Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sunshine Award

I have had the honor of being nominated for the Sunshine Award by Renee Ann of Confessions of a Yarn Addict.  She was so sweet to nominate me and my blog!  Especially considering how lax I've been lately keeping up to date on the blog.  I'm lucky if I remember to post once a week!  Nonetheless, I appreciate the recognition - so THANK YOU Renee Ann!

I know my blog isn't terribly diverse as it's most about knitting.  I share other, more personal tidbits now and then, but it's largely dedicated to my crafty side (although it's a bit deceiving to call it a craft because at this point I think it's more of an obsession...) :)

In turn, I get to nominate some others for this award as well, but first, the rules.

Sunshine Award Rules
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you. Check!
2. Answer the 10 questions on your favourite things. (See below!)
3. Nominate 10 blogs to receive the Sunshine Award and let them know they've been nominated.

  1. Favorite animal: Horses.  I remember being told as a child, over and over again that I'd grow out of it. I didn't. (If you've seen the inside of my house, you'd understand...)
  2. Favorite number: 3.  I think it's because my birthday is 3/3/83, but I've always liked that number best. 
  3. Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Hot Cocoa or Apple Cider, it's a toss up.  And I don't really drink many alcoholic beverages in general so this was an easy question...
  4. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook.  I used to update religiously, but that was in college. Sometimes I remember to log on and see what's happening with other people.  I tried Twitter, but it made me feel old because I didn't "get" it. 
  5. My passion: Knitting. I found my niche. :) And reading, I love reading. And I love playing piano but it doesn't happen often. (And of course, it goes without saying my kids are my passion...)
  6. Getting or giving: Giving. I do appreciate being on the receiving end, but for some reason, I tend to feel embarrassed when getting a gift.  Giving is fun, especially if you see the person when they get their gift.  The reaction is always the best part. I try to put a lot of thought and effort into giving, perhaps that's why I like it more. 
  7. Favorite Pattern: This is a tough one as I tend to have many favorites.  Recently I'm especially proud of the Baby Chalice Blanket.  Although my favorite, go-to pattern for gifts (for kids) is Coffee Bean Cardigan and Wonder Years. 
  8. Favorite day of the week: Friday. Work week is done, and I think there may be some residual attachment to TGIF programming from when I was a (I usually think of Fridays as a chance to get out of the house, even when we don't go anywhere...)
  9. Favorite flower: I've never thought about it a whole lot but I really like lilies. 
  10. Favorite country: Italy - I've only been to Venice but it was so beautiful and unique. I felt the same way about Prague.  Unlike anything I'd experienced before and I found it refreshing. 

Okay - now to nominate 10 other blogs... they're probably the same blogs I've nominated for other awards, but that's because I like reading them so much! :) (Based on some of the questions above, it seems as though this award is passed around the crafting community, but not all my nominations are strictly related to crafting...)

1. Fairytale Knits:  Raili has such a cheerful, positive demeanor.  Even when she's not feeling well or her life gets really busy, she's upbeat and I it's like I can feel it just by reading her posts.  She can do some great things with a hook in her hand, and churns out socks like nobody's business!  

2. In Light of the Truth: I went to college with Sarah and I've really enjoyed reading her blogs.  She has great three beautiful children who she loves very much, and tries very hard to raise in a strong, loving, Christian environment.  She has a lot of creativity and mad skills with a camera!  I find her blog to be inspirational and down-to-Earth. 

3. Saucy: Jill is a fun-loving mom who is crazy-fast with a pair of needles in hand.  She cranks out sweaters faster than I can keep track of sometimes!  Many times, I find that what she's knit, I want to knit to, or have also knit myself.  And she has a terrific sense of humor!

4. Knitspiring Odyssey: Stefanie does a wonderful job of having focus and direction in her blog.  I especially enjoy her One-A-Day Tuesdays where she shares progress of her current long-term project.  What I also appreciate is how she incorporates her culture into what she shares with us.  And it's more than obvious she loves her two little girls!

5. MyBricole: This is actually Mr. Man's cousin, Deedrie.  She is wicked-crafty!  She makes these big, amazing quilts, she knits, she sews, she cooks, she bakes and she's very dedicated to her children. She comes from a very talented, crafty family so it's no surprise to me that she can do all these things.  If you're ever looking for yummy recipes, this is a great stop!  

6. Adventures in Fibre, Fabric and Motherhood: Ber is new to the blogging world, but that's what I think is really neat.  It's fun to watch someone grow through their blog (she's on Ravelry, too), to develop a writing style and to be willing to share it with us.  Her son is just a bit older than Lovebug and he's a doll!  Ber is in Ireland - some place I would love to visit one day!  ...Ber recently shared her adventures in learning to steek! (cut her knitting on purpose...)  She is a much braver soul than I!

7. This Wonderful Chaos:  This is another friend of mine from college.  We actually had met before then, on a high school European music tour (Iowa Ambassador's of Music).  Go figure!  I really wish she lived closer (along with a couple other friends of ours), so we could spend more time together, but such is the way of life when you grow up!  I like to read Kass's blog because it helps me keep up with her, even though our small group of friends email one another regularly.  She's working on improving her photography skills and how to use her camera (I think she does great already!) and she has some good, thought-provoking posts that I can sometimes relate to. 

