Category Archives: Knitting

A Day in Monterey

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Today Abby, baby Genesis and I headed down the coast a bit to Monterey. The drive down was gorgeous, and it was amazing to watch the landscape change from mountains to redwoods to dunes and farmland…there is a lot going on in this state, for sure. We arrived around lunch time and were starving, so we quickly parked by the beach and took a stroll down the fisherman’s warf.

The place is lined with restaurants (didn’t think to get a picture of this–you’ll just have to believe me that it’s intense), all basically with the same menu at the same price point, all offering the same view off the two sides of the pier. In our first few steps, we were stopped by a girl standing outside one of these restaurants, offering clam chowder samples out of a vat in a cart. A little surprised, we happily accepted, and sipped our little plastic cups (it really was delicious) while she told us all about how stroller friendly they were, about the beautiful ocean-view table she had for us, and gave us a card for a free calamari appetizer. We decided to walk all the way down the strip before deciding.

As soon as we turned away from her, though, we realized that her tactic was not at all unique. Outside of every restaurant was a man or woman offering samples of THEIR chowder and talking up THEIR eateries. Since we were still holding our little sample cups, we were immediate targets for the “Come on over here and compare” pitch. One could easily, we soon realized, eat a whole meals’ worth of chowder in samples just walking down the pier. It was a bit intimidating, but sorta hilarious too.

We avoided getting another chowder sample and walked to the end of the pier, where I got to meet my first seals and sea lions outside of a zoo. They were really fun to watch for a few minutes. Most were lounging in the sun on a wooden platform, but others had formed a sort of…seal clump in the water, and were just floating on their backs with flippers sticking up out of the water. A boat came through, and had to come to a full stop and drive around them.

After seal-gawking for a few minutes, we chose the path of least resistance and returned to that first restaurant for lunch (much to the delight of the chowder-hawker out front). This turned out to be a fantastic idea; the food was delicious. The free calamari did not suck (I was a bit surprised by this) and our blackened fish sandwiches were wonderful. We chatted, watched a seagull hang out on the window next to us, and enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch while Genesis continued napping.

Eventually, though, she did wake up, and we headed on over to the Monterey Aquarium, which is awesome. I especially enjoyed the jellyfish exhibit, and the huge tank with sturgeon, seven-gilled sharks and lots of other fishies. So cool. There were a lot of beautiful tanks there, and we had a great time. Sadly, due to dogged interference by a small boy intent on violently splashing, I didn’t get to pet a ray, which was a drag. But, I DID get to pet a sea cucumber, which was…sorta gross actually. Not slimy, just squishy feeling.

After the aquarium we made a brief stop at The Twisted Stitch so I could get my yarn fix (you didn’t really think I’d be able to come home without finding a yarn shop, did you?). I had a lovely chat with the proprietor, Dawn, about the rationalization of vacation yarn as souvenir rather than stash, and she helped me pick out an appropriately California yarn. We did, however, find perfectly good reasons for me to buy yarns from Europe (she’s from Whales, and Europe is right next to Whales, so it’s basically all the same thing), from Australia (she has an accent, so an argument could be made, since they also have accents), or from Lorna’s Laces, because they started out in California. Smart woman, Dawn. I did manage to limit myself to one skein, but only by exercising self control.

It has really been a lovely day. But I’m being called to the table, where Abby’s brother has crafted a home-made BBQ sauce for grilled chicken, and then we’re going for FroYo. Yup, life is hard out here. 🙂

The edging always takes longer than I think

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I mentioned awhile (as in a few months…) back that I was making a blanket for my friend’s baby. Since that blanket is now done and safely wrapped around it’s new owner in California, I’m free to tell y’all the details.

After much deliberation (read: waaaay too much time spent on Ravelry), I chose “Hansel,” which is a version of the traditional Shetland shawl called “Hap” (meaning a warm covering – to wrap warmly). It’s simple, with a diagonal garter square in the middle, but has a lovely feather and fan lace border, with knitted on lace edging. Durable, but delicate enough for a pretty baby thing, especially when worked in a nice easy-care yarn like Knit Picks Swish DK. And it easily allows for the incorporation of more than one color, which is a big plus for me. The traditional all white/pink/powder blue baby blanket is nice enough, but I’d much rather use some color. This pattern can be as simple or as brilliant as you want. Lovely.

It is now my go-to baby blanket, at least for girls. I’ll have to take a poll among parents of baby boys to see if it’s too “frilly.” Some won’t care a bit, but some will, and if I spend a zillion hours and a pretty big chunk of $$ on something hand-knitted, I’d just as soon it be something that they’ll like and use. I could probably dial back the femininity using different colors and by leaving off the triangular lace border.

This is how it turned out:

 

I am really happy with the results, though I think I might do the next one in a tighter gauge, since it grew A LOT in blocking, and the resulting fabric feels a little more delicate than I was initially after. I suspect it’ll shrink in a bit when machine washed and dried. That, by the way, is one of my prerequisites for choosing yarn for baby projects. If you can’t machine wash it, and hopefully machine dry as well, chances are you will be hesitant to use it; this yarn is great for that very reason. I machine washed it (always a moment of panic when I drop a newly-done project into the wash), and pinned it out on our full sized guest bed.

 

It at LEAST doubled in size. Surprise! Also, things that I hate--the uneven YO's at the corner facing the camera. I always manage to find the most flawed part of a project when photographing. They behaved better after blocking.

