on the needles

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I've Been Bad...But It Feels So Good!

Perhaps I was inspired by two sunny days in a row, an inkling of spring weather or perhaps I just lack impulse control - in any event I window shopped at Elann and (of course) ended up snapping up some bargains. I really do have enough winter projects to keep me busy through next year. But I don't have ANY spring or summer projects. Isn't that enough of an excuse to buy this:

It's Schachenmayr Crazy Cotton in Southwest River at only $3.85 a ball! It will become this:

It is from Schachenmayr Nomotta Inspiration No. 75, which of course I also ordered. Finally a summer tank type top that I will actually wear! Woohoo! I love the colors of the Crazy Cotton and was tempted to get more - but I did manage some restraint and only got one. Total of $38 for the yarn and $13 for the pattern book. I am betting that yarn will be almost sold out in about two weeks. That's what happened with the yarn I used for the Red Scarf Project. I knew it was too good to last....

I also got some Endless Summer Collection Sonata in Capri Blue to make that Tiger Swallowtail Shawl from Needle Beetle. Only $1.98 a ball! A $21 shawl! I am amazed.

In actual work progressing news - I have held off on finishing the last sleeve for York. I like to have another pattern in progress before I finish the one I have been working on - that way I don't stall out or get confused by the vast and colorful array of projects and yarn and become unable to choose just one. (Don't point out the WIP I already have on my list - It's not THAT long!) So I started the Aran Hat for my Black Water Abbey KAL. Got about 12 rows into it when I realized I wasn't liking it. Nothing wrong with the yarn, nothing wrong with the pattern - just don't like the two together. It seems like the small (in my universe size 6 needles feel small!) needle size and the weight of the yarn was combining to flatten the texture I was supposed to be getting from the cables. Add the dark color of the yarn and the fact that - being newish to cables, I think I knit them a bit on the tight side and you come up with blah. Just blah. There's literally nothing to see there. So I put it away for now and I'm trying to work myself up the drive to either do about 12 more rows to see if getting the larger picture helps any (and risk having to frog even more work) or if I should just order a lighter color of the yarn.

The good news is I found a needle to use and have rediscovered my love affair with Clapotis. (See I actually DO work on my WIP!) I think the new stitch markers I got from Seahorse Designs probably helped a bit. :) You can find her work on Ebay or at Seahorse-Designs.com. (Do I get anything for my endorsement?) ;) I have purchased about 6 sets of markers from her and have been a happy camper every time. These new ones are a citrus yellow which looks really great against the deep green of the Clapotis.

I have some kid free time so I'm going to actually knit now! :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Fun with Birdfeeders

Guess who I saw in our backyard the other day? The rare pileated woodpecker!

I have seen him about twice a year since we moved to this house. He likes the deadwood we have lying around the backyard - lots of yummy bugs living in there presumably. So I usually see him pecking away at one of the old logs further out in our yard. But the other day I saw him fly up and go straight to the birdfeeder. This is a relatively huge bird so all of the little chickadees, nuthatches, wrens and cardinals that usually hang around the birdfeeder backed off and let the woodpecker have it to himself. I saw some of the other birds waiting impatiently for their turn in our holly bush. My daughter and I watched the woodpecker for quite awhile and I took photos to show my husband who has only seen the bird once before. Right as I was getting ready to put away my camera Mrs. Pileated flew up and perched on their favorite tree where she was joined by Mr. Pileated.

I was really psyched to see her since I have only ever seen the male. I'm so glad he has a wife and I really hope they will nest somewhere around here so I can see some baby Pileateds! Mr. told the Mrs. about the good eats and she flew down to have a snack for herself.

As soon as the Pileateds left I saw the Tufted Titmouse. One of my favorites - aren't they sweet?

And one of our other frequent visitors, the Downy Woodpecker.

