Monday, October 31, 2011

This is MY Box

I feel a bit like Squishy saying that.  He's very much in a MINE stage.  Everything is mine, mine, mine.  We're working on the concept of sharing.

But...I don't feel bad claiming this as MY box of goodies.  You saw the box I sent to Canada filled with knits and sweets and other treats.  This is what came in the mail for me!

My good friend, Lyndsey, had my name for this swap!  We both think this was pretty cool since we know each other outside of the Ravelry world.  Although I'm sure Lyndsey felt a bit of pressure to make the box "worth it," I don't think there really was anything to worry about because she did a fantastic job.

*Just a side note - even though I'm claiming this as MY box, I have shared items within with the boys.  I'll get to that in a bit.*

Starting with the main element of the swap, here is Elefante.  Squishy immediately claimed this as his own and loves that he has two to play with.  They get swung by the tails and frequently crash in to one another.  Boys.  I believe this elephant is knit with Cascade 220 so he'll be very durable and withstand Squishy's rough play.  (See, I share!)
Next, there was a horse dishcloth.  This is fantastic because I love horses and Lyndsey knows it.  Actually, anyone who walked into our home would know it because they're everywhere.  I'm glad Mr. Man doesn't mind seeing them every direction he turns...
And to top off the knits, there was a gorgeous purple and pink sweater (Lyndsey used the Coffee Beans Cardigan pattern and added an elephant motif to the bottom - awesome!) and matching cabled hat in the coziest, softest yarn ever!  I had guessed it was made with Knit Picks Comfy Worsted and I was right!  I've knit with their yarn enough to know it immediately upon squishing. :)  This cardigan and hat are the perfect size and will likely be one of the very first sweaters Lovebug wears.  (Did I forget to mention that part?  These are for Lovebug...)  I really appreciate Lyndsey taking the time to do some additional knitting to include something for our little girl.  Didn't she do a wonderful job?
I would have been happy if the package stopped there.  I mean, that's enough, right?  But of course, there was plenty more to discover.  On top of the knit goodies, there were also goodies for my own knitting pleasure.  There were four, yes FOUR skeins of yarn.  Three skeins of HPY Merino Worsted, 2 in red and 1 in a blue-green.  As well as a skein of Spud & Chloe Fine in what I believe is the Wildberries colorway.  I've been wanting to try Fine for awhile, now I have that chance!  I also got the pattern, Meg Pinafore.  This will be a sweet knit for Lovebug.
Lyndsey also sent me stitch markers - a sushi stitch marker, and a set of tiny dice stitch markers.  I love them all.  The dice are so tiny and light, they will be great for lace or socks (if I ever get around to knitting myself some...).
Squishy and Lovebug also got 2 children's books and Squishy has a new elephant bath toy and jungle bath book.  This was the first thing he saw when I opened the box and he had it out and opened before I could even see what it was.  I'm glad he enjoys these surprises as much as I do.  Lovebug will also be sporting a cute pink and gray elephant sleeper after she arrives.
There were some sewing goodies for me, including elephant buttons and jungle fabric.  There's also a really cute, green, reusable owl tote.  I think this may become Squishy's new library bag because it's sturdy, bright and colorful.

There was a stash of candy and hot cocoa which I am sharing with Mr. Man - including gummies, dark chocolate and Twizzlers.  Yum!
A wall hook for our home, flower seeds for the spring, Scrabble magnets spelling out our last time, a beautiful framed piece of dictionary art and Peanuts (as in Charlie Brown) notecards top off the remainder of the package.
Thank you, Lyndsey!  You did a spectacular job and I'm enjoying it all.  I can't wait to knit with my new yarn, and especially to see the little lady in her new sweater and hat!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baby Chalice Blanket

You’ve heard me talk about it, lament over the differences in skein color and ripping out to start over, etc.  Now the blanket is done and it’s even blocked!  Wahoo!

