Yay! Knee Socks are Back in Style!

I admit right now that I'm not blogging today about any needle work I actually did myself. But I am thrilled to be the owner of six new pairs of knee socks. When they went "out" in the 80s, I just did what I had to, wore crew socks. But there are a bunch of great things about knee socks that crew socks just can't do.

They keep more of your leg warm when it's freezing.

They hide more of your leg when you haven't shaved in a while.

They feel more comfortable when one wears boots.

They provide a secret stash location for stuff you just don't want to carry back and forth to the restroom, if you get my meaning.

So you see that this is just a little post, with no great news to report.

However, I did buy the knee socks for the trip we leave on tomorrow, visiting the National Parks in the American Southwest. We are doing the same trip I've been on many times, with 7th graders, and most of the same teachers on this trip are returning, as are our fearless guides from Academic Expeditions. I'm pretty sure the biggies will be there too, like Grand Canyon, Bryce National Park, and Monument Valley, not to mention Zion, the last and never least of the trip stops.

To fully prepare I bought some "convertible" gloves. We never need them here at home, but when we're in snow country, I want to be able to do what I need to with fingers, not mittens! I remember as a child (in Ohio) trying to do things with my hands, and pretty much all mittens make possible is holding someone's hand (BO-ring! when you're seven) and making snowballs. Gloves weren't much better.

In this digital age, the fingerless gloves and variants are getting quite popular, because people want to have their Blackberry and press its keys too, but I mostly just want to be able to dig through a backpack without taking off the mittens/gloves to do it.
Cute, huh? In WWI, women even knitted "doddies" for soldiers. If I remember correctly, the doddy was a glove with no thumb or index finger, and the pullover cover for times when one wasn't killing enemy soldiers.

Upon what a horrible vision I end this post!

Happy knitting and sewing (and perhaps knee sock purchasing--or knitting!)

More Pillow Shams!!

Second pillow sham came about because I found a vintage Hawaiian shirt at whimsiedots while browsing through her vintage fabrics. At the time, I just thought it would make great material for some of the bags I'm making lately. Then DD#3, an amazing, spontaneous and inspired thrifter/crafter, suggested I take advantage of the shirt's placket to make it into a pillow for DS, since I'm already working on pillow shams for her condo in Palm Springs, decorated in 60s era furnishings. This fills the bill! (Rhetorical question: Did any man actually wear this heinous shirt at one time? Answer: based on the fuzzies found inside the seam I cut through, Yes, and washed it many times too! Vomitrocious.)

So I decided to try out this idea. I popped the pillow insert inside the buttoned shirt and found I had a little extra room, but it was essentially 19" square below the sleeves. Wa-hoo!

Some trimming and pinning and sewing ensued, and now I have finished another sham. And the fabric is thick and almost upholstery-feeling in its texture.

So the back of the pillow was once the front of a shirt! See the pocket in the top right corner? I could have taken it off, but it seemed whimsical.
Oh, and while I had far fewer seams to sew, I totally improved in my straightness of line on those I did do.

Hope you like it, Kate, as it's winging its way to you tomorrow with DD#3!

Pillow Shamming

Made a pillow sham for my sister, who has requested two for their groovy new pad in Palm Springs (smaller than the campus college apartment my husband and I had eons ago), and though I'm going to get to the best fabrics in good time, I thought I should make the prototype and get familiar with the pattern, so that when i actually do sew the ones that really matter, I won't futz it.
The edges of the envelope opening are not my best sewing, and that's the main thing I have to do better next time. Sew straight? What besides my marriage do I ever do straight? ;^) I also learned that the Velcro needs to be placed in four spots, not three, as this one will have perpetual gaposis.
Mr. Kerm was barely tolerating my efforts to get him to look my way and grace the darned thing. He wants his dinner.