See how much fun you can have just by putting up a birdfeeder in your backyard? :)

**As I was getting ready to post this I looked outside & who did I see? Mr. Pileated! I hope that means they like the cuisine and have decided to stay.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The homestretch

I'm on the last half of the second sleeve on the York sweater! Woohoo! Can't believe I will actually have all the bits finished. Any ideas for me on how to trick my mom into seaming it for me? I think someone should start a "finishing up" business. You could mail them your sweater bits and they could do all the blocking and seaming for you. I seriously think some enterprising soul could make some bucks! Anyhow - here is the progress so far:

hmm....What to start on next? I need a new needle for the clapped so that is on hold. The Gedifra Yeti sweater is just out of the question. I suppose I could fall back on the Myrtle jacket especially since I have the biggest part finished already....but who am I kidding? We all know I will cast on for something new. I joined the Butterfly knitalong so I really ought to actually work on it. I have the yarn for it - Silk Garden #88. Unfortunately that colorway is essentially the muted female version of the York sweater colors and I am really in the mood for something more colorful. I also joined the Black Water Abbey knitalong - sucked in by my ambition to lose my fear of cables. I have actually done cables before but they still seem rather exotic to me. But I love the way they look! Black Water Abbey has some really nice patterns on their site too. I ordered the Celtic Dreams sweater(for me), the Son of Aran sweater (for DH), the Aran Hats (for everyone in the family!), and the Slingburst Bags (to learn short rows). I got a large skein of the Slate yarn intended to become one of the Aran hats as a birthday present for my stepfather but then I realized how close his birthday actually is sooo - it looks like he will be getting a winter hat in the middle of June for Father's Day. That means the pressure's off so I don't really have to confront my fear of cables just yet. :) Knitting cables requires paying slightly more attention to what you are doing and what will all of the late nights and heavy construction around here I just don't feel up to the effort. I feel like Winne the Pooh - a bear of very little brain.

Those dangerous yarn pushers over at Black Water Abbey sent along a sample card of their yarns. I really like Butter and Iris but my very favorite has to be Bluestack. It is a blue with a purpley cast and tweedy bits in it. Lots of depth. If I ever actually knit the Celtic sweater it will definitely be in bluestack. But I am going to finish the hat first and see if I actually like using this yarn since I haven't worked with it before.

So - what to work on next??

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Domino Effect

Home Improvement News: My DH and I have already done everything in this house that was possible to do without setting off the Domino Effect. You know, where you can't do one thing without doing another thing - but then really if you do that thing you should by all rights do a whole other thing as well. And so on and so on and so on....multiplying like that scary hydra of a woman on that old shampoo commercial! This is also known as the Snowball Effect. Well - the dominoes are falling and the snowball is well and truly rolling! We knew this would happen - but what can you do? We had to paint the stairwell - walls and trim. We started taping to paint the walls but then we took a good look at the trim on the stairs and decided that IF we were going to do the trim right we REALLY should just go ahead and pull off the nasty old carpet which needs to be replaced anyway. So we dropped the taping and started pulling. Actually my DH did all the pulling because removing carpet is really dusty work and I have asthma. (To be fair I did the basement stairs all by myself so I guess that makes us even.) Once the carpet was off and tack strips and staples removed we realized that the baseboards really looked like crap. Someone super sloppy and lazy painted this house before us and we have been paying the price. Also, baseboards tend to get a bit of wear and dings in a house with two kids and three dogs! Sooooo - to be done right, the baseboards REALLY needed to be scraped and sanded and repaired. Another job for DH because sanding and scraping are really dusty jobs and I have asthma. (To be fair I spent my time knitting a sweater for him: see YORK.) We also realized that this was a good time to tighten up the stairs to stop the serious creaking that drove us all crazy! So DH spent an evening hammering in wood shims and now we have quiet stairs! Hooray! Then I went out and picked out carpet samples and - thankfully - we easily reached a decision. Sagey green for the upper stairs and sandy for the basement stairs. That brings us to today - I primed trim on the stairs (and a bunch of doors for some cabinets we are also painting - but that's a whole other story!). Hopefully we will have new carpet on all the stairs in two weeks. This is a huge thing to me because the nasty carpet on the creaking stairs was one of the last bits of the "old house" that was left. When the new carpet is installed it will be the last of the DIY fix-it jobs. Everything else is cosmetic - painting and decorating. Except of course the master bath and kitchen which both need a total remodel overhaul and which we can't do ourselves - so that is a save up money type of thing. *Sigh * It never ends....But I am REALLY proud of us and how much we have been able to do in this house ourselves on a super tight budget and make it look really great. My Dad recently said that the house had changed beyond all recognition from what it had been before. That was really the best compliment ever and made our two years worth of hard work feel like it was paying off. :)

In knitting news: I am on the last sleeve for the York sweater! Hooray! I was trying to get it finished by this weekend so that my Mom could show me how to do the seams but at this point that probably won't happen. So after all the knitting is finished York might sit in pieces for awhile before I muster up the courage to start the finishing process.

