Friday, February 29, 2008

Hey there, baby doll

doll face
Originally uploaded by TravelingAnn

I've never been into baby dolls. Not even when I was a kid. I much preferred expressionless stuffed animals to those fixed faced plastic humanoids. Stuffed animals could have much better adventures and a wider range of emotions.

Because of this, it totally surprised me when in June 2006 I became obsessed with the doll from the Rebecca Baby & Kids book 6. It looked fun to make and there were all these little outfits as well! Going for yarn that matched my skin tone, I settled on Alpaca & Silk from Blue Sky Alpacas. Maybe not the best choice looking back, a little on the soft side, but it's not like I'm giving it to a kid. If I was going to make the doll again, which I probably won't, I'd probably wait for a good color of Cascade 220 or even Zara.

Anyway. The pattern worked up quickly and was fun (she has waist shaping and cute little feet!) and I even sort of enjoyed attaching all her hair (the original is braided but I think I might leave mine loose). Then I hit the part where you are supposed to embroider on her face. Yeah, embroidery, not my strong point. So she had languished, faceless and nekked in the back of the dining room credenza for over a year. Poor thing.

Then on Monday I had to go to Micheal's Craft Store to pick up a picture mat we had cut. I spontaneously wandered through the doll isle (the aisle head said beads, another area I don't excel at) and found faces. Flat iron on faces and embroidered faces. Blue eyes, brown eyes, large and small. My poor doll had a chance! As you can see, I bought an embroidered set with brown eyes. I convinced my mom to attach them. Then I set her up for her Ravelry photo shoot....

And the dogs went nuts. They didn't know what to make of her. They circled the chair. They sniffed her. They snuck up from behind and sniffed her through the slats. They nudged her with their noses and then jumped back, afraid she might move. Baru (above) even started barking at her. It was all terribly amusing. I have to wonder if they could tell she had a human face and form and it was confusing them. I don't think I've seen them bark at stuffed animals (although Samson did murder a Pooh Bear Hubby gave me).

She's up on the dining room credenza now, welcomed into the light of day, sitting in the ice bucket from the champagne set we received as a wedding present. She is still quite nekked. I started a little dress for her in some lavender Zara I had in stash, but I haven't made much progress. You see, I'm working with this really nice sock yarn and it's taking precedence over everything else.

Oh, happy leap year!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hope returns

The top down mitts are still in play!
The other publishing company I submitted them to sent me a postcard acknowledging receipt. The postcard says they will be contacting people "in the spring." It's not an acceptance, but it's not an outright rejection either. Leads a girl to think maybe I'll build an empire after all.

Green Eyed Monster

I knit and crochet for my own enjoyment. I knit and crochet for my own enjoyment.
At the beginning of the year I heard about a call for submission for a sock book using handpainted yarn. So I sent off two ideas. The deadline was Jan 31 and I haven't heard anything.
But last night I found out someone I know had a pattern accepted. While I haven't been officially rejected, I have to think it's a bad sign.
I knit and crochet for my own enjoyment.
I even had to run out and check the mail just to be sure (bunch of stupid bills). I haven't congratulated her, yet, as I don't think I could actually muster any sincerity. But I'm happy for her. Really.
I knit and crochet for my own enjoyment.
Still, I have to wonder...were my patterns not unique or interesting enough? Should I not have used Koigu for the swatches? Were my explanations not eloquent enough? I may never know.
Then I remind myself, technically I have stuff published all the time, just not patterns. Because, really, my ambition when I was younger was to be a writer--which I am--not a knit or crochet designer--which I apparently am not.
I knit and crochet for my own enjoyment.
Ah well, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities in the future. And there is that other Raveler who asked for the pattern for the Yankees Socks I made for Hubby. And a random person favored those on Flickr as well.
And Samson really enjoyed wrecking the Guinness I made him and the pups are still playing with the fabric (skin?).
I knit and crochet for my own enjoyment.
So I should get over myself already, I don't do this to build an empire.
Although it doesn't bode well for the top down mitts I submitted to a different book. That deadline was Feb 14. Is it too soon to worry?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cat's Pajamas indeed

