2013: A Year In Yarn

Happy Monday!  I hope every one is enjoying this holiday week.  It is one of the craziest weeks of the year for us at work which is why it has just dawned on me that the year is almost over.  2013 is about to come to an end and 2014 is nigh.  I don't know about you but I am so ready for 2013 to just get out of here.  It is this sick engorged parasite that I cannot wait to be rid of.  Not all of the year was bad, but my health issues cast a real shadow on things.  Yet even when I was struggling my knitting helped me keep some sense of control.  I aimed high and managed to achieve quite a few projects, making it quite a lovely year in yarn.

For starters, I knit a pair of shorts.  I set out at the end of last year to knit more projects thoughtfully and garments with a little bit of an edge.  These fit the bill perfectly.  I was especially pleased to learn that I really could customize such an involved project to achieve the perfect fit.

My favorite project of the year came in the spring when I knit the Havasu Hoodie.  I allowed myself to follow impulse when I cast it on and am thrilled I did.  This was one of those "concept" projects I allowed myself.  The model in the photo seemed like she could dash about the world with this cozy vest as a chic layering piece and I wanted to be just like her.  Maybe I cannot pull off the fresh off another continent look, but it was great on the airplane this summer.

I got more involved in the knitting community this year (I know, how much more involved could I get), joining in on Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup and Camp Loopy.  These were my first Camp Loopy project and an absolute blast to knit.

One of the most challenging things I took on was not actually a knitting project.  I started taking my own pictures.  Rather than dragging my husband around begging for his help I put our tripod to good use and took some risks.  This photo of my Woodland Grave Beret worked out but right before it I was hanging upside down in a tree trying to secure the camera and find my angles as a confused business man walked by.

And then there were the crowd favorites

Moggies Mitts (this one doesn't even have a project page yet)

But probably one of my proudest achievements was my Amelia Pond Hat, which I maguivered out of another hat pattern along with some free-hand charting.  It was the crucial part for my cosplay for the Doctor Who 50th.  Fish Fingers and Custard!

Looking at it this way, 2013 actually looks pretty good.  I am excited to see what 2014 has in store (I may have a few ideas).


Manic Christmas Knitting -- A Survivor's Tale

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house I was selfishly knitting because the presents are done!  Seriously, I never thought the day would come.  But it did!  Sadly we are not going to see my parents on Christmas, but this comes as a blessing because I do not have to have all of those stockings complete.  And I much prefer enjoying a day off with nothing to do but prepare to go ice skating with my sister to frantic knitting in the corner unable to enjoy anything.

This is not to say I did not do any panic knitting.  Since the beginning of the month I have knit two pairs of mitts (one of them colorwork and eaten by the dog), a few stockings (before I realized I don't need them), and a billion ornaments.

I got this crazy idea last Tuesday that I wanted to knit ornaments for my team.  So I knit up these babies.  I stayed up until midnight for a few nights to get them finished.  Which may or may not have something to do with our new neighbor and his obnoxious beats.  Bad for my sleep but good for my knitting progress.  These guys are Snowball Buddies by Susan Claudino, a really cute pattern that got me to finally knit something with ears, safety eyes, and stuffed with polyfill.

And this (these really -- I knit two) is from Smitten, a holiday garland download from Knit Picks.  These knit up so fast, I knit one while watching Pulp Fiction the other night.  Next time I think I'll just knit these for everyone.  Or just buy presents.  But the look of excitement on people's faces makes it really hard not to do this to myself every time.

So happy Christmas, wherever you are in your knitting.  Hopefully you too are on to selfish knitting.  Me?  I just got my copy of Doomsday Knits, so I have a lot to do!


Yarn Emergency

Today I was reminded just how much of a city girl I have become.  When I was growing up it was not that unusual for us to drive an hour or more to get to a certain store or source of entertainment.  We had a movie theater in our county, but if you were really excited about the film than you would drive about an hour to get to the "good" theater.  And if you needed braces and did not get on well with the one orthodontist in our area then you would drive thirty to forty minutes away, depending on how many seasonal tourists you got stuck behind.  So it was rather strange when I realized just how put-out I felt that I had to drive out quite a way out of town to remedy my yarn emergency.

But wait.  Let me back up.  I haven't even told you about said yarn emergency.  You see this?

This is a rather substantial ball of yarn connected to a colorwork project that I am knitting as a Christmas gift.  Or at least it was until my loving, darling Helo decided to use it as a way to make a point.  It seems I was not paying enough attention to him the other morning when getting ready for work so he decided to shred it.  How sweet, right?

Despite being fortunate enough to live near a variety of yarn shops, when I got on Ravelry to find a replacement the closest shop that indicated it carries Cascade Superwash Sport is an hour out of town.  Luckily the woman I spoke with when I called them in a panic was kind enough to put a skein aside for me with the promise that I would pick it up today.  Which is how I found myself on the highway in a downpour driving to Hillsborough.