So I know it's not 10 blogs, but these are the ones that currently I check the most often.  I hope there are some new-to-you blogs that entice you to go have a read.  

H is for Hedgehog or Hippo

It had been a little while since I participated in a swap, and the Itty Bitty Group was starting a new swap, "H is for Hedgehog or Hippo" and it was calling my name.  I tried to resist, but I failed.

The requirements for this swap were simple.  You had to knit either a Hippo or a Hedgehog for the swap, and then include any other regular goodies that have been known to appear in swap packages.  I crossed my fingers and hoped my swappee would like Hedgehogs because I was dying to knit the Hedgehog/Squirrel reversible toy by Susan B. Anderson.   (I lucked out and as it turns out, my partner was more than happy to receive such a toy...but that is a post for another day.)

Here is what I got in my package from pammigliore...

The cutest Hippo toy ever!  He's squishy and lovely and makes me smile (and the kids love him so...)

and his red ears are fantastic!!
Handmade Hedgehog stitch markers (by Knit Cubby on Etsy) 
Hanging row counter
Heart-shaped tape measure
Helper tool for my project bag
Handsewn/Handknit project bag (Icord drawstring)

bare Highland wool to Hand dye (with 5 packets of KoolAid)

3 Hanks of Spud & Chloe Fine in Dragonfly, Calypso and Anemone that I HAD to HAVE :)
Handpainted Merino - Claudia Handpaints in Last Night's Wine

Horse buttons
Handknit Horse washcloth (beautiful color in a Heathered yarn)

Honey Stix from Colorado
Hankies (tissues with an "R")
Highlighters for project bags and work
Hand sanitizer (what every mom needs)
Hippo watering can for my garden or the kids

Happy Hippo & Hug Time Hardcover board books for the kids (we read these every night at bedtime...I can't leave the room without reading these books...)
Hello kitty PEZ - while Squishy may not understand it, he enjoyed the candy and the actual PEZ machine

Humbles baked Hummus chips
Hot cocoa mix (dairy free from local spice ship!)
Hard candies (I love these strawberry candies! My grandma always kept them in her kitchen when I was younger and I'd always pick them out of the bowl and not eat the other kinds!)

 Hand-me-down outfit from Pam's daughter for Lovebug

I loved everything I pulled out of my swap box and Pam did a great job scoping the forums and stalking me to make her first swap experience terrific! :)  Thank you, Pam!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Finally Ready

Do you remember me talking about Squishy's sweater a while back?  One I knit him in something like a week so he would have a complimentary sweater for his picture with his baby sister?  Well...I don't believe it ever truly got it's own blog post because it took so long for me to officially finish it up.

I had it knit and ready for pictures in time, yes.  But I didn't have the right buttons and it wasn't blocked (still awfully darn cute in the pictures though!).
It has since been blocked and the more fitting cream buttons have been attached.
The pattern is The Wonder Years and is not a new pattern to you, readers.  It is, in fact, one you've seen a couple times before in the form of the Coffee Bean Cardigan I've made at least twice before.  This is just the more grown-up pattern for older kids.

I chose to limit the striping to the top of the cardigan.  I thought about doing no stripes, and I thought of doing just 2 cream stripes.  But this is a nice in-between balance.
The yarn is Cascade 220 Wool in Winter White and Dark Brown.  I thought this would keep it neutral so that he could wear it with a variety of shirts and pants.  (It's a pretty handsome sweater for church on Sundays!)

I found the buttons at JoAnns and they're just rustic enough to be boy, but not so plain as to be boring.  I don't really care for boring buttons...
This sweater didn't take long because it was rushed.  If I had taken my time, I estimate it probably would have been something like 2 weeks from beginning to end, instead of 6-7 days.

I wish it were superwash wool for easier care, but now that he's a bit older and not spitting up every 5 minutes (like his sister does on occasion), it should last him a long time.

I knit the 3T instead of the 4T...the 4T seemed to be very large.  I think this means that he'll be growing out of this sweater in a somewhat rapid fashion, but I don't mind.  I can always knit him another.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First-Time Tester

Back in February, I signed up to be a test-knitter on the Free Pattern Testers group.  The pattern was a big bulky cowl and it looked fantastic.  The pattern was released to testers the last week in February, and due on March 9.

This was my first time test-knitting a pattern and I’ll admit to being a little nervous about it.  Somehow, I think I was equating test-knitting to being difficult.  Luckily, this pattern was nothing of the kind! 

I purchased three skeins of Cascade Soft Spun in West Point Blue Heather.  The sample we were shown was in a soft gray and I wanted something a little different, but that still showed off the stitch pattern.  I am naturally attracted to darker colors and I just kept worrying that the stitches would get lost when photographed.  My next inclination was to pick something gray and heathery – but that was just like what was already knit and if nothing else, I tend to swerve away from what’s already been done. 