For fun I thought I would post a photo of a wrap I finished about a month and a half ago. I still need to weave in the ends though. It is don in Gedifra Byzanz which is so soft and fleecy and fun to work with. HOWEVER, there were so many knots in the skeins that I nearly went crazy! I just don't think that this type of yarn should be knotted in order to make up a skein. I think that I lost probably an entire skein of yarn because I would get halfway through a row, find a knot, have to back track, cut out the knot and tie on the new yarn at the beginning of a row. This wastes tons of yarn which is something that drives me CRAZY. Especially when you only have 50 meter skeins in the first place so you already feel like you are endlessly tying on. And especially when the skeins normally cost about $13 - although I did get this on sale. I am using a different color of bygones for the MIL scarf I am making and for some reason that batch of yarn has far fewer knots. Thank goodness! :) Anyhow - here's the photo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

York Along moving along....a bit

I put the York sweater on the back burner as soon as we started painting again. I haven't worked on it in at least a week. Mary is cooking right along with hers - in beautiful blues (which is just what I would have used for this sweater if I were knitting it for myself!). She was kind enough to help me out (between Duran Duran concerts!) when I got confused about some of the pattern instructions. This taught me two lessons: the first is that it is always useful to have a knitting buddy to turn to in times of confusion, the second is not to try to read patterns while hopped up on Benedryl! Thanks Mary!

Here's a photo of my progress so far:

I'm up to the armhole on the right front side. I was trying to hurry it along so that I could get my mother to show me how to do seams while she is in town but what with the detour into painting hell I'm pretty sure that won't happen. So I will either end up putting all the pieces in a bag and waiting until mom's next visit or attempting to do it myself - which I am convinced will lead to disaster. I think the incident with the knitted pig I tried to seam has scarred me for life...........

Monday, March 14, 2005

Blogging sadly neglected lately but the craft room and guest bathroom are looking great. My dear sweet hubby is down there right now doing the touch ups on the walls and when that's finished it's movin' in time! I am not looking forward to carrying the heavy shelves around or to sorting out the mountain of craft supplies. But I am looking forward to finally being able to use my sewing machine! In the meantime - while I wasn't painting or lying on the sofa moaning about not wanting to paint - I took some time off from knitting the York sweater to whip up a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. I had a general idea in mind of what I would like the scarf to look like, festive, with texture and color but not a variegated yarn because I work with Noro so much and wanted to do something different for a change. I searched around and found some Schachenmayr Nomotta Rainbow in color # 30 at Elann. It is about half cotton and half acrylic. I've never worked with cotton before and it felt pretty weird at first. It was slower on the needles. I started out trying to use my acrylic straights but couldn't stand the drag so I switched to some Susan Bates needles. It was kind of strange to use straight needles at all because I almost always use my good old Addi Circ's.

Anyhow - here's what I came up with:

I used size 11 needles and held the yarn doubled since it's fairly thin. I wanted a light and open look so I used my new favorite technique of yarnovers which get dropped off and pulled up on the next row. I am also making another scarf with this sort of pattern right now though so it's getting to be a bit like beating a dead horse at this point! The other fun new thing I did was fringe. Yep - I've never done fringe before. I think I had a bit of fringe-a-phobia. It seemed like something that would be uninteresting and time consuming - all the sorts of stuff I'm too lazy to do. To my surprise it actually went really quickly! Maybe now I can muster up the initiative to put the fringe on the Anntorp wraps I made and get them off of my UFO list. :)

Here's a detail of the pattern with the fringe:

In this photo you can see the little bits of color in the yarn. I think the scarf is much prettier in person because the flash washed out the colors a bit. That's the problem with having to wait until hubby gets home to take photos. :(

Anyhow - the scarf will be on it's way this week as soon as I weave in the pesky end bits. :)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Painting progress

