Monday, December 29, 2008

Something Fishy

Greetings, and Dear Cynthia,
I'm going to enjoy watching your hemlock blanket unfold. (I am wondering...just a thought here...perhaps some knitting machine lessons for you in January, as a New Years' goal, to give you a fighting chance at getting Grace's machine-knit blanket done by next December?....just sayin'...) After your "airbags and pointy sticks" comment, I think about you now whenever I'm a passenger knitting... My sister was in an accident a couple of weeks ago in which her vehicle rolled over twice -- one never knows when something crazy like that is going to happen. (Thankfully, she only had some minor injuries...but after hearing about all of the stuff that went flying around the inside of her passenger compartment, I think we might alter the way we pack for trips by securing things better...)

We celebrated Christmas twice, and will celebrate one more time yet. It's all good fun, though I've barely had a break since I was done with school. Our Christmas letters will have more of an Epiphany theme (or perhaps, Presidents' Day) this year, and I'm hopeful I can get those sent out by the end of this week.

All three hoodies were done on time, and the recipients loved them. It was rather grueling to fit them in right before Christmas (along with my other Christmas preparations), but totally worth it when my eight year old told me how warm and comfy it was, and that he really liked it. I'm going to try to make one for me this week...and I might have enough fabric left over for a fleece bathrobe for myself, too. I've made a fleece robe for each of my guys over the years; now it's my turn :-)

And, I finished the fish hat... the night before I gifted it:It cracks me up...So, are any of you setting any New Years' goals? Have a safe and fun holiday!

Warm regards,
Laura (YarnThrower)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We're all a little nuts these days....

Greetings and Dear Laura:

Ah, the waning days of Advent - the triumphs, the failures....and the letting go. I love the fleece hoodies! Not nuts at all to have your guys all cozy and warm. It's always good to have successful last-minute-projects! I hope you're all shoveled out of the snow and that you have safe traveling. And don't forget to stop knitting while a passenger on slippery roads. Airbags and pointy sticks. Just sayin'.

I've had some successes, and some insanity and spectacular failures as well! 

I finished the legwarmer for my friend, and she reports that is it quite effective at keeping the 'robo-leg' warm. I also supplied her with a large rectangle that I had felted for a purse project that went off the rail several years ago. She was able to fashion that into an 'outer-leg-warmer' so that she has two layers, and the outer one is easier to get on and off. So, YAY!

I also managed to whip up another of those 3-hour scarves, which I'll give in the white elephant exchange tonight. I'm especially pleased because this was some stash busting! A while back, an entire post and subsequent stash reduction sale where inspired by some yarn that I couldn't remember buying! 2 skeins of a worsted in an orange/purple variegation and 2 skeins of a brushed Alpaca in a lovely burnt orange. I carried the 4 strands and used my size 19 needles, and the result is 70" of cushy goodness. I'm sure that there are a couple of people in the exchange who will want to trade for it!

Now to my insanity. My great-niece Grace has her birthday on December 22nd. Every year. Five years now. This is never a surprise to me. In the fall of 2007, she asked me to knit her a blanket. I remembered that I have a knitting machine that I have never really used, and I thought I could knit some strips with that, sew them together and add a little embellishment and border with hand knitting, and 
1. fulfill her request
2. use up some leftover yarn and extra stash
3. get some use out of the machine I bought
4. whip this up in next to no-time.

Of course, I waited until the week before her birthday to get the machine out, and then I fought with it for several days before giving up in despair. I bought her a gift.

I contacted someone about lessons, and she gave me valuable tips on setting it up (I needed to buy a shelf and some clamps to have a level surface) and told me about group meetings, classes and offered private lessons. Now, I had bought myself another whole year. Not due until December 22, 2008. I did buy the shelf and the clamps, and found them handy for my ballwinder and swift during the year. However, despite many opportunities to go to club meetings, classes - even a machine knitting CAMP, we arrived at December 20th with no real progress on this project. But hey - machine knitting - it's fast, right?