Anyway, Pillow Sham #1 is complete! PRET-ty exciting times around here on a Sunday afternoon!
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Egypt--De Land of DeNial

I'm back from the land of denial after some increases on the autumn vest I've been working on for DS started looking wonky. Sat back, took stock, and realized that aside from the actual problems maintaining the pattern with the increases, I was kidding myself that the back was long enough. I'd followed the pattern and stopped straight knitting at around 15" to begin the neck bind-off and start the separate shoulder sections. But heck, it's too short! I know DS wants it to skim the thighs, and the look will be much more sartorial if it does this than if I make it fall at the hip bones. Anyone who knits for someone else had better listen to what the person says she wants if the item has a chance of being worn and loved.

So rip-rip-rip I went, and got the two separate balls separately rewound, the bind-off unbound again, the stitches reinserted on the needle, and now it's time to get the back the right length. Once I've done that, I'll get some help understanding the increase section (on the upper front panels) so that it stays in the mistake rib pattern.

To console myself in the interim, I've been making more little pouches, some from a cut-up PJ shirt that I don't wear (bottoms are great, but tailored PJ shirts with the lapels and all, not my cuppa--that's what old t-shirts are for!) from whose sleeves I made pouches that already had a nice cuff edge for the drawstring top.

DD#3 made a nice pillow sham for some pillows I purchased way back when at IKEA (ready to be covered), which has given me added confidence that I can make DS the pillow shams she's requested for their new 60s era pad in Palm Springs. When she's here later this week (yay! sister visits are the BEST!) I can show her fabrics, both mine and available on the internet) so that the patterns are truly what she envisions. She's bringing me one of her sofa pillows (which I'm effectively recovering) so that I can get exact dimensions. But seeing that DD#3 did hers so sensibly, I know it will be a piece of cake, if I do things carefully.

"Who Loves Ya, Baby?"

Some of you, of a certain age (along with me), remember Telly Savalas in the 70s, and his signature line from his series, Kojak. With that Dum-Dum lollipop in his mouth, he somehow made all the womenfolk swoon, but I was too young to think him handsome. Ewwwww!

His line has stuck though. When I come through for a DD who needs something, or give one of them an unexpected little gift ("happies" my friend Monica calls them), I can't help it--that's what I say. "Who loves ya, Baby?" is almost overdone here at my house!

I've been working away on more lined bags, this time though, in a taller, narrower size for sunglasses. When I got out all the pretty fabrics I've been purchasing from etsy vendors like WhimsieDots and mineymo, DD#2 was smitten and asked if I could make one for her shades, and I was all over it. I asked her to choose a fabric, which she did. And I got all the parts together, sewed it up and turned it right side out, and stitched up the last details. There! Now she just has to come home and find it on her keyboard.

Here are a few other shots of the lovely sunglasses case:

Since you asked, here are some of the vintage fabrics I've purchased recently from whimsiedots:
Aren't those first two just meant for each other?

And here are photos of some of my other glasses pouches, meant for the fall etsy shop to raise funds for TNT again:

. . . With a Little Help From My Friends

I turned my first heel this week, thanks to Queen of Purple Yarn, my librarian friend from school, Kathy. In fact, it was her moral support, a well-placed stitch marker, and sage instructions ("follow the instructions exactly!") that provided the impetus to get my sock past the calf. I met her at Purlescence and with several other happy knitters, I started down the road to heeldom. And then I realized I was messing it up, and had been for some time. Ripped back, and then started finding that I was losing stitches (tiny stitches, sockweight yarn . . . hard to keep control of!). The shop was ready to close, so Kathy helped me get all the stitches back on or "saved" so they wouldn't drop any further.

Cut to the next day when I told myself, I can do this. I carefully used a crochet hook to get the errant stitches corrected, verified that they were all straight, and then followed the Pure and Simple directions. And they were quite straightforward. As Bells and QPY had pointed out, if it seems strange, what the instrux say one should do, just believe them. Similarly, QPY had told me that it would become intuitively sensible as I got further into it. What wise knitters in my world! With additional support from Jejune, I felt I would be able to give it a go, and I did! The more I knitted, the more I could see the plan, and then the triangle started becoming obvious, woo-hoo.

