Holiday Project Planning

Yep, you read that correctly.  It’s only June and I’m starting to think about planning for any Holiday projects I might like to work into the mix.  There’s only 5-1/2 months left until gifting season.  Plenty of time right?  It depends.

A small project like a hat or pair of mitts could easily be done in a few days/weeks of dedicated Crafting Time.  On the other end of the scale, a blanket, pair of socks, or sweater could easily take many months.  And what if there are several gift projects?  How far in advance do I need to get started so that all of them are finished, wrapped, and shipped in time for gifting?

This post could also be titled “There’s a Spreadsheet for That.”  Though I think that would scare even more people away.  I love a good spreadsheet, but I also realize that most folks don’t.  Here, I’m just using the software tool to do the math for me – how many rows do I need to do each day to reach my goal of having Project X done one month from now.  Nothing scary about that.  A calculator and sheet of paper would work just as well.

I’ll give you an example.

For my aunt’s mitts last year, I timed out that I could work 12 rounds of the pattern in one hour.  I was working each mitt separately, rather than two-at-a-time.  The pattern specifies how many rounds is in each finished mitt.  So I made my spreadsheet figure out how many hours it would take to work all of the rounds for both mitts.

Length to Finish = 166 rounds / 12 rounds per hour = 13.8 hours.

That sounds manageable, right?  Most of us have enough hours to craft that we could get that done in two or three weeks of dedicated knitting time.

What if I added in a bigger project?  Here’s another example.

Take the cute stuffed dragon or bulldog that I made in past years.  Each one is made up of individual African Flower motifs that are joined together.  I timed how long it took me to crochet an individual motif.  Again, the pattern specifies how many motifs are needed to finish each animal.  Using those two numbers, I made the spreadsheet calculate how long it would take me to make all of the motifs for each animal, then added estimates for how long it would take me to join the motifs and stuffing/finishing work.  In the case of the dragon:

Length to Finish = 256 motifs / 2 motifs per hour = 128 hours.

I know that’s a huge number of hours.  Try not to swoon.  This is why we plan in the first place.  There’s an old saying about how to eat an elephant (or dragon) – one bite at a time.

So I think about how many hours of Crafting Time I can reasonably squeeze into one week without neglecting the rest of the world and my own basic needs.  Weekly Crafting Time = Waiting Time + After Dinner Crafting Time + Knit Night + Weekend Crafting Time.  For me, a typical week averages 8-10 hours (some have a lot more, some have a lot less, it’s an average).  Your mileage may vary.  For the sake of your sanity, keep it reasonable.  If I’m only allowing myself to work on the dragon project, then I divide the number of weekly hours available into the number of hours to finish the project.

128 hrs / 8 hrs = 16 weeks to complete the project

What that tells us is this particular project would need to begin work in August to make a December gifting deadline.

Still not swooning.  This is why we begin planning in June.

In my planning spreadsheet, there’s a section for each project and the associated calculations.  Once I’ve worked out how many hours are needed for each project, I take a look at how many weeks of work it all adds up to.  Do I have that many weeks left before the deadline?  If so, I schedule each project in among all of the other things in my daily life.  (“Sorry, I have to go knit right now.  I’m on a deadline!”)  If not, well it’s time for a good hard look at which project(s) can be put off until after the new year.

What’s in the spreadsheet for this year?  It’s a blank page at the moment.  I usually put any Special Requests at the very top.  My family knows how long it takes for these things, so they are sure to make requests well in advance.  Apparently they’re all well stocked in hats, mitts, shawls, and socks at the moment.  So now I get to add in all the little ideas for things I think they might like that they haven’t asked for.  Time for a dip into my Ravelry Favorites list for some ideas.

What’s on your Holiday crafting to do list?

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Recovery Work

Early last week I went in for the second of several rounds of oral surgery that my lovely periodontist has planned for me.  He says we may get to delay the rest of them indefinitely, which is just fine with me.  The first one (last summer) was Hell on Wheels, no exaggeration.  They told me that this one would be “40% less bad” as that first one.  Which is oddly specific.  What is 40% less than horrible?  I’m sure we all have our own visions of what that might be like.

