once back at the hotel, we turned in and were quickly asleep. Tomorrow would be another busy day!
Oh, by the way, we’re not done with the subway ticket story yet. Stay tuned.
I went to California for my annual weekend with the girls over the MLK holiday.
I flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Friday, picked up the rental car at LAX, and drove out to Kim’s house near Chino. Traffic was unbelievable, even for LA. You need to know this: I learned to drive in California and spent nearly 10 years negotiating Bay Area traffic before leaving the state in the early 90s. And I’ve been living in Atlanta for over three years now. I am no stranger to backed-up freeways that move at a glacial pace for miles at a time. Usually these slowdowns ease off and speed up after a few miles, seven or eight at most; and even in the middle of it, you can usually count on moving along at 20 or 30 mph for a good distance before needing to slow back down to 10 mph or so.
But this was something else indeed.
When I picked up the rental car and plugged Kim’s address into the GPS on my phone, the navigation program told me the trip would take approximate 1 hr and 40 minutes. “Cool,” thought I, “I’ll get there right about dinner time as planned,” and I set out on my way. Got on the first freeway; it’s a little backed up, which I expected since it was so close to the airport. As I exited that freeway, I could see from my position on the elevated ramp that the second freeway was moving slower than the freeway I was leaving. Hm. Well, it was getting close to the 5 PM rush hour, but I should still be ahead of most of the traffic.
Then I hit the 91.
Oh. Dear. God. I had died and gone to Traffic Hell. Cars moved along at 10-15 mph when we were lucky; most of the time, it was 4 mph or a dead stop. For at least 20 miles. I kept looking at the estimated time of arrival on the navigator, and it kept getting pushed back further and further…
Three and a half hours after picking up the car, I arrived at Kim’s house. Even she was surprised at the travel time, and she lives there. We later decided the excessively heavy traffic volume was due to the Monday holiday, and people leaving work early to head for the mountains or the lake for a long weekend.
Curses be upon their heads.
Saturday morning we were up bright and early and headed west to spend some time in Corona del Mar and Newport Beach: a botanical garden, lunch, and a trip to Balboa Island.
I bought some pretty jewelry at the botanical gardens gift shop. The earrings are for me. The necklace will be a gift.
And I bought yarn Saturday.
“Wait a minute! I thought you said you weren’t going to buy new yarn!” I hear you exclaim.
Remember? I gave myself an out. If I went on a trip, I was allowed to purchase souvenir yarn. So after lunch, we found a nearby yarn store (thank you, Google) and I bought these pretty things:
Left to right, that’s one skein of MadTosh Twist Light, one skein of Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere, and one skein of MadTosh Merino Light. Both MadTosh skeins will be socks, eventually (I think), and the Smooshy is destined for a lacy shawlette.
I love these women with all my heart. We’ve been friends since we were about 11 years old.
After yarn, we took the ferry to Balboa Island and had a nice walk. By then, it was late afternoon, so we ferried back and hurried over to the Newport Pier to watch the sunset.
Then we drove back to Kim’s house for dinner and the annual slide show of what we all did since our last get-together. Sunday morning, we had one last walk on the river trail near Kim’s house, and then I had to get to the airport to catch my plane. Thank goodness the traffic Sunday wasn’t anywhere nearly as awful as it had been Friday night, and I made it to the rental car return and subsequently to my departure gate at LAX with hours to spare.
But LAX has free wi-fi, so all was well.
The flight was fully booked. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like hearing the gate attendant announce the flight is “completely full” to engender gratitude for that splurge on a first-class seat. Those seats are soooo much more comfortable than steerage, I mean, economy.
So long, Los Angeles. See you next year, maybe, unless (a) we decide to go north to Michelle’s parents’ beach house in, um, Marin County, I think, or (b) they all come to my house in Atlanta. (Either option is fine with me, by the way.)
So I ran away to the beach for a few days with my dear friend Alice. We left our respective spouses behind and had a nice girlie time, eating seafood, walking around Hilton Head Island shopping districts, and sitting on the beach.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get as much “sitting on the beach” done as we would have liked because Mother Nature decided to visit Hilton Head in the form of a massive thunderstorm. Shortly after that picture to the right was taken late Friday morning, thunder started cracking right over our heads and we decided it was in our best interests to get off the sand and out of harm’s way.
And what do you think two knitters do when they’re on vacation and thwarted from their planned vacation activities? That’s right. They look for yarn stores.