Honestly, once I bound off that last stitch, I was glad not to have to think about it for a little while.  I didn’t yet have blocking wires and I wasn’t going to tackle it with just pins…this is for our baby girl after all.  Putting it aside, recognizing it was finished, was enough for me.  When the blocking wires came in the mail I was excited to pull the blanket out again and truly finish this project.

Knit in Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Flashdance, this blanket was completed using almost an entire 3 skeins of yarn (almost 675 yards!).  The pattern doesn’t call for this much, in fact, I’m sure the actual baby blanket as the pattern is written is significantly smaller.  You all know I like to do things my own way.  Mr. Man would call that my need to control things….
I cast on 135 stitches and did a 6 stitch garter border along each side.  I knit somewhere between 200-300 rows, I lost count in there somewhere.  Each lace repeat is 20 rows.  When I was nearing the end, I took a gamble trying to decide how much yarn would be needed for the 10-row garter stitch edge.  I was lucky and had plenty to spare – but not so much I felt the yarn was wasted.
I previously shared the Baby Mitts I knit using the leftover yarn.  These two items paired together will be sweet.

After discovering that my skeins were significantly different colors, I opted to alternate skeins of yarn so there would be a bit of a gradient to the color.  I gave the skeins an order from light to dark and got started, a second time.  Although the striping is obvious to me (I know what I’m looking for), it actually looks intentional and like it’s just a characteristic of the yarn.  I’m very, very pleased with the results. 
When all was said and done I gave the blanket a good soak.  I really need to get myself some kind of wool soak so that my knits smell pretty, instead of sheepy, when finished. 

It took me 1.5 hours to block this sucker.  I was very excited to use my new blocking wires, which I’ve decided I should never have gone without.  The process was so much easier.  I’m a bit obsessive about straight lines and such so I probably was more aggressive than necessary and spent a lot of time adjusting and readjusting the pins.  It was worth it.

And now this blanket is finished!  It’s large enough to wrap around Squishy (who at 2.5 years old is tall for his age…) and still have plenty of wiggle room.   Even though it’s a lacy design, I think this will keep our little girl “snug as a bug in a rug.” 
I also need to take a moment and admit something to you all.  Have you ever been so excited about a project that when it’s finished you can’t do anything but just stare and wonder how you accomplished that?  That’s kind of how I feel about this blanket.  The pattern wasn’t difficult, the yarn was a pleasure to knit with, and I’ve been knitting long enough I was confidant I could make this blanket.  So why am I so enamored by the finished product?  Why can’t I stop staring at it? 

It’s somewhat like when I get new clothes.  They are purchased and brought home and then I have to try everything on and wear it again ASAP.  My mom will tell you I’ve done that forever.  It’s like that – you love it so much you have to see it again and again. 

So on Sunday night after it was blocked and dried, I sat and stared, and petted the blanket, and folded and refolded it.  And draped it around Squishy and then squished it and folded it again.  Part of my love of this blanket MUST be the anticipation that it will soon be keeping our little girl toasty warm.  I MUST have knit a lot of good juju and love into this blanket because it just makes me so very happy.

I’m almost always satisfied with how my knitting turns out.  Sometimes I wish I’d done better and sometimes the finished product is “ok.”  Hardly do I ever sit and obsess about something.  So with a week to go in this pregnancy, it’s no wonder I’m so thrilled.  Please excuse my lack of humility with this project.   I hope the rest of you get as much joy out of your knitting as I did with this!

I’m trying to remember if there was anything bad about this process or pattern.  My biggest gripe would be having to rip back and refigure the order of skeins, etc.  But the pattern is well written and clear.  There are written instructions and a chart.  The knitting wasn’t tedious – instead it felt engaging.  As long as it wasn’t the only thing I was working on.  And if you were to knit it in the original size, it would go much quicker. 

So there you have it. The long awaited baby blanket. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

E is for Elephant

The Itty Bitty Knitters have been working their way through the alphabet for swaps.  (The Christmas swap is a deviation from the alphabet and after this the letters won’t be in order any more.)  I chose to sit out the last swap (D = Dolly) because the knitting requirements were bigger and I didn’t think I’d have the time or energy.  It was a good call on my part.