How bad can it be?  I mean, I’ve had several surgeries over my little span of existence – appendix and wisdom teeth popping to the front of my memory, among others.  Well folks, that surgery last summer created a whole mouthful of healing wounds, which meant that I couldn’t eat anything remotely solid for weeks.  Even mashed potatoes and smoothies hurt for the first month.  (Bonus: ALL the ice cream I could stand.)  Getting calories is hard when you can only drink your nourishment.  So I was a pathetic noodle in front of the TV for the first week or so.  We had a mini party when I could finally accomplish chewing a chicken nugget (1 month post-surgery), ate my first french bread style sandwich (2 months post surgery), and my first taco (3 months post surgery).  I lost 10 lbs over three months.

Husband let me know that he’s not so fond of this new, slim look I’ve been sporting, and advised me to put on a few pounds in preparation for last week’s surgery.  I think I look fabulous, but he’s partial to a few extra curves.  (For the record, I weigh exactly the same as when I met him and we started dating.  The pounds I lost were of the post-wedding, comfortably married variety.)  Gotta love him!  To aid in the pounds-in-the-bank effort, he helped me make a list of my favorite foods and then helped me eat my way through the list.  A sort of “last meals” roundup, so to speak.

So then, how to plan for the 40% less bad as last summer?  I have learned some things about what I can and can’t do to sneak in a calorie or two.  Plus, this surgery would only create wounds in 1/4 of my mouth, instead of nearly the whole thing.  I figured I might be able to get some stuff accomplished while recovering this time around.

There was no way I would be returning to my day job for the first couple of weeks.  It requires too much in the way of physical energy for an all-liquid diet to be able to handle.  Which means that I suddenly had a big window of hours available for Tangled Strands work.  And there is no shortage of To-Do List items standing at the ready to fill in those hours.

I decided to tackle the first draft of the patterns for some of my made-up items.  My friends (and some very kind strangers) have provided encouragement in this direction.  I don’t know how far this will actually go, however.  It’s one thing to show off something you’ve dreamed up in the safety of your inner circle of friends, and quite another to subject your work to the critique of strangers.  (Although, yes, knitters are an overwhelmingly pleasant bunch.)  The pattern writing itself is coming along nicely.  Working quietly on the computer for several hours in the morning is just perfect.  So far I’ve gotten the first draft completed on five patterns.  Hooray for writing up pattern notes and then knitting up the sample from those notes!  Basically all I had to do was take the notes (plus my scribbles about what I modified while knitting) and add polish.  They still need a fair amount of tweaks and revisions and polishing up, but the bulk of the work is done.

I spent a few hours at the sewing machine, making up the new drawstring project bags for this summer.  I’m so excited about the fabrics I found for this line.  I rode this momentum to get the photos processed and the listings created, so these are now live in the Tangled Strands Etsy shop.  Click the image to zoom through to the shop for more details.

I’ve also been working in a little time here and there to process some raw fleeces that I’ve acquired.  One of my coworkers brought me a little sack of gathered bison fleece from her relative’s farm.  It was a mixed variety of whatever they found hanging out along the fences, as they aren’t fiber people themselves.  Bison don’t take kindly to shearing, but they’ll happily shed their coats all over the fields annually.  For you to pick up…in your spare moments…trying not to get trampled…naturally.  So I did a bit of research and proceeded to separate out the softest fluff from the guard hairs.  Then a quick bath – not as dirty as expected – and drying in the sun.  Once I have a free bobbin on the wheel, I’ll spin this up as a little sampler skein.

I also washed the Gotland sheep fleece that I picked up in the fall.  It should have been done right away, but you know how schedules go.  The weather cooperated to help me get a wash/rinse/speed-dry-in-the-sun assembly line going.  The notes accompanying this fleece warned me that there would be a fair bit of reddish dust in the bath water, so I was prepared when the water turned murky.  But it rinsed clear and the locks are so amazingly beautiful now.  This one is well over a sweater’s quantity of wool, so it will take me a while to card and spin.  File this in the long-term project category.