Lucy Neatby sent Knitting Central a sample skein of her new sock yarn Cat's Pajamas. It is 80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon and 100% delicious.
Cynthia, who thought it was just a new colorway rather than a new yarn, could not understand why I have been pestering her via email for weeks in a desperate attempt to get my hands on the stuff.
Fortunately, it somehow escaped the notice of everyone else as well, which is odd considering how attuned all our radars are to not only new sock yarn but cashmere as well.
After the store closed on Saturday, I finally had the chance to drop the skein into her hands and make her understand my obsession. She smiled and asked, "Do you want to take this yarn home to play with it?"
I replied in my best Eric Cartman voice, "Hell yes I want to take the yarn home."
Actually, I think I said "oh, yes, please" before I snatched it back, did a happy dance, and stuffed it in my knitting bag before she could change her mind. Well, I did make an attempt to use the ballwinder and swift, but there wasn't time.
Oh, woe, I had to spend all that extra time handling the yarn while I wound it manually at home. (Why, yes, I am being sarcastic.)
To the detriment of all other projects, I spent Saturday night swatching. First I used the 2.5mm Pony dpns Hubby brought me from Poland. I got 7.5 sts and 10 rows to the inch. I didn't like it at first, but it grew on me. Then I used my US1 Brittany dpns and got 8 sts and 11 rows. I think that was a much better fabric for socks and am going with the US1s.
The labels on Lucy Neatby's yarns say "Make your yarn happy--Knit it now!" I think it is time to follow that advice.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Snow Day!

Friday was a snow day. Hubby's school pulled the trigger Thursday night. We were laughing about it because the snow hadn't started by bed time. Mother Nature had the last laugh because the snow started during the night. We woke up to white, and the snow kept going until around 2 pm Friday afternoon. My company closed the office at 9 am Friday, which is a nice thing about working for a small company. I had been dragging my feet getting ready because the roads looked grim so I was still home when the email came in.
Since I'm on deadline for an article (actually I missed the deadline which is one of the nice things about being on staff), I spent an hour or two working on it. I had the best of intentions about going back to it after I hit a wall. You will not be surprised to hear I didn't.
Instead I started playing with my hand made socks and sock yarn stash.

Samson (above) is in training for the Iditarod. Baru (right), who doesn't like to be outside anyway, started complaining he was cold and wanted to come in. Really, they love the snow and run around like maniacs and dive into it.

Anyway. Sock yarn. As I said when I bought the Glazed Sock yarn last weekend, I was concerned about duplicating colors. So I took all the socks I've finished and all the yarn in stash and had a little photo shoot while the pups were outside. Then I loaded it all into Ravelry, figuring that as long as I can get to the internet I can check what I have.
Since I'm too clever for my own good, I also took pictures of everything with my cellphone, figuring it will be handy to have the information in that form as well since it is more portable.

Here are the finished I heart Husband socks. As you can see, to a knitter they don't match. But to him they are ok. I'm glad to have them off my plate.

I haven't been entering stash in Ravelry, although I do need to organize it, because I thought "who has the time?" However it was fun, in a weird way, and exciting to see it all there documented so nicely....well, I might have to spend some time in the attic tomorrow.

In addition to taking pictures of knitting, I finished the stealth knitting and passed that on. I also spent some time weaving in the ends on my Stars & Stripes Sweater. I'll get to wear it one of these days. There sure are a lot of ends to secure.
In other news I worked at Knitting Central today. A customer who is on Ravelry said she's been reading my blog. That makes five people! But still not my mom. Boy am I going to be in BIG trouble when I finally tell her about it. Knowing that people are actually reading the thing encourages me to make entries. It also gives me a greater admiration for those bloggers who do post every day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A bag idea