This swap was pretty easy-going.  Requirements included one of three elephant patterns.  I chose Elefante.  Plus any other goodies we might want to include – theme related or otherwise.  I had my Elefante started pretty early – but as I mentioned previously on the blog, I wasn’t observant enough and had to start over.

I had plenty of time to get everything around but with the mix-up on yarn for Elefante, I got behind.  I did catch up and mailed out just a tiny bit late.  (Which I still feel bad about sending late, but that’s how it works sometimes.)

So what did I include?  Let me tell you.  First, meet Lollipop.  He’s a cheery, somewhat cheeky fellow.  Knit from my own hand-dyed superwash merino wool, I loved how he turned out.  I striped two yarns, the semi-solid blue is Snowcone and the orange and green and blue yarn is Lollipop Guild, hence the name.  The variegated yarn on it’s own reminds me of the Lollipop Guild boys from Wizard of Oz, with their giant lollipops and bright colors.  I think this little guy personifies exactly that.  When striping, the blues from Snowcone actually blended really well with Lollipop Guild, and so it almost looks like it’s just one yarn. 

My favorite part about Lollipop are his feet.  They look simple and sweet enough, but turn him on his side and there’s a surprise!  He also got a little ribbon around his neck to finish him off. 
Squishy really enjoyed “testing him out” so to speak.  Let me tell you – those ears and tail aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!  It was good that Baby Elephant was soon to follow as I’m afraid he would have been very sad to see Lollipop go. (Funny – this swap we’ve seen and heard that a lot of the kids have gotten very attached to the elephants their mommies are knitting.  That’s one of the things that’s so great, though…you get a package in return and along with that – an elephant of their very own!)
Usually I split FOs into separate posts so they aren’t 100 pages long.  Sometimes I do that with swap parcels if there is a lot of handmade stuff included.  I should, but I’m not going to do that this time.  PLEASE forgive me and thank you if you make it to the end!!!

Earlier this fall I picked up the magazine, Interweave Knits Holiday Issue 2011.  The cover knits caught my eye.  A beautiful slouchy hat and what I thought were drool-worthy fingerless mitts.  They looked so crisp and clean and wintery.  I had to knit them.  I still haven’t gotten to the hat, but I DID finish the Ashbury Mitts.  Knit from Mirasol Yarn Nuna in Warm Grey, I used just over 1 skein to complete the pair.  After the fact I found my gauge was off, but with a heavy blocking, the mitts fit much better.  I had a really hard time deciding whether to include these in the swap or to keep them for myself.

The yarn is a bamboo/silk/wool blend that is so incredibly soft you just want to squish it all day long.  The yarn in the sample looks a bit sturdier than the yarn I used, but I’m very happy with the end result.  More details on this project can be found on my project page! 

Because this was an elephant swap I needed more elephants to include.  I knit my first dishcloth, the Peanut Cloth pattern.  I only had white cotton on hand.  It makes the design a bit hard to see unless you’re looking at just the right angle.  I felt as though the cloth knit up loosely – I think that’s the fault of the cotton.  Since I’ve not knit any cloths before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Going down a needle size next time might be necessary.  I also goofed and knit reverse stockinette on the top and bottom instead of garter stitch.  When I reread the pattern I saw my mistake, although I still feel as though the pattern wasn’t written as clearly as it could have been.
My swap partner, Katherine (kmacmillan2003), is a reader.  I thought it appropriate to include a knitted bookmark.  This is the Leaf Bookmark pattern by Susan Anderson from Spud Says.  Using a lighter weight yarn, I got the bookmark size, but the great thing about this pattern is you could use a bulky yarn and bigger needles and get a scarf from the exact same pattern!
I like to include knitting notions in every swap if I can.  This swap contained Puppy Snips, Chibi needles and a tape measure.  But not just any tape measure, a covered, initialed tape measure!  I used the Apples & Oranges pattern and knit a basic blue cover with a white pull tab.  I then embroidered a K (for Katherine) on the top using Susan Anderson’s Wrap Stitch tutorial.  (You chain stitch a design on, and then wrap these chained stitches – genius!)  I really like how this turned out.
And then we have the fabric elephant.  I had this elephant fabric on hand and thought it would make for a fun sewn something.  This pattern jumped out at me from one of my pattern books and away I went.  It did become obvious to me, though.  I am a toy knitter, not a toy sewer.  While this little lady is cute, I feel as though I could have done better.  Want to know my favorite part about her?  Her ears and her eyes. 