And of course there’s been knitting!  In the initial recovery time, I finished the first sleeve on my cardigan project.  This time around I wasn’t so woozy that I couldn’t follow my own pattern.  The sleeve fits perfectly.

I then put the cardigan aside in favor of something mindless to work in the hours after dinner when my brain was too tired for sleeves.  I zoomed through the rest of the body of my skirt project, then on through the easy-to-memorize lace repeats, and worked the final edging cast off late last night.  The skirt got a bath this morning and is currently drying in the hopes that I can complete the finishing work and wear it to Knit Night tonight.  Crossing fingers!

What’s next on the needles then?  I picked up a couple of skeins of lace weight linen yarn on the last trip to San Francisco.  The idea is to use them, either singly or together, to create a lightweight rectangular wrap.  I love my woven wraps, and thought it might be nice to make a knitted version.

The first pass at a swatch using a lace pattern is giving me mixed feelings.  On the one hand, the fabric is what I expected and the pattern is as open as I had hoped.  On the other hand, the pattern is a little too open and working the decreases in this linen yarn is giving me fits.  This is a case of I like the stitch pattern, but in a different yarn.  I think I’m going to swatch again with a different stitch pattern and using two colors of the linen yarn to see what that looks like.

How’s that for cramming a lot into two weeks?  I might need a vacation now.

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Big Projects at a Small Gauge

I found myself at my local yarn shop (LYS, in knitterspeak) a few weeks ago, in need of several new circular needles.  My being at the yarn shop is nothing new – I’m there for their open Knit Night every Friday night.  (Husband and I have long since moved Date Night to Thursday or Saturday, for the sake of our relationship. Knit Night is sacred, y’all.)  What was unusual is that I needed not one, but two new circular needle sets in a US 2.  Because all four of my size 2 needles were already occupied.

What?!?  Yes, you read that right – all of my already abundant supply of size 2 needles were actively at work in a current project.  How can this be?  My typical project load bridges the range of gauges – a sock project on size 2’s, a sweater on size 6 or 8, a shawl on size 4, for example.

Somehow, I have found myself with a range of projects all knit at the same gauge.  In my world, this is as small as I go.  You will not find a smaller needle in my stash.  So…tiny, according to me.  Is all of this small gauge knitting driving me crazy?  Not in the least.

There’s the ever-present sock project, of course.  I’m using the second half of the skein I used for my aunt’s Rowell Mitts.  I love that mitts are so cozy and luxurious, yet there is yarn left over for another project.

My sock projects almost always fall in the category of purse knitting.  I’m only ever working on them while I’m waiting – for dinner, for a doctor’s appointment, on an assignment at the day job.  (The day job has a nutty amount of waiting sometimes.  My coworkers look longingly at my knitting on the really outrageous days.  I love it!  And yes, I’ve offered to teach them all to knit.)  I started this pair on March 29th, and this is how far I’ve gotten in almost a month.  That’s a lot of waiting!  Also, think of all the lost productivity if I had just sat there and played on my phone instead.

I’ve also got the usual sweater project on the needles.  “Tiny” needles in this case.  I wanted a simple shawl collared, lightweight cardigan for our three seasons of sweater weather.  This hand-dyed charcoal grey will fit right into my wardrobe without any trouble at all.

It’s a simple stockinette stitch, which may be boring to some.  Since I only have to keep track of the shaping rows, it’s perfect for working while watching the more interesting shows in my Netflix queue.  My next version might incorporate cabling and texture, but for now this plain version is keeping me happy.

Finally, I ripped back the summer skirt experiment from last summer to try it again.  My good friend, Cathy, and I had a ripping party one weekend.  So much fun to clear the WIP bins and boxes of stale projects.

I kept the waistband, as that was working just fine, and reworked the increases.  Since the cardigan project was in a non-traveling state at the time, I took this skirt project on our recent weekend trip.  Again, nearly mindless stockinette stitch is perfect for working while concentrating on the more exciting stuff going on around me.  So this one is cruising right along as well.

I must be in a congested brain state or something, with my need for all of this simple, small gauge knitting.  We all could use a little meditative stitching on occasion, right?