We had already hit one store on our way through Georgia. A couple of weeks ago, we learned that Creative Yarns in Macon was going out of business and had marked the entire store down 40%. We drove right through Macon on our way to the coast, so we pulled off the interstate and navigated by GPS to the store. Everything was still 40% off and the store was still well-stocked; it didn’t seem picked over at all, which rather surprised us, given that this going-out-of-business sale had been going on since mid-July. But we didn’t complain at the bounty, and found some gorgeous yarns at a great price. (100 yards of 100% cashmere in aran weight for $26? Yes, please. Plus Muench’s Touch Me in several fabulous colors, of which I purchased only one. Color, that is. Plus a Rowan pattern book I had been wanting for quite some time. By the way, this sale is also available online. I’m just sayin…)
We found another yarn store on Hilton Head itself not too far from our hotel that, based on its name, we probably would have bypassed had someone we encountered in another store hadn’t told us it sold yarn. That would be the Needlepoint Junction, which is indeed primarily a needlepoint supplier, but it had a small high-quality assortment of knitting yarns from which to choose. Alice found a carry-along yarn she had needed, and I found a couple of skeins of a nice multi-color wool aran that will probably end up as hats, or maybe a shawlette. We’ll see. We did a bit of sitting and knitting while in Needlepoint Junction, waiting out the torrential downpour that prevented us from finding a place to have lunch. Very pleasant and helpful staff.
Saturday morning after we checked out of the hotel, we headed to Savannah and The Frayed Knot. I had been there before (last year, when spouse and I took a brief trip for our anniversary), and I knew Alice would like it because…the yarn is organized by color. As a matter of fact, that’s the first thing she said when she walked in: “OMG, it’s organized by color. I love it!”
We found a few things we liked, but we exercised a little restraint, especially since we had done major damage to the bank accounts throughout the last few days with food and new hats and food and dessert and macaroons and ice cream. I bought only one skein of a local yarn (Copper Corgi), which is likely destined for use with an Alana Dakos hat pattern.
And here’s the whole of the new yarn acquisitions below.
I’m feeling just a tad guilty about spending so much. But when I pick up the cashmere or the velour? “Screw guilt,” say I. Now to decide what pattern(s) are worthy of such loveliness.
They have been together for decades. They’ve owned houses together, ran a business together, participated in their community and held responsible and highly visible civic positions; they contribute to charity and take part in fundraisers for local organizations; they have been upstanding citizens of their small Southern city and the very definition of the committed, devoted couple for all to see.
Blog prompt: Write about another knitter or crocheter that you admire. Write about if anyone has ever told you how they feel about your knitting.
I almost wish this were an easier topic. Being a solitary stitcher for the most part, there aren’t many fellow knitters and crocheters that I know well enough to be that familiar with their work. And I say “almost” because, although I wouldn’t necessarily mind knowing and interacting with other crafters, the process of getting to know them is uncomfortable for an introvert like me. Which is why blogging is such a perfect activity.
That said, two people jumped to mind immediately for the first part of this blog prompt. The first is my friend Kelly, screen name BunRab. I first met Kelly online sometime in 2002, I believe, on a website called BookCrossing. We met in person a couple of years later, and in recent years have made a point of attending Stitches South together as often as we can.
Kelly is one of those über-confident knitters who can choose a yarn and a needle size and just. start. knitting. No pattern, no gauge swatching, no agonizing over stitch pattern: she simply casts on and starts knitting a sleeveless shell, relying on her years of experience and math skills to make it come out right. And it does. I want to do that. Maybe someday I will.
The second is Alana Dakos (nevernotknitting). She is the first designer I’ve ever encountered that caused me to want to Make All The Things. Seriously. I adore her patterns. I discovered her for the first time right around a year ago (so, that would be May 2013) when I was with a friend in Lovin’ Knit in Marietta, buying yarn for her special project. We were literally on our way out the door, when I glanced at a display and saw this book.
It stopped me in my tracks. Something about that model’s face called me on some level I can’t begin to fathom. I turned around, picked up the book, glanced through it for less than a minute, and went back to the cash wrap to make the purchase.
Most impulse buys are later regretted, right? Not this one. When I got home, I sat down with the pattern book for a thorough study of the designs. And I knew I had to make every one of them. Never has every single design in an entire pattern book struck such a resonance in my soul; usually, if I like four or five out of a dozen or so, it’s worth the money to buy the book. I loved these so much that I looked up its companion volume, Coastal Knits, and promptly ordered that as well. Alana’s next book, Botanical Knits 2, is on pre-order.