The handmade doesn’t stop there.  I didn’t have a lot of extra to spend on this swap, so I had to be creative.  Something really simple and fun to make is a row counter for your knitting.  I found the cutest little pink elephant charm and voila! And there’s nothing better to decorate your knitting than pretty stitch markers…these elephants came marching in on parade!  Hopefully these are lightweight and useful for Katherine.
That about covers all the things made by me.  The rest I picked up here and there while out and about.  A recently coveted knitting related object is the new KnitSimple Holiday 2011 issue.  Inside you will find the MOST adorable pattern for fairies by Susan B. Anderson.  These little fairies steal your heart.  You want to knit a whole village.  And they come with the cutest little tulip pouches/homes to carry them in.  Susan is one creative lady!  I had serious doubts as to whether I could part with this magazine – but I decided that I could always go buy another. 

As I mentioned before, my swap partner is a reader.  She’s obviously a knitter.  But she also mentioned she likes to cook.  When I found this book, it was perfect.  The Knitter’s Home Companion is full of fun short stories from a knitter, who shares not only little anecdotes about her knitting life, but also shares patterns and recipes with the reader.  I read about half the book before wrapping it up to ship to Canada.  I wasn’t sure it was swap-worthy reading.  But it is and so off it went.  (The best part about the book?  The author is from Iowa!)
A few other goodies included the sock blocker keychain kit, elephant buttons, and an I Heart Iowa keychain.
Because she likes chocolate and peanut butter it was necessary to send Reese Peanut Butter Cups and Dove Peanut Butter Chocolate pieces.  Yum!  There was also a paisley coffee/tea mug and some Earl Grey tea (I hope she likes Earl Grey – I don’t know anything about tea so that was a huge guess on my part!).

No swap is complete without some yarny goodness.  Malabrigo Worsted in Verde Esperanza was a lovely teal that will be great to knit with. 

And to top It all off, a couple elephant statutes, both large and small, that jumped off the shelves and into my arms.

So…now that you’ve made it to the end, are you tired of reading yet?  That’s all I’ve got for you. This was a terrific swap to participate in and I learned a lot about elephants, which was neat.  And I got to see lots of pictures of real elephants, which is always fun.  I hope Katherine enjoys it all and I can’t wait to get my package in the mail! J

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered my Fall Giveaway!  It was so much fun to read everyone's comments about their favorite part of fall.  The changing of the leaves is in full swing here and this weekend we did our first round of raking.  We will have several more before winter arrives.  We only have two small trees in our front yard, but each of our neighbors have at least one large Maple tree nearby and each tree releases it's leaves at different times during the season.

Okay, so enough about that stuff right?  On to the winner?

And the winner is Lyndsey!
This is what Lyndsey had to say,

"Lots of pretties and gorgeous yarn. I think that is my favorite color this season. As for what I live about fall, I'll quote my favorite little character, "It's autumn? Ah, it is. It's the first day of autumn! A time for hot chocolatety mornings, and toasting marshmallow evenings, and best of all, leaping into *leaves*!"

Congratulations, Lyndsey!  I'll be mailing out your package by the end of the week!

On top of winning 2 skeins of Shelter, Long Johns and the Wood Hollow Mittens pattern, Lyndsey has also won a fall-inspired project bag (made by brownbettystyle on Etsy) and two sets of stitch markers made by yours truly. 