Quittin time for today! We put in some eight good hours of work today. The craft room walls are finished and the trim has a first coat. We are simultaneously working on the small guest bathroom as well. Of course we had no plans to paint it when we started this but...yesterday I happened to walk by it and think that the Celestia Blue would look great in there as well and we already had that paint on the rollers so why do clean up twice? So we dismantled that room and got started. I am always amazed and dismayed at the amount of prep work involved in painting a room. Switch plates and light fixtures come down. Doors come off and in this case get stripped of the old hardware (hinges, door knobs) which has been slopped with paint from previous owners and now looks really crappy. (It's amazing how much nicer and new door knob and clean hinges can make a door look!) We took the mirror down which was one of those typical things with no frame and being held up by little plastic clips. UGLY! I said it was so ugly I didn't even want to put it back up. Hubby had a bright idea and ran and got a mirror we had laying around (that is what it's like around here - a weird construction zone!) and said how about this? It looks great - nice old world style frame in a pretty pewter color. So then of course we had to fill and sand the holes left by the old ugly mirror. Then we took out the toilet paper holder which was recess mounted into the wall. I said I had no intention of putting that ugly thing back either so now we had to drywall patch that hole. At that point I started thinking well hell - now that we are ripping this whole thing apart why not take out the tile (grey ceramic - not bad condition but GREY!) and then if you are going to replace that you really should go ahead and get a new sink and cabinet as well and finish the whole thing off. Fortunately - exhaustion intervened and we went to bed.

Today, after some research that proved it would cost a bit much right now to get a good looking sink and cabinet, I decided that we would let sanity (and the budget) prevail and just paint the old one. So the bathroom is ready to be tackled. It is prepped, taped and has a coat of primer on the trim. I don't know for sure if we will get any farther on it this weekend though because we have to put a second coat on the craft room trim and as soon as that is dry we have to shove the mountain of unruly crafting supplies of all descriptions to the side so we have room to empty out the closet and paint it. We are going to put shelves in the closet! Hooray! I can not wait to get that place organized. Having no shelves was a serious handicap in that room. All of my stuff ended up in heaps on the floor which encouraged all kinds of homeless stuff from the rest of the house to migrate to the craft room and join the heaps until the heaps became mountains!

When we are finished with the room there will be two large sets of shelves, a desk/table for sewing and a daybed ostensibly for guests but really to display my quilts and needlework pillows and to provide a place to hang out & think about what project I want to do next. :) Of course the shelves are currently up in the bedroom loaded up with books. I have some actual library cabinets coming to take their place. Joy! No more dusty books! No more dogs deciding to devour some Thackeray or an early edition of Poe. I have quite a few really nice editions (that have survived!) and I will finally be able to take care of them properly. My wonderful hubs got me the Easton Press leatherbound editions of all of Jane Austen's books for Christmas and American and UK first editions of all of Jasper Fforde's books for my birthday. What a guy! The downside is that we will have to dismantle the shelves and carry them down to the craft room and put them back together again. I am NOT looking forward to that at all - those things are heavy! Not to mention all of my knitting, needlework and quilting books which we will have to carry downstairs..........ok I'm getting discouraged again and you are probably very bored reading about my home improvement. Why don't you go read some nice blog where they actually talk about knitting? Drop by again sometime. I can't promise anything but I will TRY to have some knitting content again someday. :)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Just a bit of info...

Just a quick entry to let everyone know that the email me link is up. It is at the bottom of my sidebar. So now you can actually contact me to join the York Along. :) I have finished the back and am hoping to get to start on the first front piece today but it is the weekend soooooo you know what that means - yes, the dreaded painting. Sigh...........

Also - straight into the DUH category...I am actually knitting the York sweater in Kureyon 51 NOT 116. I think I had intended to use the latter but grabbed the former instead (they are very similar colorways). I actually was aware that I was knitting with 51 but for some reason kept saying 116. Brain fart I suppose. Anyhow - I will try to get up a photo soon.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hosting York Along

I began knitting the York sweater from Jane Ellison's Noro Knits a few days ago. I thought it would be fun to host a knit along for the pattern. It's an easy pattern that works up very quickly - something that is very encouraging for beginning knitters but still fun enough for advanced knitters. Also, I like the fact that it is a unisex pattern so all of those knitting boys can join in. No rules for the knit along other than try to get it done before next winter! LOL! Just send me an email (I will be getting a link for that up ASAP) and let me know you want to join and I will add you to the list. Then when you are finished send me a photo of the completed project so that everyone can admire all of your hard work!

I am knitting mine in Kureyon 116. This colorway looks much nicer knitted up than on the skein. (Thank goodness!) This is my first sweater for dear hubby so I hope it turns out alright. I'm already worrying about sewing in the zipper though because apparently sewing machines hate me. The thought of sacrificing my lovely knitwear to the evil sewing machine beast is a real nightmare. I am almost certain it will be eaten. I will let you all know when I reach that point so you can cross your fingers and offer up a few little prayers for me. :)