Friday, October 29, 2010

While we're waiting...

My friends Greg & Caiti from Theatre-Go-Round are expecting their first child in December.  It's a boy, his name is Christian, and he has already provided me with plenty of knitterly motivation over the past few months.  
I actually finished this blanket back in August but didn't want to post photos of it until after the baby shower, lest the eagerly expectant mother spot it on Facebook!  Don't worry - that hole in the middle is intentional (and a source of a fair amount of pride for me) as this smallish blanket is intended for use with the car seat - the buckle goes through that slot so you can fasten and unfasten the straps without uncovering baby Christian.
I chose the color to coordinate with the parents' choice of car seat, and I had almost a full skein leftover after I finished the blanket, so I figured why not keep the little guy's head warm, too, with a matching hat.  After searching and searching for just the right pattern (cute, free, and not too complicated) I found this one:

Now all that's missing is the baby! 
Fully realizing that these items have an extremely limited useful life - maybe a month or two tops for the hat, and three or four for the car seat blanket if we have an unseasonably cold winter, I also have a baby afghan in the works that will coordinate with the crib set as well as...it pains me to even write it...their Mets fan gear. 
Under the heading "When it rains, it pours,"  I discovered a few weeks ago that my neighbor is expecting her second granddaughter at the end of November.  'Nuff said.  Off to Michael's I went to find just the right pink for new baby/big sister sweaters.  Just as I was about to settle for something not quite what I wanted, I stumbled across the "Pink Ribbon" display in the middle of the aisle, chock full of Bernat 100% cotton in a yummy variegated pink.  I cranked out this baby sweater in no time at all:
Big sister's sweater has been a little exasperating, but I'm making progress.  Took me a while to find a pattern that resembled what I had envisioned in my mind, then took me a while longer to experiment with gauge (remember why I claimed I was going to stick to afghans?).  With the help of the Phillies in the post-season, I've been making steady progress, but now that they've been ousted from World Series contention I fear my needles will slow down.  I also have some serious doubts about things like having the right number of stitches, and is this thing going to fit a 4 1/2 yr old, and is the little girl going to look at it and say, "Ew!"  All that aside, here it is so far:
It's knitted from the top down and thus at this point resembles a lamp shade more than a sweater.  When it was only a neck sitting around on circular needles on the end table, Eddie complemented me, "That's a really cool bowl thingy, Mom." (This reminds me of those who refer to my dinner theatre career as "singing karaoke")  One appeal of the knitted-in-the-round-top-down technique is that the garment is then "seamless."  Now I'm not thinking of the wearer's comfort here, rather I'm attracted to the notion that, since the actual putting together has always been a stumbling block for me, there's a chance that this might one day be a completed project.  And maybe even (dare I dream it?) wearable? But then again, with major league baseball season over for me, I'll have to find other excuses to spend 3 hours at a time "sittin' and knittin'" if this sweater's delivery date is going to be anywhere near the baby's!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You know you knit too much when...

you love your new stash yarn so much you put it on the dashboard on the way home so you can gaze at it lovingly.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A great start to the weekend

Friday evening found Dan and Eddie and me free to do as we pleased, with Chris off at an away game and Genny over at her friend's house.  So we trotted up the street to our favorite place to do our favorite things.

Eddie did a lot of this:

video

Dan, eying the iffy skies and deciding against a real bike ride, got his exercise and his ocean fix at the same time.  Back when he was recuperating from knee surgery a couple years ago he bought this cool attachment for his bike which makes it stationary.  It's gotten a fair amount of use  - we occasionally take "bike rides to nowhere" in the garage on a rainy day.  So he took the setup up the street and was able to keep and eye on Eddie and the surf while he pedaled for 45 minutes (into the wind!).