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Playing Catch-Up With Spring

Spring is later than usual in the PNW this year.  I guess that’s what we get for enjoying all that extra snow!  So the usual early spring flowers have been playing catch-up over the last week, the trees are adding yet another green layer to the already-green winter landscape, and our hummingbird pair has set up their annual nest in the pine tree just over the back fence.  I love to hear their little pips and chirping song!

I’m starting to come out of hibernation too.  We’re getting a few rare peeks of sunshine here and there, and of course I immediately drop everything to go outside and soak it in.  By this point in the year, we all feel like we haven’t seen the sun since October.

Spring cleaning this time around included clearing off all the needles and bobbins, so I have a lot of finished projects to show you.

First up is the smocked knit skirt project.  Several folks in my knitting group expressed doubts about this skirt when I cast on.  Chief among the concerns: sagging, especially after long periods of being seated.  I admit, that is a valid concern when it comes to a knitted skirt.  Here is where the power of the online knitting community really shines – through Ravelry, I could look up the project notes of the other people who have finished this same garment and worn it out in the world.  Their experience?  No sagging.  So I confidently knit on.

The waistband modification I made turned out great.  The skirt stays put, which means I’m not worried about it twisting or slipping downward while I’m moving around in it.  Also, I can add my experience to the other knitters: no sagging.  Even after sitting in it for 5+ hours.  (These photos were taken after the 5-hour endurance challenge.)  I can also report that it is definitely reversible – I love the “inside” just as much as the “outside” and will probably wear it both ways.

For the knitters:

  • Pattern: Smocked Skirt by Hana Jason
  • Yarn: Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool, colorway #126 Nature’s Brown
  • Ravelry project page:  here (I added tons of detailed notes on this one)

The next finished object is a shawl knit from the gradient handspun from last fall.  I cast this on as a quickie project I could take with me everywhere, since the sweater had become too bulky for on-the-go knitting.

At first, I wanted something lacy, but once I started knitting I quickly changed my mind.  The yarn just didn’t want to be lace.  What I needed was simplicity with a little bit of texture.  So I cast on at one corner and worked a wide rib to the bind off, increasing as I went along.  Easy peasy.  I love how this shows off the gradient, and is so soft and drapey at the same time!

For the knitters:

  • Pattern: I made it up
  • Yarn: my handspun BFL, spinning project page here
  • Ravelry project page: here

Yes, yes.  That’s all good, but what about the alpaca sweater project?  I’m getting to that.  As you’ll recall the body turned out very well, then I got stuck on Sleeve Island and distracted by the two projects shown above.  Well, the sleeves went quickly once I actually made myself work on them.  I only needed two tries to get the wide cuff to work like I wanted it to.  But that darn cowl collar gave me fits and I ended up working it three times.  Such is the life of a knitter.

But oh how it worked out beautifully in the end.  I love the fit and the wide ribbed elements.  The shaping is exactly what I had envisioned.  This one is definitely going into the regular winter sweater rotation.

For the knitters:

  • Pattern: I made it up
  • Yarn: Indiecita Alpaca DK, colorway #6909
  • Ravelry project page: here

The latest sock project came off the needles too.  There seems to have been rather more waiting room type knitting than I remember – both the gradient shawl and these socks fell into this project category.  So here’s another pair of happy, warm socks to add to the regular rotation.

For the knitters:

  • Pattern: my regular vanilla sock, sized specifically for my feet
  • Yarn: Three Fates Terra Sock, colorway The Pearl
  • Ravelry project page: here

Then I snuck in another quickie project using some of my own handspun yarn.  I had earmarked this yarn for a cabled pillow cover as soon as I finished spinning it, but other projects took priority so I took forever to cast on.  The variegation in the yarn is rather busy, so I deliberately kept the pattern to a simple cable and textured stitches on the front with a plain stockinette back.  Bonus is that the pattern was nearly mindless, take everywhere knitting, and worked up very quickly.  I am really happy with how it turned out!  I can see a few naps on this throw pillow in my future.

