Chasing Away the Winter Doldrums

I needed something bright and cheery to chase away the Winter blues, especially when my main knitting projects are not exactly colorful.

Some quick and colorful coasters to the rescue!

Grandma’s Knickknacks Coasters

They even make the snow seem cheery! I used mostly Lily Sugar n Cream cotton, but also some Lion Brand cotton. It’s a great way to use up assorted scraps of yarn.

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Stash busting and organizing

A couple of years ago, I decided that I really needed to rein in my stash and pare it down. Since then, I’ve tried to knit mostly from my stash. Lately I’ve been choosing a yarn, and then figuring out what I can do with it.

Occasionally there’s a particular pattern I want to make, and have to see if there’s something in my stash to suit it – which worked well for me when I made the “Bird and Vine” mitts, since the Jamieson & Smith I had was perfect for it.

I do occasionally buy yarn, but I’ve been trying not to do that unless there’s a specific pattern I really want to make right away and I don’t have suitable yarn for it. (Then it doesn’t actually go into my stash, so I figure it doesn’t count, right?) I was recently on the verge of buying some Brooklyn Tweed Shelter for a sweater, but decided to hold off – I don’t really have the right pattern in mind for it yet.

Between knitting from my stash and giving away a bunch of yarn that I would probably never use, I’m definitely making headway!

I keep my yarn in large plastic stacking drawer-type bins. I went through the bins the other day to reorganize and consolidate them – managing to go down from 10 bins to 7. Although that doesn’t include the boxes of remnants I have stored in the basement, it does include a lot of worsted- and fingering-weight wool yarns that aren’t really enough to do much with individually – but will be great for stranded knitting projects. Those take up a bin by themselves. So that means it’s really only 6 bins of stash yarn, right? My goal is to get down to 5 (not including leftovers/remnants/samples), and keep it at no more than that.

I have a nice little cubby space that is perfect for 4 bins. (I have no idea what it was originally used for – maybe a TV and/or stereo equipment?) I was sad that it’s about 2″ too short to allow for 6 bins, but it occurred to me that I had a large unused under-bed storage bag that could go on top of it, and should hold a bin’s worth of yarn:

Storage Bins

The cubby is off the floor, and gets some light, but no direct sunlight, and it’s in an area that could become a nice craft space. I think this will be much better than the guest room closet that they were in before – less likely to be attractive to any beetles or moths than a dark, undisturbed area. Now my goal is to get my stash down to only what fits in this space, and keep it at no more than that.

While going through the yarn, I ran across a few things that I didn’t know/remember that I had, including this cone of laceweight linen, that’s sort of a silver-gray-green:

Linen yarn

I don’t remember buying it at all, when I bought it, or what I had in mind. The only thing I can think of is that I might have wanted to use it for the Holey Square Shawl, which I’m currently making in silk. Oops.

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On the needles

So after all of the finished work, what’s on the needles now?

Some very unflattering pictures of my work in progress:

Holey Square, in gold-colored silk, which looks a bit ragged now, but hopefully will look MUCH better when finished and blocked.

Holey Square

And a top-down raglan sweater, Mailin. Although top-down raglans aren’t generally my favorite, I do like the way Isabell Kraemer adds back neck shaping and modified raglan increases. And there’s something to be said for being able to bang out a sweater quickly. This pattern has an option for either a scoop neck or a cowl neck. I’m leaning towards the cowl neck, but I’ll decide when I get there (the neckline is worked last).

Mailin

Well, that was a pretty beige-looking post, wasn’t it? I think we need more color next time. I have something in mind.

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Knitting Update

In which there is a flurry of five fibery finished objects.

I haven’t been motivated to blog, but I haven’t stopped knitting. In fact, I have FIVE finished objects to show off. And bonus – they all used yarn that has been sitting in my stash for a long time, so three cheers for stash busting!

First is the shawl I call the Woolly Mammoth. The pattern is the Textured Shawl Recipe, but I increased 6 stitches every 2 rows instead of 4, so that it would be wider and not as deep. I used most of two skeins of Cascade Ecological Wool.

Wooly Mammoth

Woolly Mammoth Shawl

Next up is the Kittiwake Cardigan. I modified the pattern to omit the large collar and to add pockets and a zipper.