 I opted for leisure rather than exercise and was quite content to occupy my chair for an hour or so:
It was actually a quite productive happy hour for me because, with the wind so strong and the ocean so loud, I was able to rehearse some music for a couple upcoming shows while I stitched and sipped.  The few stragglers on the beach were not within shouting distance, so I felt free to let it rip at full voice.  (Dan said he could hear me from his mount atop the dunes, but he's used to it!)

When we finally tore ourselves away and headed home, loyal Vinny was there to greet us:
I was so impressed that he lay quietly in the yard, patiently waiting for us to return.  But then our neighbors came over and told us he had been howling the entire time we were gone (surely they exaggerate), so much so that they had come across the street to check on his welfare, knowing that such an uproar is unusual for Vinny.  Oh well, another bubble burst.  The strong east wind blew his voice in the opposite direction, I guess - we hadn't heard a thing.  Come to think of it, the strong east wind must have blown my voice right down the block to Vinny, which is probably why he spent the hour singing along!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A bad day of knitting....

Remember that bumper sticker that said, "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work"?  Or "A bad day at the beach..." (wait a minute, is there such a thing?)  Well, that's how I felt yesterday about my knitting.   If I were to measure my progress solely on the basis of rows completed, then I had a net loss of, oh, I'm guessing about 97.  However, I'm quickly discovering that there's so much more to this craft than counting off rows and completing projects (actually, there's relatively little of the latter in my case!)

I had been looking forward to yesterday because my husband was scheduled for outpatient ear surgery, thereby providing me the perfect excuse to sit around for hours with nothing to do but knit, all the while appearing to be a doting and attentive and sacrificially loving wife.  As a bonus, since we had to go to Melbourne for the procedure, I asked Dan if he would mind leaving home 45 minutes early so we could stop at Jo-Ann's on our way to the surgery center, giving me a chance to check out their yarn department.  So the adventure began with an hour of knitting in the car while Dan drove up, followed some quality get-acquainted time with Jo-Ann's inventory.  I scored some beautiful chunky wool for a felted tote bag I want to make for Eddie's teacher, as well as a few skeins of mix and match sock yarn for when I finally getting around to trying my first pair.

 

Once at the center I had plenty of time to work on the baby afghan I brought with me, but the first thing I did was tink two rows, attempting to correct a wayward and disagreeable stitch.  Several rows later I discovered my stitch count was off and had been for probably 30 rows or so.  No big deal - I tinked a half row and increased one stitch right in the middle.  Stitch count fixed, problem forgotten.  Move on.  But despite my high hopes for a productive knitting marathon, I only had eight or nine rows to show for four fleeting hours of opportunity.

Later in the evening I had a rude awakening with another project.  I was finishing up the front of a little Knit for Kids sweater, when I finally had to face the facts.  I had thumbed my nose at gauge, as I am wont to do, believing that regardless of the size sweater I turned out, surely it would fit some little kid somewhere.  What I failed to take into account, however, was proportion.  I neglected to adjust the length specified in the pattern in order to correspond to my way-bigger-than-gauge width.  The outcome was a cute little sweater with a wingspan similar to that of a turkey buzzard.  This photo is misleadingly flattering to my "creation" and does not do justice to the ridiculous hugeness of the sleeves as compared to the squattiness of the body.

Rather than duplicate that piece for a back, knowing all along that the finished garment would have little chance of actually being useful to anyone, I frogged the whole thing.  Maybe I'll start over, or maybe I'll use the yarn for something else.  No regrets. (Especially after checking out the KFK sweaters on Ravelry.com - mine's in a better place now, may it rest in peace!)


Spaghetti anyone?
Just to end the day on a good note, I cast on for that tote bag and whizzed through a few rows.  Ahhhh!  The feel of soft, thick wool in my hands....