So on Saturday, in between cookie baking, I set up the machine and got started. And it did go better. A little better. I gave up at about 8 pm when I didn't have anything longer than 10 rows. Sunday at 4 am the power went off (oh, by the way? We had an big ice storm!) It's not an electric machine, so I could try again that afternoon in the daylight. And actually the power was back on by early afternoon, so that was grand. Again, between batches of cookies, I tackled that thing. I did eventually (like 6 hours later) get a strip that is about 14" x 30" and has 5 different blocks. I even striped a block! But while I could go along for quite a while with no problem, when I DID have a problem - it was spectacular. 1/2 the stitches would jump off the needles, and it would take 40-50 minutes to get them all back on and back to normal. (Hey - it's progress. At least I can get them back on instead of throwing the piece across the room and starting over!) My parents observed my mood and TIPTOED past me to get to the cookies!

I bought Grace a book for her birthday. Insanity. But I moved on.

So, since I'm done with the December knitting, I was able to cast on for the Hemlock Ring Blanket I'm making for my new niece or nephew, who should arrive by mid-January! I stayed up to at least get a big started last night, and so far (12 rounds) it's really fun! ;)

I mentioned that we had an ice storm here, almost a week ago now. Last Friday morning, the power-outages began. There were an estimated 112,000 homes without power at the peak - 6 days later that number is around 8,900. We lost power twice, but both times it was back on in a short time. Temperatures on Sunday and Monday were in the single digits, with wind added to the mix. I bring this up because my nephew - Grace's dad - is a lineman for the electric company. He's one of the guys working 16-18 hour days, every day, climbing poles in the cold and ice, to get that power back on. I know it's hard if you're one of those 8,900 still without power, but they are working their butts off, missing things like birthdays and Christmas with their families, and missing things like sleep and hot meals, doing their level best to get everyone's lives back to normal. Let's hear it for the linemen!

And a heart-felt wish for a Merry Christmas to you and your families! 

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now with joy is ringing!

Keep knitting!

Cynthia (aka Designated Knitter)

Monday, December 22, 2008

I am nuts, and other misc

Greetings, and Dear Cynthia,

Don't let the title of this post concern you. I'm working toward the same deadline (Christmas Eve) as many other knitters who also might be categorized as "nuts."

I finished my semester last Thursday, and then Friday the boys had a "snow day," so no school. At that time, I didn't have very much checked off of my Christmas "to do" list, though somehow I thought it was a good idea to *add* the sewing of three fleece hoodies into the mix, so that I may keep my family warm. I bought eight yards of fleece [though, I think the lady cutting it lost track as she was measuring and she might have cut *nine* yards, instead. I thought about having her check to be sure, but I didn't want to annoy her (because it IS the Christmas season), and I really wasn't *positive* that she measured out too much...]. In any case, eight or nine yards is a lot of fleece. I have about an hour of sewing left on the one for DH, and probably two hours for each of the boys'. Instead of getting up to go running or study in the mornings, I'm getting up to sew -- WAY more enjoyable, and today it appears that I actually might get these done on time. (Note that fleece, *not* knitting, is THE way to go if you want three hoodies completed within three days time.) BONUS: Plenty of fleece left for a matching hoodie for ME, too, though THAT one can wait...

I didn't have much of a gift yet for one of my nephews, so a Knitty Fish hat seemed just the thing to make in my spare time. I was going to use some really nice wool I had on hand, and then I remembered the sweater I made for this same nephew which my sister accidently felted in the washing machine, so I pulled out all of my acrylic stash and started knitting away. This doesn't really have to be done until next week Sunday.

Here is a quilted wall hanging my mom made for the boys to give to their piano teacher. She always sews a really nice label on the back of her quilts, too, explaining the name of the quilt, who it made it, who it is for and from, etc.

My "Must Have Cardigan" is seeing slow but steady progress. It's not going to be done by the end of the year, most likely, but will make for some fine travel knitting.