Hillsborough Yarn Shop gained some notice lately when they played host to the Yarn Harlot last week (I wasn't able to go because it was the same night as our big work fundraiser.   Sometimes working for a non-profit can have it's downsides).  The woman who greeted me was really sweet and weirdly efficient.  She looked me square in the eye when I told her who I was and why I was there and told me "don't panic."  The yarn was sitting just inside what I assume is their quick-access storage room and she had it bagged before I even thought to locate my wallet.  I was a little surprised that she did not ask if I was interested in anything else before completing my purchase, but in hindsight I realize that she truly understood the depth of my concern.  I need to have these mitts completed within the week and she totally understood that.  I can only imagine that she too has once found herself racing to beat Father Christmas as she cranked out holiday gifts (really, why do we this to ourselves). 

I was in and out in under ten minutes and drove the hour back home fueled by whatever concoction McDonalds is calling a peppermint mocha.  Trust me, it is not the same.   Hopefully I can make it back sometime and get a recommendation for a local coffee shop to atone for that mistake.  And probably buy more yarn.  Because really, I owe them.


Christmas Paper Fun

This is one of those weird things that I never thought I would find myself saying, but I feel like I am finally coming back to myself.  Like I've been in a fog for so long struggling to keep my focus and I'm just starting to poke my head out into clear air.  And just in time!  What I did not realize had slipped with my health was my creativity.  My output was pretty consistent through all of this, possibly even increased, but something was just off.  But boy have I kicked things up a notch.  On Monday I baked my first loaf of bread.  Ever.  I had so much fun and the result was tasty enough that I declared in a heat of victory that I will never buy bread again but make a loaf a week for our sandwiches.  We shall see how long that lasts.

Something else I started work on is handmade wrapping paper.  I don't know what possessed me to try this.  I became obsessed with the idea of brown paper packages under the tree.  I think the seed was planted when a coworker told me last year that he and his wife had decided to purchase a "signature" wrapping paper.  While the idea sounded neat, it was surely very expensive and his plain white packages while lovely lacked a certain element of fun that I pretty much demand of my Christmas (let us all remember the year I wrapped everyone's presents in Hannuka paper).  So this year I created my own twist.

It is very simple, really.  I started by collecting paper bags from Trader Joe's.  I have way more than I need.  I've wrapped three gifts so far and only used two bags.  The key was figuring out how to disassemble the bags.  They have a seam down the back that I cut to the center of the base.  Once there I was able to gently pry apart the bottom, which gave me the most paper possible.

I then used a stamp and some fun paints.  I purchased these acryllics from the kid's crafting section of Target.  They are less traditional colors in shimmery shades, but you could really use any paints you want.  I don't recommend watercolors, but you could surely use an ink pad instead of paint.  Then it was a matter of stamping and laying the paper out to dry.  I made my paper Sunday night and then started wrapping the next morning so that it would have time to dry completely.

Of course I wrapped these using a white yarn (Lion Brand I believe) that I had kicking around in the stash.  I wrapped them each twice in yarn to create a secure tie.  The tags were created using the bag handles.  I used a hole-punch on one end and threaded it onto the yarn on my second pass.

This may seem terribly homemade to some, but I had so much fun making this paper.  When I was a girl we had good friends who we spent time with every holiday season.  We did not see family often at this time of year, so Bill and Mary were like surrogate grandparents to us.  Mary always brought us something fun and creative to do together -- One year we made embossed Christmas cards, another we made snowman pins.  I have so many delightful crafting memories tied to this time of year that I don't feel right unless I am crafting or baking every day.  And I'm just so glad to be getting my making mojo back.  It is truly the season.


Fearful Knitting

Not to start a riot or freak you out at all, but there are currently only 23 days until Christmas.  Every year I declare I will not, absolutely not, do any Christmas knitting.  No matter how appreciative the family might be.  I claim that I don't want them to have any expectations, but really I just don't want to face such a hard and scary deadline.  I'll knit for birthdays, for anniversaries, for just because.  But knitting for Christmas?  I just don't do it.  Or so I say.  But it never fails that as Christmas approaches I suddenly feel like I should be knitting.  Like it says something about me as a knitter if I don't knit for anyone.  And so as I build my gift list I slip in little items.  Oh, it's just a hat, it's just a shawl, I can totally whip that up in time.  

Which is why today I ordered yarn from The Loopy Ewe for a pair of mitts (hey, they are having a Cyber Monday sale and it's not like I went shopping for myself) and why I am stalking the mail carrier waiting for Knit Picks to send me the yarn for the last of the family stockings.  Why I am trying to decide if certain stash combinations are masculine enough and why I am knitting away furiously on a pair of mittens, convinced I can finish them today even though it looks as if I don't have enough yarn.

And of course, this is why I am procrastinating like you would not believe.  I spent two hours this morning working on our attic, unpacking and organizing with the excuse that this will make getting the Christmas decorations out easier, when really I'm just trying to shake the specter of a shawl I am dying to make for myself.

But hey -- all of my books are out of boxes now.  Maybe I should go read something . . .