Kittiwake

Kittiwake Cardigan

Next is Pop Block, a big squishy garter stitch shawl. I used Plain & Fancy Sheep & Wool Co. Sportweight yarn – thinner than the yarn called for in the pattern, but it worked OK. I’d really like to make one out of madelinetosh DK like Anna’s, since I fell in love with hers and it’s what inspired me to make this one. I didn’t know what else to use this yarn for, because I really only liked it when knit up in garter stitch, but I love the color.

Pop Block

Pop Block Shawl

Then there’s Vernal Equinox Shawl Surprise, which was a mystery shawl KAL in 2009. I had to omit one repeat of one of the clues since I was slightly short of yarn, but I’m happy with the final size. This is a lovely pattern that is much easier to knit than it appears – the lace patterns are pretty simple.

Vernal Equinox

Vernal Equinox shawl

And finally, there are the Bird & Vine mitts, which are a variation of Endpaper Mitts. I used the bird and vine chart by EvaKatharina, but further modified it to continue the vine pattern around the palm. (I don’t have two left hands – the photo below shows the back of one mitt (with the bird) and the palm side of the other (with the heart).

Bird and Vine Endpaper Mitts

Bird & Vine mitts

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Free Pattern Generator

This morning I ran across a website where you can design your own circular-yoke sweater. It’s intended to create an Icelandic sweater from Lopi yarn, and allows you to enter sizes and measurements for the sweater, and then design the colorwork patterns for it. Apparently you can then order the appropriate yarn if desired.

It will create a PDF with the schematic, color charts, and knitting instructions.

I see no reason why you couldn’t use it to design a generic sweater with no colorwork if you wanted. There are a bunch of video tutorials to help understand how the software works.

I love Icelandic sweaters, so may definitely give this a try in the future!

The website is: Knittingpatterns.is

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Crazy

I have narcissus blooming. In November.

Narcissus blooming 11/4/15

Although they would normally bloom (in the spring) at the same time as the iris which is also blooming right now, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever had it blooming at the same time as the snapdragons.

Iris and snapdragons

And roses.

Rose

And I definitely have never had them blooming while I had tomatoes on the vine,

Tomato

And basil in the herb garden.

Basil

I’m afraid this weird weather is going to cause lots of problems with the spring bulbs next year. Hope they survive!

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This morning I awoke to…

Snow on the mountains (no photo… by the time I got around to it, the sun was causing too much glare)

Clematis blooming on the fence

Clematis

Lemons growing on my indoor lemon tree

Lemons

And a beautiful sunny day.

Last year we had a record number of trick-or-treaters. Fourteen. Usually it’s only two or three. Wonder how many we’ll get this year.

Happy Halloween!

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So Confused

Is it fall, or is it spring?

We’ve had the longest/hottest fall on record here, and I’ve been loving it. But the plants in the garden are terribly confused.

Iris are blooming – both large:

Bearded Iris

and small:

//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsMiniature iris//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

As well as some other spring blooming flowers, like this one (I think it’s some kind of perennial Alyssum):

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But most disturbing of all are the daffodils I found peeking up out of the ground:

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FO: Canadian Winter

I’ve always liked the idea of a Cowichan sweater–big and cozy, in natural colors; but not so much the traditional designs of them, with the big animals or other representational designs in the midsection. I never thought those bands of stripes would be very flattering on me. But after making my Vintage Green sweater, and seeing how much I liked the weight of it, the urge to make one grew stronger.

Canadian Winter
And so a plan began to form. I liked how the doubled Patons Classic Wool worked out in the Vintage Green sweater, so I knew that would be the yarn. The free Bernat pattern “I’m the Dude” jacket (formerly called “His and Hers Thunderbird Jacket”) was pretty close to what I had in mind, though it was a slightly bulkier gauge. I figured I could make it work by using numbers from the Vintage Green and doing a mash-up of the patterns.

Then began the task of figuring out what kind of patterns I wanted on it. I wasn’t too keen on the geometric patterns most of them have. I spent a lot of time searching the Internet for pattern ideas, and eventually saw one that had a floral motif with vines. That really appealed to me, so I used that as the basic idea.

I spent weeks working on the charts. For the yoke pattern, I took the motif from the vintage sweater and modified it to start from the back center and scroll to the front in a mirrored image. The most challenging part was charting out the raglan seam area so that the pattern would look as uninterrupted as possible. I had to knit a few samples and tweak it before I came up with something I liked.  For the motif at hem and cuffs, I wanted a smaller design, so I just made up a coordinating pattern.