Here is our Christmas tree: We have to finish putting on the ornaments, garland, topper, etc., but as of yesterday, this project is at least started. Two years ago, we decided we'd do the Norman Rockwell thing and go to a tree farm and cut our own tree. As we tramped through the "forest," the boys couldn't agree on which tree to get. After trying to find some compromise, DH finally announced that *Mommy* was going to pick the tree, making everybody but me unhappy. The week after Christmas that year, I made a pre-emptive strike and bought an artificial tree on sale. So, last year, we had an artificial tree -- less hassle, no watering, etc. This year, DH thought it would be fun to get another real tree, so we left late in the afternoon this past Saturday in snowy, slippery weather, and got lost, then realized the tree farm closed in fifteen minutes. So, after a nice 45 minutes in the van, and after my eight year old asked, "Why can't we just use the tree from last year? It would be a *lot cheaper*!," we returned home treeless. I put up the artificial tree yesterday... I like it. It doesn't smell the way a real one does, but enough of Norman Rockwell for this year. Maybe next year...

So, I have two weeks at home with the boys, and when they go back to school, I start a two-week clinical assignment. Then it's right back into school. It's not exactly a huge "break," though I'm glad for the time away from the intensity of classes/exams right now.

It's NEGATIVE 10 degrees F (not including the wind chill) here right now. We'll run some errands this afternoon, but that's about it. Perfect day to hunker down in the house. The boys are really enjoying a more relaxed schedule, and playing nicely together today.

Shameless plug for anybody who might be in the Madison area next weekend: The quartet I play with (Madison Marimba Quartet) is giving a free concert next Saturday, December 27, at 1:00pm on campus. Send me an e-mail if you are interested in further details...

Well, time to get back to other tasks at hand.
Warm regards,
Laura (YarnThrower)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Goblins and ogres, oh my!

Greetings and Dear Laura:

Last night, my brother and sil invited me over for supper, to be followed by a movie and knitting. (YAY!! I finally converted one of my sil's to knitting!) The movie we watched was called "The Spiderwick Chronicles." There were an ogre and goblins popping up all over, strange scary sounds in the woods and in the big house in the middle of the woods....kind of intense at times. I was surprised that my 5-year-old great niece had enjoyed it and not been scared. Chris said they had a long talk before they watched it, where she explained that it wasn't real. I kind of thought she should have had that talk with me!! ;) 

After it was over, I tried to get my brother to drive me home so I didn't have to go out in the dark by myself, but he declined. (He said he didn't want to have to walk back home in the dark and rain. Kind of self-centered, if you ask me!) As I was driving up the long lane to my house (the one with the woods behind it...) all of the sudden the well-lit house I was heading for went dark! I looked around and all of the houses on our side of the road had lost power!! That really cracked me up! I used my cell phone to call Andy and Chris, and they were laughing too - as soon as the power went off, they both said, "Well, Cynthia is just going to FREAK!!" My biggest issue was that I couldn't get the garage door up from the outside, so I went in from upstairs, by the light of my cell phone. The first three "designated flashlight locations" were either oddly "flashlight free" or held a flashlight that didn't work! I did eventually get settled into my chair and went to sleep a bit early, since there was not much I wanted to do by the light of a flashlight. The power was out for about 3 hours, but it wasn't really that cold out, so I was comfy.

I had hoped to bake Christmas cookies and get the tree up this weekend, but that didn't work out. I did however get a hat knitted for my Aunt Betty. I really like using the "Fetching Inspired" hat pattern - I like the cable detail, and it's a relatively quick knit. I cast on Saturday afternoon, and finished Saturday evening. I'll block it tonight and get it off in the mail.

I started working on a leg-warmer for a friend. I'm still testing needle sizes and numbers to cast on. I'm using a couple of yarns from the stash. I have one skein of a wool that has a long stripe. I've lost the ball band, so I'm trying to remember the details of this yarn. I bought it in a yarn shop in the north suburbs of Chicago on a yarn-shop crawl in the spring of 2004. I just have the one ball. I keep thinking that it was Lana Grossa, but I haven't been able to confirm that. I'm carrying a thin alpaca yarn. I know that I got it from the Wool Barn in Avilla, and I carried it along when I made a hat for my brother for Christmas a few years back. (When I was done, the hat was HUGE - big enough for a goblin head, but I digress. I bought him a present and frogged the hat!) Once again, I don't remember the details of the yarn.