For the knitters:

  • Pattern: I made it up (I’m sensing a theme…)
  • Yarn: my handspun Masham, spinning project page here
  • Ravelry project page: here

The last finished object I have to show you today is a very happy spinning project.  I took full advantage of any “lighter cloudy” days that came along to sit in my front windows with my wheel and work on this one.  I love spinning BFL.  But BFL plus silk?  Mmmm!

I divided the braid in half for two bobbins.  The first half was halved again, then spun as it came onto the first bobbin.  The second half was divided into fourths, then spun as it came onto the second bobbin.  This mixed up the colors when plied together into the finished yarn.  Folks, this yarn is heavenly!  Super soft, great shimmery color, and fabulous drape.  My hands were so happy while making this!

For the spinners:

  • Fiber: Dyeabolical BFL/Tussah, colorway Wit Beyond Measure
  • Ravelry project page: here

Okay, that should catch us up on the finished objects!  Of course that means I immediately cast on at least a few knitting projects, and started a bobbin on the next spinning project.  Gotta keep making!  I’ll tell ya about those later.  The sun is out for a few minutes – time to go outside.

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Playing with Texture and Scale

There’s a small spinning mill, called Abundant Earth Fiber, on nearby Whidbey Island that I have had the pleasure to visit.  It’s fabulous fun to see how the yarn is made.  (Check out their Instagram feed for short video glimpses into the machines at work.  Mesmerizing!)  I make it a point to stop by the owner, Lydia’s booth every time I’m at a fiber festival where Abundant Earth Fiber is listed as a vendor.  It’s turning out to be a good bet they’ll be at Fiber Fusion NW in October.

At the Fiber Fusion NW event this past fall, I got to pet the newest yarn in Lydia’s line – a lovely undyed 100% Domestic Merino.  It’s available in three different weights: fingering, sport, and worsted.  I picked up a skein of the sport weight to try it out.  (Full disclosure: Lydia wouldn’t let me pay for it.  She asked me to try it and tell her what I think.  What follows is my opinion.)

I had an idea for a textured short cowl and fingerless mitts set that would be perfect for a natural yarn.  The sport weight version of this yarn is flexible in that it could be used as a heavy fingering or as a true sport, depending on the pattern.  I hoped that it would look equally well knit at a tight gauge and knit at a loose gauge.  I also hoped that the difference in knit gauge would help me stretch the single skein yardage to complete both projects.

For the fingerless mitts, I chose to knit at a slightly tighter gauge than that typically used with a sport weight yarn.  I used the US 2 circulars that I use to make my fingering weight socks.  I worked a checkered texture pattern for the back of the hand, and simple 1×1 ribbing for the palm.  My goal was to get a dense, stretchy fabric that would be warm and comfortable to wear on cold, rainy days where I need my fingertips free.

I was not disappointed.  This yarn is very bouncy!  As expected, the texture pattern and ribbing, combined with the bouncy yarn, created just the right amount of hug for my hands.  In the photo below, I’m modeling them on my small hands.  To get an idea of the full limits of the stretch, they also fit Husband’s large hands.  Nice!

Excited by this success, I was eager to cast on for the much looser gauge of the cowl.  I worked the cowl in the same checkered texture pattern, but on US 6 needles, using the rest of the original skein of yarn.

The finished dimensions are 24″ around x 10″ h.  I love how the knit gauge changed the fabric from firm to drapey without a loss of texture.  This will be the perfect thing to wear as an accessory, or tucked into the neck of my jacket on rainy days.

How does the yarn feel?  Bouncy, yes.  But is it soft?  Yes.  I will admit that it’s not the softest, compare-it-to-angel’s-wings Merino I’ve ever touched.  It is, however, a pleasure to knit with.  And once the finished items had a bath…now we’re talking soft.  Fluffy, snuggly, next to skin soft.  I am going to enjoy wearing my cowl and mitts for a long time.

Final verdict: Thumbs up!  I could totally see this as a good yarn for socks (with the bounce in this spin, there’s no need to add nylon), hats, and sweaters too.  Dye it or leave it natural.  Pick a gauge and go.