I thought that once it was all charted out, it would be a piece of cake to do the actual knitting. And it was, for the most part. But once it was done, I wasn’t very happy with how tight the yoke was, or how the collar sat. The problem was that my row gauge was a lot different from the Dude pattern, which I’d pretty much followed for the yoke shaping. It just wasn’t tall enough from armhole to shoulder.

I ended up removing the collar and reknitting the yoke. Um, several times. I lost count of how many, exactly. But finally it seemed right. Then since the neckline was longer than it was originally, I had to rip out one point of the collar and add a couple of inches. But it was definitely worth it! The fit was much better, and the collar seam wasn’t exposed.   This was also my first experience putting a zipper in a sweater. I was really anxious about doing that, but it really worked out nicely, and I’m glad I finally made the plunge. It did take a long time to do since I spent lots of time getting it basted in place, and then I hand-sewed it in, but it was worth it.

Trying to figure out how to attach the collar without having a really bulky seam was also a challenge, but I won’t rehash the details here, since they’re on my project page.

Project: Canadian Winter
Needles: US 10.5/6.5mm for the body, US 9/5.5mm for the garter stitch hems and collar.
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Worsted, held double throughout, Dark Gray Mix and Aran

Canadian Winter

Now I’m ready to lounge around on the couch in my cardigan, like The Dude in his Pendleton.

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China: Terracotta Warriors

I’ve been a bad blogger and haven’t posted in ages. But it’s time to continue the China travel story!

After Beijing, we traveled (on the infamous overnight train) to Xi’an, which was once the capital of China, and was the starting point of the famous Silk Road.

The big tourist attraction there is the Terracotta Army, the largest group of pottery figurines ever found in China, and which was only discovered in 1974. I remember reading about it when it was discovered, and thought it was fascinating. I never thought I’d ever have the opportunity to actually see them.

There are over 8,000 life-sized warriors in the three pits, plus hundreds of horses and chariots. They date back to a couple of hundred years B.C., and were supposed to protect the emperor in his afterlife. Each warrior has a unique face! Apparently there were several different molds that were used for the heads and body parts, but then the detail of the faces was modeled in clay by hand, and the figures were brightly painted.

The main pit contains rows and rows of warriors (approximately 6,000), not all of which have yet been excavated. You can get an idea of how large this pit is by seeing how tiny the tourists look on either edge of it.

Terracotta warriors Pit 1

Terracotta Army, Pit #1

Approximately in the center of this pit is a small tomb that was dug in the 1940’s – but it was dug between rows of warriors, so they just missed hitting one of the main aisles and discovering the statues. You can see the tomb in the photo below – it’s the arch-shaped hole just above center:

Arch-shaped tomb in Terracotta Warrior Pit

Arch-shaped tomb in Terracotta Warrior Pit

All of the warriors have been restored from broken pieces. The statues and original buildings were broken, burned, and looted before being covered up by centuries of sediment. Here’s a partially excavated section from one of the other pits:

Partially excavated pit

Partially excavated pit

Here are some of the figures that are in process of being restored – you can see how different their faces are:

Terracotta warriors being reconstructed

Terracotta warriors being reconstructed

The museum has a few of the different types of warriors in glass cases so you can see them up close, like this archer:

Terracotta Warriors museum - archer

Terracotta Warriors museum – archer

You can see the detail of the shoe, and a little bit of the remaining paint on the back of the tunic:

Terracotta Warriors museum - archer

Detail of archer’s foot and tunic

As part of this excursion, we also visited the Pottery Factory, where replicas of the warriors are made for retail sale. As with the originals, there are different molds for the heads, torsos, hands, etc., which are fired and assembled.

Pottery Factory, Xi'an

Pottery Factory, Xi’an

The smallest figurines are made in a single mold, but even those are hand-finished to remove the mold markings and add a few details:

Pottery Factory, Xi'an

Pottery Factory, Xi’an

The “Pottery” factory wasn’t just pottery. They also had hand-painted furniture (you could watch people painting some of the pieces), and some lovely embroidered artwork. These are NOT paintings – they are entirely made in embroidery. (Sorry, there is a lot of glare and reflection in the glass)

Silk embroidery "paintings"

Silk embroidery “paintings”

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