Now to rest on this laurel a little while, until I can get more serious supportive help on the picking up of stitches and finishing the sock. More good advice from Bells came my way on this step, but I am sure I will need moral support and good practical guidance from QPY when I give this part a go. 8^)

Conquering Even the Simplest of Sewing Projects

Talk about ambivalence--when it comes to sewing I go back and forth between courageous and insecure. This time it was a project bag for knitting, that I'd seen in Bells' recent post. She linked back to the tutorial she'd used to make hers, so I printed out the instructions and gave it a go.

But first I went to Michael's a scored a 40% off coup--the fabric cutting board regularly $49.99 came home with me at much less. 8^) And then I had to go to Joann of course, to see what fat quarters might be waiting to turn into a project bag. Finally got going this morning after doing a little cutting (love the rotary cutter tool!), and immediately created something rather wonky and off-kilter.

I was sure my trouble lay in the spatial relations portion of my cranium (or rather, where it SHOULD be). After all, what could be so hard about sewing a rectangle onto a square? But alas, it didn't come out right. Finally DD#3, who has tons of spatial relations prowess as well as much more sewing moxie than her mother, offered to see what was wrong, made her own prototype following the pattern, and pronounced it a mistake in measurements.

Whew! I'd rather not be bad at measuring, but if it comes to something I can easily FIX, then that's OK with me. So a little fabric went back into the scrap bag, but with more, a reclaimed sheet and some backing fabric, I came up with the first of many project bags I expect I'll make.

As can be seen, the bag is just the size for a sock and some of those teeny sock needles people use. Not being a sock knitter YET, I could only stick my smallest project in there with my longer needles.

Next bag will be a tad larger!

When Too Many Blogs Becomes a Bad Idea

So last summer in the throes of my freedom from school, I suddenly got the idea that starting a blog about cooking would be a good idea. Well, I have enjoyed it, and make new entries about once a month, but honestly, I don't have time for three blogs. The second of mine is for my writing tutoring students, so it's somewhat more functional in that context and only requires something of me now and then. But as for the cooking and knitting blogs, that sense of missed opportunities, and obligations not met, is tough on a descendant of Puritans. Or Catholics, or both.

I got to thinking that I should really just blog, mostly about knitting, but also about life in general, including but not limited to what I'm cooking. Then I got a nice kick in the pants from one of my favoritest bloggers, Bells, who was just coming to the same conclusion. Great minds and all that!

So here it is. Some knitting, some living, some various other things near and dear to me.

Most recently I have been starting projects, after frogging a bunch of started items that just never grabbed me. This was all in the process of cleaning my fright of a study, so that at least once in the year it can be reasonably organized. But bringing closure to one set of UFOs freed me up to start more! So right now I'm underway with the Simple Mistake Rib vest from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders, made with GGH Cadiz Unito, in royal blue, for my sister Kate.
As you see, the photo is not picking up the true shade of blue, but as I make progress, I'll photograph it again in outdoor light, and maybe that will do the trick.

Then I have a super secret sweater project that I'm done swatching for but can't say much more about except it's not for me, and that I'm using Cherry Tree Hill Charmed. It's a variegated baby alpaca that is so dang soft, it's like knitting with a kitten!

I got enough Crystal Palace Kaya to make myself a sweater for fall, and then because that was so exciting and full of potential, I got enough Quince and Co. Osprey (in a mushroom shade--love it!) to make myself yet another sweater! Guess I'd best get crackin'! I decided to use the pattern featured on Quince and Co's new website for the Osprey (worsted weight) line, called Annabel. I think I'll swatch it in seed stitch and see if it would do OK.

My other great developing hobby this summer is biking. On a trip last month with my sister and DD#1, Rachel, to stay overnight at Stehekin, Washington, I went on a bike ride with them that just set my heart singing. Rachel too said at one point, "I feel so happy!" as we pedaled. "That's just endorphins," I said snidely, but then I admitted that I too was loving the free feeling of biking up and down the hills, through gorgeous country, with two of the BEST women in my world. So here is a photo of that trip, with Rachel and me biking, and also one of my very recent acquisition ("adoption" sounds so much more friendly!), a Raleigh Venture 4.0 in a gorgeous metallic champagne color.
If you've ever realized that biking was NO FUN because your derriere hurt, your wrists went numb, and your back ached afterward from leaning over all the time, try a "comfort bike," like this one. It totally sold me on the pleasure of biking. And no, I'm not working for the Raleigh Corp. (But maybe I should!) 
I got the Raleigh because those were the bikes we had rented at Stehekin. Though I researched and rode a few others in my search, this one had great online reviews and got the gut reaction, "Yeah!" when I got on it again at the bike shop.