Thanks, again, to everyone who entered.  As I've mentioned, I've been wanting to host a giveaway for quite some time and you all have made this one very enjoyable!  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sweet & Demure

So by now you’ve heard me talk somewhat secretly about elephants.  You all know the reason why – the E is for Elephant swap on Ravelry.   I joined this swap for a couple reasons, but one of the top reasons was because I’ve always wanted and planned to knit Susan Anderson’s Elefante.  The pattern is petite and loveable.

I’ll leave all the swap details to my post about that experience, but wanted to share with you some unintended results from participating in this swap.

Now, I have yet to receive my swap package, so I have no idea what my package contains.  I very well could be getting my very own Elefante, but there were also 2 other patterns to choose from, so there really was no way to tell.  Most everyone knit Elefante, so my chances are good – but really, I’d love any knit that comes my way.

I was knitting happily away on this little lady for the swap package when I realized that half the yarn I was using was an alpaca blend.  Seriously, how did I NOT notice this before.  My swap partner had mentioned in her questionnaire that she is allergic to alpaca.  As Homer Simpson would say, “DOH!”  I was pretty bummed because I thought my partner would really enjoy this Elefante.  I picked the colors especially for her.  I must have been so engrossed in finding the perfect color combination I looked over fiber content.

So with a heavy sigh, I put her away for the time being and started on Elefante #2.  Once all the swap knitting was done, I was able to get her back out again and finish what I had started. 

BE (short for Baby Elephant, which is what Squishy calls her) is knit from a variety of yarns.  The main bits of striping are Blue Sky Alpaca Alpaca Silk in Peacock and Knit Picks Andean Silk in Sangria.  The legs have a tiny amount of Berroco Vintage in Dark Denim and the tail and ears have a splash of Berroco Vintage in Tide-Pool.  I used up every last bit of yarn of these 4 colors, successfully utilizing my stash. 
I used a 5.0mm crochet hook for the ears and crocheted as per the pattern.  The proportion seemed good, so I went with that.  I found that if I folded the circle with right sides together, the ear lay much better against the head.  With the swap Elefante, I folded the ears wrong sides together and I fought with the ears the entire time because they didn’t want to lay right. 
I finished BE up when Squishy was visiting Grandma C. so I couldn’t show him right away, but I knew she’d be a hit.  Squishy hadn’t wanted to put down the other Elefante and I actually had to hide him so I could get him packaged up and mailed out.  From the time BE and Squishy met, he’s kept a close eye on her.  She takes up residence on his bed every night and is quite adamant that she is HIS!

So after knitting this pattern twice, I would certainly knit it again. The construction is pretty simple.  A lot of people have struggled with the ears because they’re crocheted.  I’m not an avid crocheter, but I thought the ears went fairly smooth.  I know many knitters have opted for an alternate knit construction – which looks great too. 

Hopefully you enjoy the photos.  I had to promise Squishy I would return his beloved Baby Elephant quickly and safely in order for him to let me take her. 
On a side note – for any parents out there I would like to mention that Squishy has given this calm little lady quite a run-around.  He holds her around the neck and swings her by the tail.  He pulls on her ears and squishes her trunk.  She’s holding up to it all.  My recommendation would be to take several rounds with your whipstitching to make sure everything is nice and secure and then let your child run with it.   The best toy is a well-loved toy and of course, very rewarding for any knitter! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Button-Up Baby Wraps

There’s nothing better than snuggling up with a brand-new baby, right?  Well, okay, maybe I’m feeling a bit biased at the moment, and perhaps a little impatient as we wait for Lovebug’s arrival.  Can you blame me?

Anywho – one of the things I remember so well about Squishy is how he loved to be swaddled up tight, held in someone’s arms or cradled against your chest.  Mr. Man and I agree that taking naps with him like that was the best!  While we will certainly still be swaddling this little girl, I thought it would be nice to have some alternative means for keeping her snuggly and warm. 