Since I've become such a Ravelry addict, I thought it might be fun to make myself a little felted bag with the Ravelry logo and my ID.
Note my use of the word "little."
As I contemplated this idea, I thought to check the site and found that someone else had indeed already charted the logo. Phew, one less thing to worry about.
I dug some white and red Cascade 220 out of my stash from when I made mom a bouquet of Pick Up Sticks felted flowers. I bought green and black.
The plan was to make wide stripes green/white/green with the logo in the bottom third and my ID in the white section. Now the logo is 93 stitches wide and 65 stitches tall. Not wanting to resize, I just rolled with it. I also didn't bother to check gauge since I was just making it up rather than following a pattern.
I cast on 100 stitches, to give myself some space on either side, and thought I'd made the bands 60 rows long, so just about the entire logo would be on green. I'm going to work the ball in intarsia and the letters and ball details in duplicate stitch. (When I first hatched the scheme I'd thought of including "hello my name is" in the top band, but realized that would be too much duplicate stitch.)
30 rows of green later I thought, "huh that looks big" and decided to check gauge and reconsider my plans.
I'm getting 4.5 sts and 5 rows per inch on a size US 10. I quickly decided to drop to 30 rows of each color. As it is the prefelted dimensions are going to be around 24x24. A little bag indeed. I think I'm going to need more yarn.
The stealth knitting is progressing, but not quickly enough.
I bought some new sock yarn on Sunday. This lovely looking stuff called Glazed Sock from Madelinetosh. Knitting Central hasn't carried it before. There were oh, six skeins left when we closed Sunday. For all I know they are gone now. With all the sock knitters in that store, new sock yarn tends to evaporate.
There were a number of lovely colors. I tend to buy the bright colored sock yarn, and I'm drawn to blues. But I'm making an effort not to duplicate. Part of the problem is I've got a bit of a sock yarn stash built up and I don't remember those colors as well as I remember the colors of the socks I've finished. Must knit faster. The color I chose is called "Robin's Nest" and is light blue, tan and white. Thought it was a safe choice. Turns out I have a finished pair of socks in Regia Cotton that are similar, but the Regia ones are darker colors and have that whole jacquard thing going on, so I think I'll be fine.

The camera came home to be recharged. I pounced on it and took some pictures. Still no pictures of the fixed and finished sweaters. Hubby was busy doing work, and with it being night I didn't think they would come out good. I did take pictures of the finished I heart Husband socks and my new sock yarn. Samson totally made a play for the Madelinetosh. Right there in front of me. He isn't usually so bold. Then he went after the Cascade 220. Sassy thing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

All day and into the night

I had two goals for the three day weekend--do the taxes and sew my starts & stripes sweater. Guess which one I focused on?
Project Progress
I have no pictures from the weekend because our digital camera is somewhere in CT with a yearbook staff member. sigh.
First I finished the "I heart Husband Socks." They had been put aside because the colors on the second sock weren't swirling nicely like the first sock did. I probably restarted them a dozen times. On the last attempt I reeled out a 5 inch ball in an attempt to find a similar starting point. But, yet again, after 30 or so rounds the colors were pooling. I finally asked Hubby if it bothered him that the color don't match. He was like what? Because, obviously, they match because it's the same yarn. When I pointed out the pattern discrepancy he was like no. So I just let go and knit! I finished them on Saturday and he wore them over the weekend.
"Stars & Stripes" is all sewed up, but I have to weave in all the little tails. I sat down around 11:30 am on Monday to work on it. I thought to myself, "You are blowing it out of proportion. It won't take as long as you think. In an hour you'll be done." (In the world of literature that is called foreshadowing. Or is it irony?) 45 minutes later I had one sleeve set in. And so it went until around 9:30 pm, taking breaks as appropriate to eat and watch Dr. Who. I even got the laundry done. In between sections I was making sure I got up and moved around. Still, my neck and right arm were sore by bedtime. Apparently I have to work on my finishing posture.
Sweater Triage
On Monday I also sat down and fixed the poor Kid Silk Haze Mohair Cowl sweater. I tied a knot in the two ends, then used an E crochet hook to work the slack back in. The knot ended up sort of on the side under my arm. It came out quite good and I think only my husband and dogs should be paying enough attention to my lower hem to notice anything. (Although a few weeks ago I was standing with my back to the picture windows at the yarn store one evening while I was wear a snug pair of pants. We were chatting, then Laura said, "A guy in the parking lot almost drove into a pole because he was staring at your butt." Go me! Still, from that distance I don't think he would have seen the repair.) Hopefully the knot will hold and I can dodge the dogs.
New Blog Widget
Is it a widget? If you will notice under my profile pic there is a list of my WIPs with progress bars and pictures. The info is pulling over from Ravelry. I saw on a forum that the coveted progress bars were out of beta, so I pounced on them. I had to read a few forum threads and cut and paste several times, but I figured it out.
That's one thing about Ravelry. Having your WIPs lined up like that and seeing 3 things around 90% complete sure adds to the finishing guilt. But, hey, I almost have a sweater because of it.
Most projects are going to be tossed aside for a while, however. My cousin's wife in CA had their first baby over the weekend. Even though I've known for six months that this was going to happen I didn't start a blanket. I'm going to make this crocheted baby blanket from Lion Brand Homespun. It's free on the Lion Brand site and works up rather quickly, if you can keep the first 3 rows straight. It's worked on the diagonal and starts with like 3 stitches, which can be hard to see.
But this week I'm working on a stealth project using Sanctuary from Alchemy. It's 50 silk/50 merino and the dogs are obsessed! They like silk yarn in general, but they were circling like sharks and trying to snuffle the project. Normally I don't mind, but it's a gift so I'm keeping as much of it in a ziplock bag as possible.
Speaking of the dogs, I'm a bad mom. I was cranky today and had to go to the grocery store. I saw a pet store I never noticed before, so I went in and bought a squeaky tennis ball. Do you see the problem with that sentence? One ball. Two dogs. Baru was a little upset. Oops.
Ok, I've been cleaning house since I got home, time to relax and do some knitting before bed.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guinness is good for you

