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New and Shiny

Every year, when Fall arrives, I have the urge to drop all my summer knitting and start a whole bunch of new projects.  This September, the urge has been especially strong.  All through August, I faithfully worked on my light summer sweaters: Ivyle

and Westbourne Kinu Love.  I stopped working on this one because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to continue the stripes down the arms or not.  Any thoughts or opinions would be welcome here.

However, as soon as September 1 rolled around, I was casting on new things, on an almost daily basis.

First, was a Recoleta sweater by Joji Locatelli.  I didn’t get very far with this one yet.  It’s one that needs my full attention, so not a good one to knit at the end of the day when I am tired, which seems to happen most days now.

Then, Ysolda started her annual gifty knitalong, Knitworthy 4, and I felt compelled to cast on an Elska hat.

The next day, after a lot of stash sorting, I also started a What the Fade Mystery Shawl.  I am somehow strangely compelled by these knitalongs that use a lot of different skeins of yarn.  Part of it is that they are a great way of using up single skeins of yarn in my stash.

I got through clue 1 on this one when I discovered that I failed to do a couple of increases along the left side (a mistake that seems to be common among those knitting this shawl) and I decided to start over.

The second time, I chose more neutral colors because the first set of colors was not agreeing with me and I was afraid I would never wear it.

This is my first time knitting the brioche stitch and I have found that it is not as hard as I thought it would be.  There’s a certain rhythm to it that makes it interesting.  My only complaint is that since each row has to be done twice, the rows seem to take forever.

I’m not sure about this dark brown color on the back.  It’s a laceweight that I am using doubled and it seems a bit too heavy compared to my other yarns, but I am hoping that will become less noticeable as the shawl gets bigger.  Perhaps I will even leave it out in the rest of the shawl.

Sometime in there, I also started the September project with A Year of Techniques.  I thought this would be a great thing to knit while I was teaching.  It turns out, however, that I really don’t have a lot of time to knit during the school day.

Then last Monday, the new Knitworthy 4 pattern came out, and I had to start that one right away.

Unfortunately, that project suffered a little setback during which I had to rip out about 10 rows.  After moments like that, projects often lose their momentum and this one is no different.  It is languishing while I go on to knit other things, like this hat that I’ve had on the needles since May.

However, lest you think I never finish anything, both hats that I had on the needles are finished now.  Hats are such wonderfully quick knits.  Maybe I should just stick to hats?

Oh, I don’t know.  I think it might be time to cast on a new sweater.

After all, I already did the gauge swatch and got the right gauge on the first try.  It’s almost like it is meant to be.

 

All is Revealed

Do you like surprises? In our house, we love surprises, especially when it comes to gift giving and birthdays. During the past few weeks, I have been spending all my time on surprises so secret that I could not even share them here with you.

Until now.

Now, I can reveal everything I have been working on for the past few weeks because the husband’s birthday has finally come and gone!

First, there was a little surprise birthday party/poker game with his buddies. This was quite a challenge to execute in our little house. Finding space to hide the cake in the fridge and all the other party drinks and food was difficult, but I managed. It all came off remarkably well and he was genuinely surprised, yay!

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There are no really good pictures of the actual event, since the boys and I went to spend the night at a friend’s house so that the men could have their man-time undisturbed, but I have an after picture of the cake.

This is the triple chocolate cake from The Cake Bible, which is the husband’s favorite chocolate cake. If you like chocolate, this is the cake for you. The shell on the outside always gives me fits and this time was no exception, but it is supposed to be a rugged looking cake, so whatever happens with the outside, it always ends up looking impressive.

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The cake is a chocolate genoise, soaked with spiked sugar syrup, filled with a whipped chocolate ganache, and surrounded by a hazelnut praline chocolate shell. The hazelnut praline really makes the cake phenomenal and it is easy to make, too.

The other thing I have been working on for weeks for the husband is this.

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It’s been really hard not blogging about this or sharing my ups and downs with this project with you, but I was forced to be silent to keep this a surprise, since the husband is one of my most faithful readers.

This sweater was started back in June or July. I couldn’t work on it for almost the whole of August because of our vacation. Before we left, I really only had about 6 inches or so of the body done.