For the Knitters:


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I’m sure you’ve heard how dreary Seattle is during the winter months.  Rainy.  Cloudy.  Oppressive.  Sad.  All totally true.  Which is why I’ve been loading up on the Vitamin D supplements and waiting patiently for just one at least partially sunny day.  So I can finally take photos of the knitting and spinning.  Because you don’t want to see the dark, blurry images that happen otherwise.

I have two finished spinning projects to show you today.  Yes, two!  I’ve been busy.

The first spinning project took twin braids of fiber and turned them into two skeins of worsted weight 4-ply yarn.  I broke each braid in two, and spun each half per bobbin.

These were super colorful braids, so I had no doubt the finished yarn would be super colorful as well.  I hoped that the colors would mingle quite a bit when plied together.  The finished yarn does not disappoint.

I managed to estimate my singles supply well enough that both skeins are very similar in yardage.  That should make it easier to choose a project using either one or both skeins.

For the Spinners:

  • Fiber: Mosaic Moon BFL, colorway Dragon’s Lair
  • Ravelry Project Page: here

The whole reason there is a second spinning project is because this second project just made me so happy the whole time I was working on it.  Shortest spinning project for me.  I guess I was in the spinning zone.  But these colors!  Inky black and gorgeous neutral browns.  Yum!  Right up my alley.

For this project, I split the braid into four smaller strips.  Then I spun two strips per bobbin, just as they came.  I wanted to get a mix of mingling and matching in the finished 2-ply yarn.  As I was inspecting the color repeats and deciding on my spinning approach, I noted that this braid could also have been split and spun as a gradient yarn.  So many choices sometimes.

Bingo!  This fingering-weight 2-ply is just what I had in mind for the braid of fiber.  I love how the Corriedale fiber is a little more rustic, matching the moodiness of the colorway.  This is my new favorite handspun skein.

Also, this project might just have kicked me off the super-colorful spinning projects for a while.  I have another braid from this dyer that is not quite as dark, but is just as moody.  That might be up next on the wheel.  Always follow the creative inspirations.

For the Spinners:

  • Fiber: Dyeabolical Corriedale Cross, colorway Queen’s Tea
  • Ravelry Project Page: here

Did I spin and not knit?  Definitely not.  It’s nearly impossible to spin dark yarn in the dark.  Neither my eyes nor my psyche are up for that challenge.  I finished the cowl and fingerless mitts set, and boy am I loving how these turned out.  I’ll tell you more about them in a future post.

Does that mean the sweater is finished too?  Nope.  Folks, we all know about Sleeve Island.  Right?  Where the knitting just seems to go on forever and you feel like you’ll never move on to the next part?  Yep.  I’m there.  Sleeves, the most boring not-socks-but-still-socks on the planet.  (The sock project is getting more love than these sleeves.  Sigh.)

Here’s where I confess that I got distracted.  Tempted to the dark side of project abandonment by a slinky textured thing.  Simple, addictive, deep texture.

Friends, meet the smocked skirt project.  That photo up there is of the intended right side, per the pattern instructions, which is the wrong side while actually knitting the thing.  The photo down below is of the intended wrong side of the finished garment.  Several knitters have noted that the inside looks good too and that the skirt might be a versatile, reversible wardrobe addition.  I heartily agree.

After reading the project notes for this pattern, I made a major modification of the waistband.  The pattern calls for a simple ribbed waistband, and tells the knitter not to worry about this as the intent is for the negative ease of the fabric around the hips to hold everything in place.  Most who finished the project agree that this is what happens, but they don’t like how they feel about the waistband not actually doing this job.  It’s probably similar to wearing tight, low rise jeans and feeling like you need to pull them up all the time.  So I worked a knit tube for an elastic waistband instead.  We’ll see if it works.  It could either be an improvement or a spectacular fail.  I’ll be sure to report back.

Mom will note that this project, too, is in a tweedy brown yarn.  Further proof that I may have fallen back into my old neutral comfort zone.  If you need a pick-me-up after reading about all of that brown, I offer up this glorious scene from my back door just three days ago.

There was one partially sunny day in between, in which I scrambled to collect all of the projects for a photo shoot.  Today is thunder (never happens here!), pouring rain, and wind.  We have been “rescued” from fun snow days by the Pineapple Express.