It took much longer than I had planned, first due to a yarn problem, then because I had a completely unrealistic idea of how long that edging was going to take.

I had initially planned to use some white in there as well for the skinny stripes, but Knit Picks really didn’t cooperate. Who knew “white” was such a difficult color to keep in stock? In the end, I’m grateful, since I think the grey works better than the white would have. It also turned out to be a a serious yarn hog, and I had to order more twice before I got to the end.

As for the edging…well its a mystery really. This isn’t my first rodeo, and I know better than to think I can whip something like that out in an evening. And yet, I was absolutely convinced that this was true when I sat down to begin. I got halfway around over the course of several evenings, only to run out of yarn. Reality bites. I know Genesis doesn’t mind that it was late–heck her mom ended up being pregnant a bit longer than she had planned, I can deal with my project taking longer than I had planned.

 

Perfect is a state of mind

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A friend of mine has spent nearly 9 months growing a human, and is nearly finished and ready to bring her hard work out into the world so that we can all meet her. In honor of this momentous occasion (and because it’s a fantastic excuse to spend an embarrassing number of hours browsing patterns and yarns), I have been making a gift for this brand new human about to join us, and her amazing mother.

The blanket pattern that I have chosen is darling and the yarn is a dream–all softness and bounce. But the Blanket in question begins with a depressingly large diagonal square of garter stitch. Garter stitch, for those who don’t knit, is just one type of stitch done over and over and over with no variation of any kind for approximately 10000000000000 stitches or until you pluck your own eyeballs out in boredom. It’s great knitting for watching TV, or talking, or thinking deeply about things other that what stitch you’re on.

100000000 stitches down, 100000000000 to go.

Sadly, even though it is repetitive and extremely easy, that does not mean that it will be finished quickly or without mistakes. I found a mistake yesterday night as I watched episodes of My Name Is Earl on Netflix, right as I was starting to feel pretty good about my progress for the night and had begun to contemplate my warm bed. There is a hole in my blanket. It’s not a big hole, just one little stitch out of those 10000000000 that went a little wonky for reasons that I can’t really see. But in a sea of like-stitches that create a nice uniform fabric it would (to my eye) be glaringly obvious. Instead of finishing up for the night and setting my work aside with a feeling of accomplishment, I sat there for a while, starting at the offending Wrong Stitch, tugging and stretching and holding it out at arm’s length, trying to convince myself it wasn’t that bad. This is moment faced by all knitters at some point (or more likely, at many many depressingly many points). We find all kinds of ways to console ourselves, including the hope that it’ll all work itself out after a good blocking. This hope is so pervasive and hopeless that they’ve put it on a shirt:

Hey, that's a mighty fine t-shirt. Something I might not mind getting from someone at some point. Like, as a gift or whatever.

I know Abby won’t care. I know baby Genesis won’t care. I know I will be the ONLY one to care. But here’s the thing. If I spend a lot of money and a whole lot of hours making something for someone, it’s more than a gift, it’s an act of love. And the quality of my work is inextricably linked to the quality of that love. So I just can’t let it go, or else it feels slapdash and inadequate.

So I bit the bullet and started ripping back to fix my mistake. It’s only a few rows (sob).

Soooooocks!

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Soooooocks!

You may have noticed my header, which proclaims that I not only sing, but also knit and cook and travel… well so far you’ve seen singing and travel, but none of the other two. Until TODAY that is! 😀

As soon as the weather starts to turn cool, my fingers start to itch and I find myself easily distracted by passing sweaters or the feel of a fine skein of merino. I start trolling through Ravelry looking for patterns, and making mental checklists of friends and family with babies who I can knit adorable tiny things for. Cold weather is knitting weather, that’s all there is to it.

That’s not to say that I don’t knit in the summer. You might remember such summer knitscapades as Who Wants This Scarf?. But there are some very practical reasons why knitting makes more sense in the colder months. Blankets, for instance, are great to knit in winter, because as they grow they drape over your lap in a very pleasing and cozy way. This is less of a benefit when it’s 95 degrees and a million percent humidity out. One of the projects that seems to whisper my name in an especially alluring way is socks. They’re fun and cute and people love to get them from you. Sadly, they are also prone to Second Sock Syndrome–sufferers find themselves bored and unmotivated to repeat the work they just completed on Sock #1. Like this poor, sad, as yet unfinished sock:

Poor sock. I broke a needle, and they were relegated to UFO status (unfinished object).

The solution? Worsted weight socks!

Normal sock yarn is very thin, and thus it takes quite a lot of stitches to make a sock. Worsted weight yarn is thicker, and knits up a heck of a lot faster, making the whole project fairly fly off the needles. Lovely! My first sock-recipient of the season was my darling husband, who got his very own pair of hand-knit round-the-house socks.

Sock

Here modeled on my own foot. The picture he has of them on his own feet is awful, but hasn't yet been retaken.

In fact, these were off my needles less than 2 days ago, and I’m already working my way rapidly down the leg of a new one, same yarn but a different pattern, destined for the feet of a friend who’s been bugging me for a pair since I started knitting. Merry Christmas, unnamed friend. 🙂

And, just to leave you all wishing you could come visit me, this is what I do when I have a day off:

Mmm...Get jealous.

A slightly lopsided yet delicious three-layer carrot cake with homemade icing. 🙂