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For the last 5 weeks or so, I have been working on this every chance I had when he wasn’t around. If you have noticed that I have been absent more lately, now you know why. Who has time for cooking, cleaning, and blogging when one has a fair isle deadline?

The last two weeks were the toughest while I was doing all the steeking and finishing the sleeves. My only complaint is that I hate knitting fair isle on double pointed needles. Hate it. It’s very difficult for me to keep my stitches evenly spaced. I won’t go on about it now that it’s done, but let me just say that I barely finished this sweater without throwing it on the floor and stomping on it.

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Look, it fits! And I think he likes it.

Other than the end and some other ahem design features along the way that I won’t get into, it was fun to knit. The pattern is basically one I made up as I went along. I picked the motifs last year when I made a test hat for the husband for Christmas (see it on his head?). All the color shifting is done by that great yarn I used, Kauni Effektgarn. I love, love this stuff and I may have a little stockpile of it. It is very difficult for me not to buy more every time I see it, I love it so much. It’s perfect for fair isle.

So, now that all the secret stuff is done, I am hoping to get back into a more regular routine of everything. In particular, I need to find my cooking mojo. It seems to have left for vacation when we did two months ago, but has yet to return. Also, I have some new knitting projects to show you, but that will have to wait for another day.

Gathering Up the Courage

Life is full of big and little challenges and obstacles to overcome. To grow, mature, and learn, we must all face them, whether or not we feel prepared for them. Sometimes the challenges are of our own making and other times, we have no control over the things we must face. This is a way more serious introduction than I intended for this post, but I think that the less serious challenges in our lives help train us to face the big ones. I have had a couple little challenges/obstacles this week, and I have responded differently to each one.

1. The green sprossling sweater. All the parts were done and I set about the work of blocking before sewing up. I never do this, but the pieces were super curly, so I thought I would try it to help making the sewing up part easier.

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This is when I discovered a major mistake. I had done all the shaping wrong on one of the front pieces. This is what happens when you try to do increases and decreases while watching Downton Abbey. It’s not a mistake I could ignore since it would be really obvious that the shaping on this piece would not be symmetrical with the shaping on the other side. I did what any seasoned knitter would do. I ripped it back, picked up the stitches at the proper point, fixed and reknit the problem area, while double, triple, and quadruple checking. Then, with the mistake fixed, I abandoned it and worked on something else (the mystery shawl is coming along nicely, thank you).

2. The flowery yoked jacket aka blaithin. Remember this one? I didn’t think so. It’s been languishing for awhile. Occasionally, it would get a little attention, but mostly it’s been sitting in the basket because it’s heavy, the yarn is kinda stiff and crunchy, and it just was not cold enough to motivate me. Well, the weather sure did change this week to be quite frosty, so, with the thought that it would be nice to finish this and have a possibility of wearing it in the right season, I pushed myself and my hands to finish up the yoke.

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Now, I am at a bit of a standstill while I gather up the courage to steek it. Yes, I have to cut this sweater. There are some complicated directions involving a crochet hook and knitting bands and i-cords and finishing off the provisional cast on edges (did I mention that every cast on is a provisional one?). I am going to need quite a bit of courage, time, and sheer determination to get this done. The husband, when he saw it said, “Great! You’re almost done!” Um. No, no. I am nowhere near done.

Whoa, I think just writing about those two things took the wind out of me. Bread. Yes. I need to go bake some bread. Art imitates life and, sometimes, one just needs to escape for a little while.

Stitchy Business

Here are some recently finished knitted objects. One is a fair isle hat/cap that I stuffed into the husband’s stocking. I knit it in the week up to Christmas while we were watching TV. We had a little scuffle over it when I was done because he wanted it, and, even though I made it for him, I did not want him to know I made it for him, so I had to pretend it was for me. Somehow, I do not think he was fooled.

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He was so pleased with the hat that he took me to the yarn store later on in the week to make sure I knew he was in support of my obsession hobby. Isn’t he great?