I’ve never met Alana, although we’ve corresponded a bit by email when I had a question while I was making one of her patterns. I think I feel connected to her, and to her designs, because she lives and works in the area where I grew up — a place that I love desperately — and I can feel the locale come through in her patterns. Okay, that’s vaguely stalker-ish, isn’t it? I don’t mean it that way, honest. It’s just that, for me, her designs are both comforting and comfortable, and they feel like home.
The rest of this blog prompt suggests I tell you about anyone telling me how they feel about my knitting, positive or negative. I can’t say that I’ve had many conversations where someone’s emotions about my needlework have come under discussion. I’ve shown a couple of tricks or techniques to strangers while sitting in a waiting room and they expressed gratitude, but that’s about it. Unless you want to count my husband’s occasional griping about the amount of money I’ve spent on yarn… No? That’s okay; neither do I.
So, one fine Saturday in late May, Alice and I went yarn shopping. We put the top down on the convertible, plugged Imagine Dragons into the CD player, and set the GPS to take us to Lovin’Knit Yarn Studio in Marietta.
So, here we are, starting from Clarkston on the east side of Atlanta. Where we need to go is on the northwest side. Sprint GPS sends us south (?) on I-285 and then west on I-20. Okay, not necessarily out of the ordinary, because I know some major construction is happening on the 285 loop north of Atlanta, and I have the GPS set to avoid traffic. I figure we’ll catch I-75 in the downtown area and… wait, there goes the exit for 75. Hmm. Okay, traffic’s often backed up on 75 as well. Maybe we’re catching 285 north on the other side of the metro area… wait, there goes the exit for 285! Where on earth is GPS taking us? But, you know, it’s a beautiful day, it’s barely 10 AM and we’ve got nothing but time, so what the heck, right? Let’s allow the adventure to continue. Never know what we might find!
I stopped and filled the car with gasoline because I was under a quarter tank, bought a bottle of water, and got back on the interstate. Alice tweets, “This is turning into an epic road trip!” And then we’re past Douglasville — which means Marietta and any way I know to get to Marietta is way to the northeast behind us — and we’re taking an exit out in the middle of the country somewhere and GPS wants us to keep going west? No, no, no. There’s no way this can be right. This is not where we are supposed to be. So I pull over and look at the phone.
Somehow Sprint GPS thought Lovin’Knit in Marietta (which, I swear on my mother’s life, is what I typed) was actually some other store (the name of which I don’t recall right now) in Villa Rica.
Classic example of the GIGO concept. As sophisticated as they may be in and of themselves, electronics are truly only as smart as their operators.
Aaaaand, let’s leave it on that note, ‘mmm kay?
Reset GPS, get back on I-20 going east this time, and look! GPS tells us to take 285 north. We take 285 north and follow the rest of the directions right to the front door of our preferred yarn store.
We encountered much success at the yarn store, finding exactly what we needed colorwise. Alice bought one skein each of Cascade 200 Handpaints in colorway Green Mix, Ella Rae Lace Merino Chunky in colorway Orange Fire, Hikoo by Skacel Simpliworsted in colorway Bluebell, Berroco Weekend in colorway Clothesline, and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in colorway Bark. Each of these yarns (with the exception of the Cascade 220) was new to me: not only did I get to challenge myself by making a project based on a photograph, but I’d get to sample some luscious new yarn while doing so! Win!
Nor did I escape the yarn store with my bank account unscathed. As we were walking out the door, a book caught my eye. Botanical Knits by Alana Dakos. The cover sweater stopped me in my tracks and, when I paged through the display copy to see the rest of the designs, I knew I had to make every one of them. It’s seldom every single design in an entire pattern book strikes such a resonance in my soul; usually, if I like four or five out of a dozen or so, it’s worth the money to buy the book. I loved these so much that, when I got home that afternoon, I looked up its companion volume, Coastal Knits, and promptly ordered that as well.