Originally uploaded by annmcclure2000

Ravelry, if you don't know, is like a social networking site for knitters and crocheters. But really, it's so much more. At the moment they are trying to control growth as they work the bugs out, so you need a password to get in. You have to submit your name and wait for an invitation. I received my invitation back in, oh, November, I had to wait about three weeks.

Anyway, once you get in you can post your projects and what yarn you used and modifications you made, like an online knitting/crochet journal. And we're all suppose to keep one of those like good little fiber enthusiasts, aren't we? At the same time you can see what other people are working on and comments/notes they made. For instance, I want to make Iris from Rowan 35. I was able to see how much yarn other people used and what they used for closures and trouble they hit sewing the sleeves on. Now I have my eyes open to all that. Oh, and you can have a project queue, too. As you wander around seeing cool stuff you click a button and it is added to your list so you can keep track of what you want to make and it what order.

And you can organize your stash, what yarn, color, how much. But who has time for that?

The place is massive. It's like the Louvre, or a hall of mirrors, or the King of Prussia Mall. Some place you can wander aimlessly for a long time, ending up nowhere near where you started and not sure how you got there. You get in and start clinking links, you search for a project and click on one someone posted. You decide to check out their profile. Then you start looking at their other projects because something is pretty, which leads you to someone else's profile. And before you know it you are looking at socks when you started on cardigans and you have totally blown your yarn budget (mentally at least). (and yes, I did just compare one of the world's great art museums to a big mall in Pennsylvania. I considered throwing Versailles in there, but I don't remember the palace being all that confusing, even if it is big.)

But the part that really sucks up time is the group boards. Messages boards for information, fun and nonsense. That's were the real danger is. If you just go in and update a project you can be done in minutes. But if you wander over to the boards, well, an hour later your puppy will be pointing out it's midnight and asking if you're ever going to come to bed. (Really this happened on a recent weekend. Hubby was away chaperoning a ski trip at Okemo in Vermont. I got on Ravelry at around 11. Pups had just been out. Knowing it was bedtime they had gone straight to the bedroom when we got upstairs. An hour later I was still playing and Samson came into the office and whined at me.)

One group I ended up joining is the Crochet Liberation Front. A group intending to raise the profile of crochet and free it from the shadow of knitting. Although I haven't been crocheting much since I learned to knit, I have been crocheting since I was little so I qualified.

I read in my current issue of Crochet! that the Crochet Guild of America had declared March National Crochet Month. The current CLF activity is planning a (virtual) party in honor of it. During the early planning stages I was snickering over the posts. One person was declared the head of the drinks subcommittee and she said she could handle handing out cups. So I pointed out we have to write everyones' name on their cup to avoid confusion. Which landed me on the drinks subcommittee, too. For some reason that inspired me and I dug out some black and white yarn and crocheted a pint of Guinness. (So now I'm in charge of the beer subcommittee of the drinks subcommittee. Me. The designated driver before it was cool to be the designated driver. I'm on the drinks subcommittee. Good thing this party is virtual.)