So I picked a lovely, soft, heathery blue.  Light enough for stitch definition, but a color I liked and found pretty.  I’m a bit disappointed, though, because the blue actually can give off a strikingly gray color depending on the light.  I still love the pattern and think the effect is wonderful, but I’m wishing I’d gone with my gut and chosen something I naturally gravitated towards.
The pattern calls for 8 repeats.  I initially did 7 repeats and bound off.  But I wasn’t happy with the height and my bind off was too tight.  So I tinked back the bind-off, added an extra repeat (using almost all my yarn – perhaps 15-20g remain?) and bound off “in pattern” and with needles 2 sizes larger.  I’m so much happier!  (Binding off “in pattern” means that you follow what the stitches were doing on the row ahead of the bind-off row – knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.)
As much as I enjoyed knitting the pattern and as lovely as the yarn is, I decided this wasn’t a knit for me.  I put the cowl on and took it off.  I put it on, rearranged it a bit, and took it off.  I put it on, stared in the mirror, and took it off again.  I don’t know what the deal was, but it just wasn’t calling my name.  So it has moved on to a new home, to a friend who will appreciate it more! 
A note about Soft Spun…the yarn is very lightly spun (hence the name) and very lofty.  Too much tension and your yarn will quickly pull apart.  Several times I had to tink back a few stitches, felt ends together, and start again.  I don’t know if it’s the yarn, or me.  I have a feeling a bit of both.  While easily fixed, it was agitating after the first few times it happened….  So here are my suggestions – don’t keep really tight tension on the yarn.  Hold it softly, but with a little resistance so your stitches don’t go wonky.  Second, if you choose to wind it into center-pull ball…do not pull from the center, instead pull from the outside.  I think between the tension in my hands, and the tension in the ball, there was too much pressure being applied to the fiber and so it kept breaking.  Those are my two cents. 

I would consider this experience successful.  I tried something new by test-knitting, I knit with a new yarn, and I ended up with a gift for a friend.  I’d do pattern testing again, but I’d try to do it when I have less going on.  The designer I was testing for was laid-back, but someone with more questions may have been harder to keep up with.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spice Girls II Mystery KAL

I’ve never before truly participated in a KAL (Knit-A-Long).  I’ve only ever knit something after the fact, then gone back to the KAL thread to find helpful information in regards to the pattern or questions I may have.  And although there have been several KALs on the Itty Bitty forums, I don’t think I’ve ever done them at the same time. 

But this time was different.  Elena Nodel has some awesome children’s patterns out there.  A friend of mine has done test knitting for her in the past, and her patterns are just so pretty.  So when I heard that Elena was hosting a Mystery KAL, I couldn’t pass it up. 

A mystery KAL is when a designer has a pattern and welcomes others to join her in a knit-a-long, but the mystery part is that only part of the pattern is released at a time.  So this means you’re knitting from a new pattern and will have to trust completely that you’ll like the end result.  Usually, every week or two a new “clue” is released.  As the knitter, you’re supposed to knit to the end of the clue and stop, waiting anxiously for the next clue to be released.  It’s actually a great way to get a lot of projects for a new design.  Sometimes the pattern is tested ahead of time, and other times, not.

This pattern is called My Honey and it’s from Elena’s Spice Girls II Collection.  It’s a little sweater with just a little bit of lace on the yoke.  Simple and sweet.

I can’t say I was particularly fond of the lace portion.  The stitches seems clumsy and it took me several tries to get the first clue right.  But that may have just been me.  I think the design is really pretty – but I wouldn’t want to knit a ton of it! 

I chose to knit the 6 month size using Spa in Stormy Blue.  This is an acrylic/bamboo blend, which I thought would be nice for Spring.  As it turns out, my gauge was a bit on the small side and as it turns out, the sweater a bit small for Lovebug.  I kept comparing it to her while knitting, hoping I was just not looking at it right, but there you have it.  “Make time to save time: check your gauge!”  Whoops!
But never fear! I have a friend who had her first baby in February.   And although a bit big now, will fit her nicely very soon.  I added the little elephant buttons because I thought they were fun and whimsical.  And perhaps a little bit girly. J 
I chose short sleeves instead of the long ones.  Elena’s long sleeve design is very “fairy tale” to me, and I think it is really sweet for little girls…but considering I wanted this for the warmer weather accompanied by a cool breeze, the long sleeves seemed too much.  There is also a bow embellishment and I toyed with the idea of adding this…but honestly, once I bound off the second sleeve, I was ready for something new.

I’m terribly pleased with the response I got from my friend when she unwrapped the sweater.  I hope she gets a lot of use out of it.  And the yarn is machine wash/dry, perfect for a new mum.  No blocking required!  I’d really like to make another for Lovebug – perhaps the 1 year size, with the long sleeves since it will be Fall. 
As far as my first Mystery KAL, I would say it was successful.  I got a cute sweater/baby gift, the newly released pattern for free, and a chance to knit something from a new-to-me designer. That’s win-win-win in my book!  I’d consider trying another mystery knit in the future.