After that, I cast on for a hat that was supposed to be one to match a pair of mittens that I had made a few years ago. Unfortunately, something happened to my calculations or maybe it was the post holiday exhaustion that addled my brain. It did not turn out to be quite the right size for me.

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But, it is just right for my younger son. I am not sure he deserves to own this hat since he managed to lose the last one I knit for him, but he is the only one in the house that can wear it.

I also managed to finish a pair of socks that have been on the needles for over a year. This pair of socks is riddled with mistakes. I knit the first sock with some decreases in the leg that turned out to be in the wrong place when I was done. They are also a tad too short for me. You can see the decreases in this picture. I also had a bit of trouble with the heel, which required using two strands at a time. I kept getting them mixed up and tangled. Ugh.

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Discouraged, I vowed to rip the whole thing out, but first, I decided to knit the sock again and reknit that first one later. This time, I followed the directions, but I got so bored and irritated with the project that I put it away in favor of other, more gratifying projects. I managed to finish this sock last week while I was in my “lazy” knitting mode.

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It fits much better. That’s when I decided to be done. No way did I want to knit this sock pattern a Third time. Nope. This pair of socks is just going to remain imperfect, slightly ill fitting, and non matchy. Like I tell my kids with their school work: sometimes it’s better that it is done than perfectly done. Sometimes, you just need to move on, you know?

That’s just what I did. Now, I have another pair of socks on the needles. This time, there is no fancy pattern; just plain, plain knitting.

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This is how much I got done while watching the first half of The Hobbit. Movie theater knitting can be tough. It’s dark in there and, if it is an action movie, it is difficult to keep track of things. Halfway through the movie, I thought I dropped a stitch, and there was no way I could take my attention away from the movie, so I put it away. Otherwise, I would have been able to do a couple more inches.

Lastly, I have been chugging my way slowly through my sprossling sweater. So far, I have two sleeves, a back, and part of one of the fronts.

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Like the movie socks, I would be a couple of inches farther along on the front if I had not made a mistake while my attention was diverted by Downton Abbey last night. Oh well. The net progress was positive, so I’ll not complain too much. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish this sweater before the series is done. That’s my unofficial goal, anyway. Of course, I could always get distracted by some other project.

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That Was Fast

Well, hello there! I hope all of you had a nice weekend and holiday, for those who live in the U.S. We had a great weekend, filled with lots of good food with dear friends, occasional walks, almost daily naps, and a tiny bit of Very Relaxed shopping (we did it on Wednesday and late Friday night). Like all good weekends, it went by really fast, even though it was twice as long as usual. We are slowly easing our way back into the swing of things and I am trying to figure out how much or little we will be doing in the next several weeks leading up to Christmas. But, we’ll talk about that later.

A holiday weekend wouldn’t be complete without any crafting, right? Well, there was a little bit of knitting this weekend, mostly done at night while watching whatever on TV while the husband was scanning the internet for shopping deals. As soon as I saw this new hat pattern by Kate Davies, I knew I just had to make it. Really, the time elapsed between me seeing the pictures on her blog and me starting the hat was less than 30 minutes.

Those who know me, know that I love snow. I love everything about snow; the way it looks when it is falling, the way it makes everything look new and beautiful, but most especially, I love how the whole world is hushed by the snow. I am a sucker for anything with a snowflake on it: decorations, wrapping paper, fabric, and, not lastly or leastly, knitting patterns.

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I have to say, this pattern is a winner. I especially love, love the crown design. It uses just two colors, so it is the easiest fair isle knitting a person could do. The pattern is easily recognizable once you’ve gotten through the first half of the first snowflake, so you are not likely to go very far without catching a mistake. There is one mistake that I didn’t catch until several rows later, but it isn’t likely to be one that anyone else notices, so it will stay. Now that it is done and blocked, I see that the yarn I used may not have been ideal. It’s a two ply Gotland yarn that I got from Blacker Yarns in the UK. A three ply yarn might have made the snowflakes stand out a bit more. Maybe, I’ll just have to make another one.

Initially, the weather gurus were predicting a fairly harsh winter for us with lots of snow, but they have since changed their minds. Well, whether it snows outside or not, there will be snowflakes on my head this winter. Let it snow!