While Rachel and I trekked in Washington with various relatives, I kept busy doing some stained glass hats (free form, for the most part) in preparation for some adult sized ones in non traditional tones (using a very specific pattern, from Green Mountain Spinnery). Rather than changing colors for the stained glass effect, I'm using variegated, deep colored yarn, and I think they turned out great! Here are two.

Now off to find a bike lock (combination, says DD#3, who knows a lot about bikes and the functional aspects of using them) and a good bike bag/basket. Happy knitting and living, all!

The Lizzie Sweater

It's been waaaay too long! I've gotten so bogged down in school, but it has now ended for the summer.

Here's what I've been working on. Nephew John and his wife Carri had Elizabeth late last month, a bit early, but no worse for wear. This sweater will be one to keep her warm in the chilly Ohio autumns to come. I used Morning Glory (one skein) from my favorite local spinner and dyer, Yarn Lust.

This was the super easy and confidence-building garter stitch baby cardi that Bells originally recommended after knitting one for her niece Alice. I have been too intimidated by sweaters but am over that now! It was fun, easy, and a real satisfying knit. I originally tried some paler yellow buttons, but it was obvious that they were not vibrant enough to do this sweater justice. So I went to Hancock Fabrics and found many more button options (Joanne Fabrics--pathetic!), and these were the clear winner. Time to wrap this giftie and send it to the family with the little baby!

Working on a shoulderette for my sister's birthday later this month. It couldn't be easier and I'm using Just Soya by Sirdar, a lovely textured yarn that will be handwashable and very versatile. Spring and summer evenings in Eastern Washington are not THAT chilly, so I know it needs to be a reasonable "cool" warmth giver. More pictures to follow.

Also working on a silk blend scarf in deep eggplant, a net bag in bananiere from Blonde Chicken (etsy), the Katrina shell I've been picking up and putting down for three summers now, the Quiviuk neck wrap in burgundy for Leone, and swatching with Charmed Serengeti for sister's chilly autumn days to come. Still looking for the right pattern--somewhere between a kimono and a sweater wrap. Nothing too elaborate in the stitch patterns.

Almost having as much fun planning knitting projects as finishing those I have sitting in UFO bags.

Little Boy Hats Revisited

I have higher hopes for these two . . . they were so fun to knit too! And boy is alpaca soft.

Silk Stitches

Snuck on over to Stitches for a little while yesterday, no particular aim except to feast my eyes and say hi to Queen of Purple Yarn if I should find her at Purlescence's booth. Oh, and hopefully pick up my freebie at the Malabrigo booth (nope, they were already out--waaah!). Well, I went, I saw, and I conquered two skeins of yarn, one a pale sage silk/merino from Tess' Designs, and the other a burgundy quiviut/silk from Windy Valley Muskox.

I had missed her at the booth, but as I was leaving I heard QPY talking to a friend behind me, fortunately. When I turned to say hello, she was headed outside where she'd heard there was an alpaca! So as we headed out, I accompanied them, and we petted the sweet little beige and brown cutie.

I hear the Sweden hats were a mixed blessing: the little hat was just too small for Mr. 2-Year-Old, and the blue marled hat for Mr. 6-Year-Old was too big. The good news: Host Mom has a friend with a toddler younger than hers, so the Fair Isle can be passed on, and the blue hat fits . . . HER. I am happy that I inadvertently gave her a gift! So I'll knit some new ones soon. 8^(  but  8^).

I also continue on my capelette, the Better Than Ribbing Scarf #2 (above, but less purple and more merlot), and an alpaca scarf that will be a color block affair.