Well, thats all for today Keep knitting! With the lights on and a glass of tomato juice beside you! (Tomato juice melts goblins....) 

Cynthia (aka DesignatedKnitter)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The 3 Hour Scarf

Originally uploaded by designatedknitter
Yes! I can knit a scarf in 3 hours. And somehow, my hands did not fall off.

It's a good 60" long, soft and fluffy. Great pattern from Ravelry. Classic Elite Marl La yarn and size 19 needles. Sweet!

We now return to regularly scheduled knitting.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Well, what have we here?

Greetings and Dear Laura:

What we have is a Finished Object! The stocking kit, no less! I cast off last Friday, and on Sunday evening I added the hanging loop and steam-blocked it as directed. That means 3 weeks and 1 day between cast-on and completion. I'm happy with that. And it really is a beautiful stocking. An excellent design and well-written pattern instructions. I'm glad that I got to knit it. Purl even likes it!

My quick trip to Kentucky went well, my brother and I got done those things which we needed to. And since he did all the driving, I had plenty of good knitting time. We drove home on Saturday, and most of the trip we were dealing with snow, ice or the effects of a 'wintry mix.' During several places where conditions were perilous, I did put my knitting away, because I was concerned about having an airbag go off while I had pointy sticks in my hands! I did get most of the cuff on my current sock projects done, tho!

Other than a couple of soap sweaters, (one of which is complete!) I'm not doing Christmas knitting this year. My priorities have shifted somewhat. One of my friends has need of legwarmers, since the pins she has in her leg now get cold (and painful!) very easily. And my aunt Betty has lost her hair as a result of the chemo to treat breast cancer, so I'm working on a cashmerino hat to help keep her warm. Once those projects are done (don't you love how matter-of-fact I sound, like that point in the process is imminent???) then I need to make sure that my new niece/nephew is going to be warm. So, it's not like I don't have deadlines, just not specifically a Christmas deadline.

I did promise a report on recent yarn acquisitions. First I had an accidental order from WEBS, which I completely blame on Lauren. BUT they did have the Zarella print that I wanted to make a baby blanket for the new baby. I only needed 3 balls - I have the other yarns already. And it WAS a good price.....
And then I couldn't resist a skein of Aracania Ranco in a lovely green semi-solid. $7.99 for a great sock yarn?? That's a no-brainer! It's beautiful. And we all know that my sock yarn stash is down to like....40-50 prs of socks...... (wink!)
While we were on our shopping trip to southern Indiana, I made my annual stop at Cottage Knits in Columbus Indiana. I always enjoy seeing what she has available. This is her second or third year in the 'new' location, and it is just so charming! I want to sit by the fireplace and knit away, but I always have a car load of non-knitters outside waiting for me! This time I was a bit more practical, I picked up some Cascade 200 Superwash for a baby blanket for my sil in a lovely cream color. I showed her the Hemlock Ring pattern, and she thought that would be a wonderful baptismal blanket, and in the Cascade it should be warm and sturdy enough to use after as well.

Well, better get this posted before another day passes! Keep knitting!

Cynthia (aka Designated Knitter!)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Knitting and CD coasters

Greetings, and Dear Cynthia,

Happy Saturday! I still have 7 tests and a presentation in the next two weeks, so I can't really celebrate just yet...but I can see the end of the semester...and I have a bottle of wine chilling in the refrigerator, just sayin'!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE all of the Silk Garden scarves I see you and many other knitters making these days! I've restrained myself from indulging so far, having rather large tuition bills looming every three or four months... Trying to strike a "balance," and I have enough in my stash to keep me going for a while, so I resist, but it *IS* an exercise in self control, I have to say.