Also that evening, I began work on the Green Avatar. I kept the Kindle by my side with the Avatar pic displayed for referral purposes, cast on 44 stitches using size 8 DPNs and the Cascade 220, and started knitting away. About two inches of two-by-two ribbing, then straight stockinette all the way up, switching to the orange Lace Merino Chunky and then back again to add the stripes. When I got up to where the mouth should go, I put 20 stitches on a stitch holder, worked the round, added 20 provisional stitches above the stitch holder using the backwards loop cast-on over a length of scrap yarn, and kept going until it was time to decrease for the head. Back to the orange Lace Merino Chunky again, decreasing as if this were the toe of a sock, finishing off with Kitchener stitch.
Now for the mouth. Easier ways to make a sock puppet mouth must exist, but I was working without a pattern, so this whole thing was an experiment. Using the Cascade 220, I picked up the stitches from the stitch holder first and added a chin of sorts by knitting rows with wraps and turns until I had eight or ten stitches left, then changed to the Lace Merino Chunky and knitted until I picked up all those wraps and again had 20 stitches. Back on the stitch holder they went. Same method with the upper stitches: picked up the provisional cast on, knitted with wraps and turns to create an upper lip, switched to orange, picked up the wraps. Kitchener stitched the inside of the mouth together. It didn’t turn out badly, but it wasn’t nearly as neat as I liked, plus there were some pretty big holes. A quick whipstitch around the edge of the mouth with the green Cascade made it look much better. And so, by Sunday evening, except for eyes and stuffing, Green Avatar was done. Blue Avatar had just about the same process but took a little bit longer: started knitting the following Saturday, finished knitting the following Monday or Tuesday.
As is often the case with my “finished” projects, the Avatars sat eyeless and stuffingless for a couple of weeks. Finally, their sightless visages caused me enough guilt that I went to Hancock Fabrics in Decatur to buy buttons for eyes and a piece of remnant muslin to make tiny pillows with which to stuff their heads. Said buttoning and stuffing was completed Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, I emailed Alice: “I have your puppets. If you ever want to see them again, bring a bar of chocolate to [our office building] lobby at 10 AM.” “I have a meeting at 10,” she responded, “but I’m free before or after. I’ve never negotiated with a kidnapper before: is this allowed?” “Never been a kidnapper before,” I sent back. “11 is okay. But no police, or the puppets get it.”
She came alone, with a Twix bar. And I gave her the puppets.
Your task today is to either think of or research a project that embodies that house/animal. It could be a knitting or crochet pattern – either of the animal itself or something that makes you think of the qualities of that house. Alternatively it could be a type or colour of yarn, or a single button. Whatever you choose, decide upon a project and blog about how and why it relates to your house/creature. ~~~ House of Monkey. Hmm.
It’s tempting to go the obvious route and talk about sock monkeys. Except (a) I never had a sock monkey when I was a child; (b) I’ve never made a sock monkey for anyone; and (c) I don’t think sock monkeys are all that and a bag of chips, anyway.
BUT. If we go with the idea that monkeys enjoy a challenge, I have just the thing. It’s even sort of sock-monkey-ish in character.
A few days ago, my dear friend Alice emailed me a photograph, asking if I thought I could make the subjects of said photograph because she really really really wanted them. And she doesn’t knit. (I probably should offer to teach her, but truthfully I don’t think she’s interested.) I studied the photograph and replied in the affirmative, but I wasn’t going to promise I could match the variegated green yarn on one of the critters.
These are the critters in question, by the way:
See, Alice is The Number One Fan of They Might Be Giants, so naturally The Avatars of They belong in her possession. Well, not the actual Avatars, because they must stay with the band, but their doppelgangers, certainly, need to live with Alice and her family.
The Avatars present quite a challenge because I’ll be working without a formal pattern. A basic sock monkey pattern will suffice for guidance, I suppose, which means I must acquire one. The blue and brown yarns won’t be too difficult to match, or at least get close, in color. That green and orange, though…that will take some doing.
BTW, here’s a more complete pic of The Avatars:
I can’t decide if they were made with fingering weight or sport weight. The blue one (do they have names, I wonder?) certainly looks like it used sock yarn. The green one looks like it might be made of sport weight cotton. I think either weight will work. Much will depend on finding similar green and orange colorways, so that will be the determining factor in yarn weight.
And, naturally, I have nothing in stash that will suit either puppet. Oh, darn, I have to go yarn shopping. The horror of it all.
So, there you have it. Not only is the proposed project monkey-like in appearance, it is monkey-like in characteristic as well: challenging AND fun. And it involves buying yarn.
What could be more appropriate for a monkey like me?
To read other posts from those taking part in Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, simply perform a Google search for the tag 4KCBWDAY2, or click here.