I see now that I should have increased a bit toward the top to keep the pint shape, but it didn't occur to me at the time because I was testing the height against a pint glass. The fabric was, as you would expect, following the line of the glass and looked pint shaped. Oh well. I stuffed it and gave it to Samson.

He was not impressed.

But the next day, a Sunday, when I got home he had it in his mouth when he came to greet me. They continued to play with it all week. I woke up with it on my head, I found it in various rooms of the house. They randomly carried it around and fought over it. All in all it was a hit. We were all happy.

And then yesterday Samson gutted it. Drilled a hole in the the middle of the black and pulled all the stuffing out. Then came and told me about it. The might hunter with his kill--on my bed. Sigh. I knew it wouldn't last, but figured it would last longer than six days.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Furry little fruit theif

It snowed Tuesday afternoon/evening, which is apropos of nothing. The road remained in fairly good shape, so although it made for a long drive home at least it wasn't white knuckle driving.
That evening I was sitting on the couch knitting with Baru in my lap and Samson playing on the floor beside us, as usual. And I could smell an orange.
I sat there knitting and thinking how nice the orange smelled when I finally thought, "Wait a minute. I can SMELL an orange." I looked down and, sure enough, that wasn't a ball Samson had.
So I yelled up to Hubby, "Did you give Samson this orange?" (only it sounded like ORE-ng, because it is one of the few words that brings out my South Jersey accent, consistently. I really say orange weird.)
And Hubby said, "No. He had it when I got home."
Which means the furry little thief swiped it off the counter.

samson smiling
Originally uploaded by annmcclure2000

I didn't bother to take it. It's not like we were going to eat it at that point. And there was not point scolding, he already had the thing.
He like oranges. Actually, he likes any round food that he can play with. One day I dropped a bag of oranges and there was a mad scramble to pick them up. Samson snagged one and was rather happy. He will treat the orange as a ball for a few hours, playing with it, then he will lay down, tear a hole in the skin and eat the flesh.
He also likes tomatoes, especially fresh from the vine. The first year in the house I planted tomatoes in the corner of the yard between the house and the steps to the driveway. First he took the ones that fell to the ground. Then he started on the ripe ones on the plants. When those were exhausted he started on the green ones, which worried me they would get bad bellies and indeed Baru hurled at least once.
The second year I planted on the far side of the picket fence where the puppies aren't allowed. this worked rather well, but the soil was very rocky and hard to work.
Last summer I planted at the end of the back deck, where the grass doesn't grow because of water run of and a big tree that shades the area. I didn't think it was the best spot, and it wasn't. The vines weren't very productive. Samson when after them anyway. When I told him not to he retaliated by peeing on them. That was the end of that, I'm not eating tomatoes watered with puppy urine.
I don't think I'll do a garden next year.
Anyway, back to Tuesday night and the orange. A few minutes after discovering the theft, I got up and they wanted to go outside. Samson wanted to take his orange. He's not supposed to take toys outside, but I figured it's not a real toy so what the heck. A few minutes later I look out the window and Baru is eating the orange wholesale, skin and all, crunch crunch. Samson was standing there looking forlorn, which made me feel sorry for him. So I went and got him the last apple, which was probably on the way out anyway.
Apples apparently don't have the play appeal that oranges do because he just laid down in the snow and ate it. Baru, meanwhile, was busy licking the snow to get any juice that dripped.
I suppose this is what I get for having them on a healthy, all natural diet. At least they eat their fruit and vegetables.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Barter System

Originally uploaded by annmcclure2000

(goodness, talk about uneven pictures. The green one was scanned and the purple one was photographed and cropped. Guess I sized them differently. I'll get a hang of this picture business eventually.)