I think it only fair that lessons learned the hard way should perhaps be spread out over several days or longer, rather than being flung at me all at once, but I'm all the wiser for persevering through my fits and starts.  A bad day of knitting?  Just like a bad day at the beach...no such animal.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Group Hug

In my August 29 post I included a photo and pattern for what looked to be a quick and simple afghan - something I'd stumbled across while searching the web for some other quick and simple afghan.  Well, I lost no time finding an excuse to buy yarn and make it, and in a record time (for me) of two weeks, the creation pictured to the left (the blankie, not the teenager) was completed and delivered to a dear family who is experiencing the loss of their beloved mother and grandmother.  It is my hope that this humble substitution for a mother's arms will bring them warmth and comfort and snuggliness. Unfortunately, due to the afghan's limited size, they will have to take turns - the tassels are not to be used for tug-of-war purposes!

I would like to thank Fox Sports for televising an unusually high number of Philadelphia games in early September, conveniently providing both motivation and opportunity to crank this baby out in a timely manner.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What I learned today...

What I learned today is that if I let my van's tank run all the way down to E and stop for gas at 7-11, I can knit an entire row of a baby hat while I fill up.

What I learned last Thursday was if I let my van's tank run all the way down to E, and, even though the warning light glares at me every time I glance its way, if I forget to stop for gas at 7-11, or anywhere else for that matter, and let my permit-wielding son drive to band practice, about two blocks from school he will ask why he's pressing the gas pedal and the car is slowing down.  But he'll know what if feels like when a car runs out of gas and how to calmly pull over, get out and walk to band practice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I know there's no such thing as a coincidence...

Thanks to Facebook I think I've already had more people read this blog than I did in two years of GottaWearShades posting! Now would someone please click on "Follow" so I don't look so lame? lol Anyway, one of those readers, my Sunday School sidekick literally from birth to high school graduation, asked, "Do you have a nice pattern for a knitted ripple blankie?". Well as a matter of fact I do! It just so happens that just a few months ago I made a "knitted ripple blankie" for a Vero HS graduating senior, who has since begun his freshman adventure at University of South Florida. I found this on freepatterns.com (free registration required for access) and could easily picture it in three colors (much as I love the multi stripes!). It claimed, "Skill Level: Easy", so I said, "What the heck? Let's try it." Once again, I was glad I checked the official school colors before I went crazy at the yarn store. I always thought USF was green and black - turns out they're green and gold. But I knew Alex likes black, so I used that as the background color (3 strands of Bernat Satin Sport) and created a pattern of green and gold stripes (2 strands of Caron One Pound in Forest Green and Sunflower). All of these yarns can be machine washed and dried, so the smell of old beer can be removed as desired. Here's how mine turned out:



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Serendipity

I received the following text message first thing yesterday morning: "Hey - what's the pattern for that striped afghan you made? I bought some yarn and a crochet hook yesterday, and have relearned single & double crochet, but I'm not quite ready for granny squares (stymied by the going around in circles part) so I thought rows of stripes might be easier." This came from my dear friend, college buddy and wing man Big Genny (as opposed to Little Genny, my daughter - qualifiers refer strictly to chronological age and seemed much more appropriate when the latter was in diapers) who had no idea that I had begun this blog less than 12 hours earlier.

It is heartening to me that my latest obsession is in any way rubbing off on Big Genny (you know, I'm just going to refer to her as Murph from here on out - don't ask) because for years I have observed her crafting beautiful, ambitious, intricate cross stitch projects, nay works of art, and have admired her dedication and steadfast work. Where needlework projects are concerned, she succeeds in two areas where I have always faltered in the past: 1) as far as I'm aware, Murph takes on only one project at a time and actually finishes everything she starts, and 2) she tackles incredibly time consuming projects and completes them little by little, one step at a time, without becoming totally consumed or obsessed and burning out. For the woefully insufficient 15 days or so a year that we're together, whether we're down the shore or in Florida or at her family's lake cottage, our mornings usually begin slowly and leisurely with coffee and needlework, then it's time to put that aside and move on to something else (usually involving sun, beach and beverages). Come to think of it, it's probably not an issue of admiration and inspiration at all, but rather that Murph has noticed it's a lot easier to see big bulky crochet stitches with 47-year-old eyes than it is to work that tiny little aida cloth with minuscule strands of floss in 13 different shades of blue.