Getting lots of knitting done while we watch movies 8^). Today, it was Steve Carrell in Dan in Real Life. I think SC is a genius, and have always loved Juliette Binoche. This movie struck a chord as genuine given the representation of teenage girls, of which I've managed to raise, and never eat, three. I consider that quite an accomplishment!

Little Boy Hats

DD#2, in Stockholm for spring semester, is living with a host family who are generously providing her with a room, meals, cultural help, practical help, and two young sons to get to know. Molly, who is majoring in Child Development and interning in an English speaking elementary in Stockholm as part of her semester studies abroad, thrives when she is spending time with little sprites.

And these two, a six year old and his two-year-old brother, are fun, funny, and lively. My favorite story so far is of the family driving Molly home from the airport the day she first arrived, and William, the six year old, being a bit silly and outrageous on the drive. He told Molly, "We live in a garbage pail," and so she quickly replied (I am sure without batting an eye), "I hope it has HEAT!" So she's game for the adventures one undertakes with little kids, that's for sure.

Molly's host parents, both of whom work full time, are quite kind, generous, and helpful. Her host mother went out of her way to help Molly navigate a mail delivery problem recently when Molly couldn't get it sorted out. This sort of generosity towards one's children inspires generosity in repayment, of a kind.

So I started knitting. (You knew that's where we were headed, no?) I know it's silly to knit Fair Isle for a Scandinavian family, but that's what grabbed me, so I made this little hat for Elliot, and another in ombre blue wool for William. Elliot's is of various alpaca yarns (small-person hats are a great way to finish up partial balls of yarn!). PS: the Fair Isle pattern was partly adapted from Vyridia (a great simple first Fair Isle hat) and experiments with little birdseye stitches and what I call railroad tracks (see red and cream at below).

Who knows? Maybe they'll need them for another month or two in Sweden! LOL.
 This is Molly in her red hat and red balloon. She and some of her new program friends got the balloons at a small concert, and she decided to take them back to her host family on the subway and through the frozen streets of Solna, a suburb of Stockholm. She knew when the boys woke up the next morning, they would be excited to see two huge balloons in their living room. She was right!

A Labor of Love

Note: I've saved the best picture for last! ;^)

You may remember that DMIL Ruthie started a blanket for DH in summer 2008 when he was undergoing chemo. He asked her to make this as a comfort for him, and his mother would do just about anything for her son, even without a cancer diagnosis. You know how that is. 8^) Having already undergone the Herculean labors to bring the boy into the world, she readily embarks on a second task, The Blanket.

I remember him asking for something blue, large, and backed in polar fleece. That was it. This gave DMIL the creative freedom to do any number of things, but they were not going to come from a pattern. That ain't the way this woman knits. So she started with the center panel and some graph paper (she does create and work off stitch charts!) and planned out the figures for the white center. First there was she herself, in a chair, knitting something long and drapey--perhaps this very blanket! Note the verisimilitude of the wild gray hair she depicts.

Then, in a line, come a gray cat (Pippi), moi, "my" fat gray cat (Percy), DH, "his" cat Kermit,

Then we have eldest daughter; middle daughter with "her" cat Cleo; and youngest daughter. Middle daughter does not have a bright blue hairstyle; she spent a long time in her teen years wearing a hoodie or a hooded sweatshirt. Nana commemorates that here. 8^)

Note the metallic whiskers of some of these felines!
Needless to say, the center panel was finished that summer, but then the laborious panels around it began, and she has been working away at it when she could (many serious back problems, a little travel, and perhaps a wee bit of boredom kept her from it at times). And when someone asks for something big, she really serves it up big! This involved a heck of a lot of knitting!

And then yesterday a box appeared on the doorstep in her handwriting, with the note: Do Not Cut to Open on the top where it was taped. Hmmmm. I wondered but was not sure what it was. When DH arrived home, he knew and immediately (and carefully) opened the box and pulled out this Gift of a Blanket.
Miles and miles of seed stitch, lovely variegated self-patterning wool in spots, and solid blues of various shades in others.

Here's one last picture of the happy son.