You’ve heard me talking for a long time about the Baby Chalice Blanket, which I PROMISE you’ll see soon.  Tracking says blocking wires should arrive on Saturday (later than I hoped, but before Lovebug makes her appearance! Plenty of time.)  What you haven’t heard me talk about is the Button-Up Baby Wrap.  Okay, I mentioned it once, several months ago.  I even showed a picture while it was being knit.  
Ravelry has a few patterns for little baby cocoons.  You know, the little snuggly sacks you can put babies in to keep them warm and toasty.  There were several versions but this one really drew me in. 

The original pattern just calls for a stockinette stitch sack, top to bottom.  But I knew I didn’t want that.  The first featured photo on the pattern page is of a chunky, ribbed wrap with a tiny baby inside.  Looking through many project pages, I finally settled on a twisted rib pattern I was happy with.  It combines a rib and an eyelet pattern, which adds a feminine touch. 
I didn’t continue with the eyelets down the entire wrap because I didn’t want any fingers or toes getting stuck.  If you’d like to see or use my modifications, you can find them on my project page HERE. 
This wrap is knit with Cascade 128 Superwash in Charcoal (a bulky yarn).  This is yarn I had leftover from Mr. Man’s Big Ribs.  It was the perfect yarn because it’s durable, soft, and machine-washable (always important with babies!).   I liked the gray because it was different, even though I knew it would be for our little girl.  I added some blue buttons that gave it just the right touch.  The original pattern didn’t include directions for button-holes but I think that has since been fixed.  I wasn’t worried about it, though, because I was knitting eyelets that served as my button-holes. 
I probably knit this longer than was necessary but I wanted to make sure that if we had a larger baby, it would still fit.  The ribbing should help with that as well.  My intention is to get some newborn photos of Lovebug all wrapped up in this. 
 (The color in the picture gives the appearance that the wrap has different shades - that's just the light - it's all very monochromatic.)
Since I had enjoyed this pattern so much and since it was so quick, I decided to make a second one.  This one, though, was to be gifted.  My friend, Ber (from Ireland), was expecting a baby in September.  I don’t know much about the weather in Ireland, but I figured this would come in handy.  She didn’t yet know if she was having a boy or a girl, so I chose something more neutral. 

I had some Hobby Lobby Epais in Expresso on hand, which is really soft and squishy.  To me, there is a handspun look to this yarn and a neat color gradient.  The wrap goes from light to darker to light again.   I probably used about ½ of the 393 yard skein.  It was good to put this to use because I was having trouble finding just the right pattern for it. 
Although I had the wrap finished a long, long time ago – I only recently got it in the mail.  Ber received it Monday and had a picture of her little boy happily sleeping in his wrap that same day.  I really appreciate pictures of the knits I make – it’s always fun to see the recipient wear or use what you’ve made them.
 (This one does change color!)
Ber’s version has simple wood buttons that blend in a little bit.  My hope is that she and her son get a lot of use out of this in the coming months when it gets a bit chilly!  I know I hope ours lasts us awhile! 
I also knit this version with the eyelet pattern, as I did for the first wrap.  The Epais is a big floofier (yes, that’s a technical term) than the Cascade so it doesn’t show the eyelets as well, but they’re there.
Other things I like about this pattern:  1) It’s fast – each wrap only took a couple days.  Large needles and bulky yarn is awesome.  2) It buttons up.  It’s not just a sack.  So if it’s too large/long, you just leave the top buttons undone and use it sort of like a blanket.  3) Simple.  It would sound funny if you just told someone you put your baby in a sack, but essentially that’s what you’re doing.  Wrap sounds much better.  Either way, you don’t have to worry about tucking in blanket ends, etc. 

I do want to mention a word of caution.  The buttons are great, and make for great versatility, but I do NOT recommend leaving your baby unattended while in his or her wrap.  I know I heavily secured the buttons on both wraps, but you never know with babies.  Especially as they get older.  They grab on to things and put them in their mouths.  Okay – I feel better having said that.

I know this was a long post, so thanks for sticking with me if you made it to the end.  Hopefully the pictures helped.  I hope everyone’s week has gone well.  Mine is zooming by at an alarming speed.  Welcome to the almost weekend!