Anyway, here's a photo of the afghan to which Murph refers:
I worked on this during my time at Long Beach Island this summer and finished it up a couple weeks ago, just in time to send it off to Ithaca College with an enthusiastic and gratifyingly appreciative young man. In general I knit more than I crochet, and I find knitting more versatile, but this pattern was a freebie in the yarn department at Michael's last spring, and the yarn was yummy soft, and it looked simple enough. And boy was I thankful for my iphone that day because I could have sworn that Ithaca's colors were blue and white, but something told me to double check, and a quick on-the-spot google search right there in Michael's turned up blue and gold as the official school colors.

Anyway, back to Murph's request for the pattern. Alas, as soon as I wove in the last loose end I threw away the instructions and returned the extra yarn, eager to move on to my next creation. I was unsuccessful in my attempt to find the pattern online so I've been looking for something similar and found this one:
Dubbed, appropriately enough, "Easy Striped Afghan", the pattern can be found here, a delightful little website called Yarn Art put up by an 18 yo knitter. I discovered the pattern and site via Crochet Pattern Central, an online directory of free patterns - more than you could ever imagine - complete with tutorials, tips, vendor links, etc. I had already discovered its sister site Knitting Pattern Central last week when I was searching for a baby hat pattern. ( In fact, the numerous websites and blogs that I visited during my search reminded me that I had conceived of and named this blog months and months ago, and I was encouraged to revisit it and actually launch something.) Hate to say it out loud (if you're a craft publisher, cover your ears), but with the wealth of resources on the internet I see no reason to ever pay for a pattern or instruction book again. I can put all that money toward my yarn stash.

So Murph, you're on your way! Make sure you send me a photo of your snugly masterpiece when it's finished, and I'll post it for all to admire. Now get to work - you only have 8 days left of summer vacation!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

This blog will no doubt cut into my knitting time...

I am the granddaughter and daughter of knitters, and I have the ponchos, afghans, and psychedelic snake to prove it. Somewhere along the way I learned the rudiments of the craft, and I'm both grateful and amazed that my latent skills, virtually unused throughout most of my life (a granny square hat here, a sleeveless sweater there) have resurfaced in recent months, and I am discovering the joy of creating what I consider nothing short of masterpieces one stitch at a time. However, I find myself with two severely limiting parameters: 1) I live in a climate where one has absolutely no use whatsoever for sweaters, scarves, hats, mittens, etc., no matter how soft and delicious and irresistible they may be; and 2) I don't believe in gauge. Oh, I've tried knitting swatches a few times (OK, once), but on the one hand I'm always too eager to get started with the "real" knitting, and on the other hand, apparently my tension requires a needle size which doesn't exist on this good earth.

So what am I to do? Well, you and I will both discover that as we go along, but the short answer is this: afghans. Even in Florida one needs to wrap up in a cozy blankie once in awhile, and I'm even willing to crank up the AC if need be to achieve the right amount of chilliness when Mother Nature just refuses to cooperate. And who cares about gauge with a blanket? No need to be exact as long as it covers most of me when I'm curled up on the couch, right? The bigger the better, I say. Trouble is, we don't really need any more throw blankets in our house - 6 or 7 is probably enough. Well then I'll just knit blankets for other people, that's what I'll do! Kids going off to college, and new babies, and friends up north, and maybe someone who's going through a rough patch and could use a soft, warm hug.

Well, I already have a couple of these projects under my belt, and I'll share them in upcoming posts. But now I have also accomplished the task of writing this first post. For some reason getting started with this blog took more time and mental effort than knitting an afghan, but I've done it. All that's left for now is to imagine where this adventure in stitches and words will take me.