I blocked the pieces I have completed of the Must Have Cardigan, because I was still having doubts about the size of the thing. Once dry, I sewed the one sleeve and the front/back together so that I could try it on so far to give myself peace of mind that the size is in the ball park. It seems okay, so I keep plugging away at the remaining front and sleeve. Not overwhelmingly exciting on the knitting front here these days...and even more boring for those of you who have been following this sweater now for months with inch by inch progress reports.

For one of my classes, a group of four of us are doing a presentation on CD-ROM's as an instructional tool. (There were ten topics available, and this is the one my group ended up with.) It's not exactly the most cutting edge technology, but we put something together and tried to include a little levity to keep the class awake for the fifteen minutes we'll have their attention next Tuesday. In a list of "pros and cons," we are going to mention that one "pro" is that when they are obsolete, they may be made into I made some visual aids to share with the class for this:I found photos on the University's web site of the course instructor and her husband (who is also a professor there). I resized and printed the photos onto paper, and adhered them to the back of CDs with clear contact paper covering the whole surface of the back. On the front side of the CDs, I glued cork which I cut to size. Sort of dorky, but at the same time, actually nice coasters, and perhaps a project my kids could do to make presents for their grandparents. (It looks like this professor has a black and blue eye in the photo, but that is because when I glued the cork onto the CD, the extra glue ran through the center hole of the CD and damaged the photo. I would definitely recommend using card stock or photo paper or somehow blocking the hole from allowing the seepage of glue if I make these again.)

Anyway, it's really cold outside here, and I should go running this morning, and I have so much other stuff to do today (grocery shopping, laundry, gobs of studying for a huge practical exam on Monday, taking my six year old to a birthday party which is going to be *OUTSIDE* at the zoo -- brrrr, and perhaps even cleaning a bathroom), so I'd better start moving that direction. I know that all of you are extremely busy right now, too, and so I wish you all a productive weekend!

Warm regards,
Laura (YarnThrower)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Almost there....

Greetings and Dear Laura:

Sorry I missed wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving - I guess that ship has sailed! I do hope that everyone had a wonderful feast, and that you all have much to be thankful for. I certainly did on both counts!

We had a smaller gathering this year. Two of my brothers and their families celebrated with their kids-out-of-state. Andy & Chris were in Texas with my niece and her husband and baby. Tim & Sandy were in California with my nephew. (Who was so excited that he prepared ahead for weeks. He bought a 21-lb turkey for 3 people!)

We had an even dozen people (and only ate half of the 16-lb turkey!) Since there was not the usual 25-30 people, I decided I could make everything myself (with a little help from mom) and gave everyone else the day off of cooking. In the end, I don't think that it really was any less work - I made all of the same dishes, and in fact, I think I made about the same quantity. I declared that I have one setting for Thanksgiving, I can make those recipes in only one size. SO, next year, if I start whining about having to cook for 30 people, you must all remind me that it will be the same as this year, which I considered rather easy. (Also, while you are reminding me, please tell me to put on a pair of sturdy shoes first thing in the morning. My feet and back would be less painful if I didn't stand on that hard floor all morning in my stocking feet!)

Then it was off to Nashville Indiana for the 24th Annual Shopping Trip. (All the females over 13 are invited.) This year there were six of us, and we had a grand time. I'll get to the shopping results eventually, but I did manage to make a good bit of progress on the Stocking I'm working on. In the last week, I've managed to get this far!
Only the foot remains, and I have that about 1/4 of the way done. I hope to have that off the needles before I sleep tonight! I love this pattern - it's going quickly, it's fun, and well, it just looks gorgeous!
I also made progress on my Noro Scarf, and my sock. The scarf was what I knit on while we shopped - I can walk around doing 1x1 rib with no problem.
Now I'm off on a last-minute quick trip to KY to visit my parents - more about that later. Suffice to say that I'm bringing enough knitting for a month, but only plan to be gone for 48 hours!

Keep knitting!

Cynthia (aka Designated Knitter)