I was going to start with a nice picture of the flowers Hubby got me for Valentine's Day, but the camera seems to be MIA. Oh well, maybe tomorrow. I won't be able to kill them that quickly.
In other news, I think I might owe the guy in the art department a pair of socks. But he did the page layout on a sock pattern I'm going to publish, and even spontaneously designed a logo for me, so it seems like a fair trade.
In the mean time, until the socks are called in, I made him a couple of catnip mice (shown above) for, um, his cats, obviously. Well, they are catnip mice forms, since I don't have catnip with which to stuff them since I don't have cats any more.
I made the green one (on the left) first out of Cascade 220 using the pattern from WendyKnits. It took about an hour. I gave it to him last Thursday and he has since reported back that it was a big hit.
They were out of catnip, as the cats had raided the stock previously, so his girlfriend put a ping-pong ball in it instead. He says his cats enjoy toys inside toys and played with it all night. It also ended up in the water bowl, which is apparently a sign of approval.
Monday night I finished the purple one, which is version 5, and gave it to him Tuesday. I thought it would also be good for ping-pong balls. He says it's a good finger puppet for wrestling matches and has also ended up in the water bowl. It is so nice when your handmade items are appreciated.
What's that?
Oh, you want to know more about the sock pattern?
Well, Knitting Central is running a sock club (but membership is closed at the moment). I'm Miss March. (snicker)
As far as I know, sock clubs are usually run by companies that spin and/or dye yarn. You get unique yarn and a unique pattern. Since Knitting Central is a store, our twist is that you get sock yarn with which you are familiar, but a pattern designed by a staff member that is exclusive to the club for 3 months.
The theory is our structure is a little less risky because the wild card of the yarn is removed. Also, most of the members know us and our abilities so they can be confident they will get something nice. (I say most because we do have members out in California!) We even have a Yahoo Group for questions.
Everybody has been really pleased so far, so I hope they like my sock as much. At least I know the pattern presentation will be rockin'. Obviously I can't show you the sock since it's supposed to be a surprise and at least one person in the club has actually read my blog (which makes four people that I know about).

Well, it's bed time, so I should turn in. It occurred to me yesterday that if I just spend half the time I spend on Ravelry up dating my blog instead, I might be consistent at this blog business.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Star light, star bright

Stars & stripes 1
Originally uploaded by annmcclure2000

It is amazing what you can accomplish when you work on one project at a time. You might even finish sweaters!
Well, this one is almost finished, as you might be able to tell. All the knitting is done, down to the collar, and the shoulder seams are done (grafted?).
I wanted to do a three needle bind off on the shoulders, but I misread the directions for the front and couldn't figure out where the stitches to match the back were. I figured I'd wait and find them during the knitting, but when I was doing the intarsia star I needed all the ends I could get. So I went back and cast off the back shoulders according to the pattern in order to free the ball. And once I did that I had to cast off the front.
In the end, it was only 16 sts to sew/graft, so it wasn't too bad. And they actually look quite nice, if I do say so myself.

It always amazes me how a sweater can go from looking like that to something you'd actually want to wear. Really, what I find shocking is that the sleeves actually work out. Sure you can see it when it's all folded up properly the way it is going to end up, but when the pieces are all laid out flat to be pinned and seamed, yeah I find myself thinking "that sleeve is never going to fit in there." But, of course, it does. Which I'll be tackling this week. Boy, talk about cutting into your knitting time. Seaming is a black hole of time.

Although I've finished the sweater, I haven't been totally faithful to it recently, but that's a story for another day. It's 10 pm now. Time for bed.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sweater down! Sweater down!

Damaged mohair sweater
Originally uploaded by annmcclure2000

I thought it would be a triumphant return to the blog. I thought I would crow about how I seized control of the camera, at least for a few pictures. Or how I've been successfully practicing project monogamy. Or how I've finished the back of the Stars & Stripes sweater and am well along on the front.
But, no, that was not meant to be. Instead I must tell you about the puppy inflicted injury to my poor mohair cowl sweater.
It's from the winter 2004 Interweave Knits. I made it in red Kid Silk Haze. It was rather easy and zipped along (well, picking up evenly around the armholes took me a couple tries).
I wore it to work Thursday and when I got home the puppies were bouncing around and one of them snagged one thread on the back and pulled it and SNAPPED it. (I think the culprit was Baru, but I can't prove it.)
Although I'm rather annoyed, the puppies are unharmed.
I tried to draw the slack back in, which was working, but the ends are different lengths so I had to stop. I think my best bet will be tying a little knot, then working the pull back in and relying on the mohair halo to disguise it.
But I just can't face it yet.