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The Recovery Zone

I think most crafters would agree: after so many weeks/months of making things for others, there is a strong urge to just make something for one’s self.  This is very strongly felt around the end-of-year holidays.  I willingly admit that I am hardly ever immune.  Sometimes it is the carrot at the end of the stick.  Sometimes it is medicine to help us relax back into regular life.  Sometimes a very small project will do.  Sometimes a whole pile of projects are necessary.

This year the pull of selfish knitting was especially strong.  So strong, that in the middle of December I took an hour break from all of the usual activity and spent the entire time winding yarn and loading project bags for the top-of-queue projects I wanted to cast on the minute I was finished with gift making.  Because once the gifts were done, the in-progress list would be entirely empty.  And that will never do.

So…  I needed a sock project for purse knitting.  Check.  I needed a sweater project or something of equivalent size.  Check.  I needed a medium sized project for in-between times where neither socks nor sweaters are called for.  Check.

(My fellow knitters will note that I observed remarkable restraint by stopping at three new cast-ons.  I reserve the right to add more as necessary.  There is no shortage of stash, after all.)

First on the needles was the pair of socks for purse knitting.  Or airplane knitting, as the case may be.  After two four-hour flights I had worked up to the start of the gusset increases.


Side Note:  Several lovely people who see me knitting in public have flattered me by asking if I ever sold my hand-knit socks.  I kindly reply that they take ~10+ hours to make (depending on size).  What does that work out to in your hourly wage?  (Wait patiently while they perform the mental calculations.)  Oh!!!  Yep, that’s why I don’t attempt to sell my hand-knit socks.  If Persnickety the sock knitting machine would get with the program, well, then we might be able to talk about selling socks in my shop.

As soon as the socks were underway, I cast on the sweater project.  This uses some of the alpaca yarn stash that Husband brought back for me from his trip to Peru.  Last winter, I sat down and drafted out the pattern for a mid-century inspiration sweater with this yarn in mind.  I had intended to cast it on then, but other projects kept inserting themselves a bit higher in the queue.  So I used it as my carrot on the stick for finishing up all of the gift projects.


After a few false starts where I ripped back the entire upper portion of the sweater twice, I have finally made it down to the hem of the body.  (There was a bit of unhappiness with respect to how the raglan increases were looking at the shoulders.  It had to be fixed.)  I’m very happy with how this project is progressing.  The top portion is intentionally blowsy, with the bottom portion nipped very close in to the waist.  I love it when reality matches the vision in my head!  Now it just needs sleeves and a collar.

The medium sized project is a fingerless mitt and short cowl set using some locally grown and locally mill spun yarn I picked up at a fiber festival in the fall.  I jotted down some basic draft pattern notes, but I’m really kind of making this one up as I go along.


I really like how this is turning out as well.  I’ll reserve judgement til they’re finished, but I’m excited about the outcome.  Look for a longer post about this mitt/cowl project and the local yarn in the future.

So far, I’ve been really good and haven’t cast on any other projects.  Though there is a ball of gradient handspun paired up with a downloaded shawl pattern that is calling my name…

What are you selfishly knitting this month?

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Wrap Up

I know I’m a tad overdue for this Holiday gifting wrap-up post – and several of you have reminded me that I’m more than a tad overdue for a post of any kind.  Let’s just say that the period from Thanksgiving to the first week of January can be summed up like this: travel, down with a cold, working my tush off to make up for a week off work and projected two weeks vacation (there’s no sick or holiday pay in the land of the self-employed), down with a cold, travel, down with a cold, desperate attempt to play catch-up (again).  Sigh.

When I caught the third cold, Husband demanded I go see the doctor just to make sure it wasn’t something more serious.  It was confirmed that nope, I had the most rotten of luck and a significantly weakened immune system.  Folks, these colds weren’t like the ones documented in previous years, where I could bang out a sweater between sniffles.  I was down.  There was very little energy for knitting.

It’s a darn good thing that the gift crafting was ahead of schedule this year.  Also, that I had a healthy stash of my Etsy inventory all ready to ship when the orders came in.  Yay for forward planner me!

So what was in the gift pile this year?

My aunt requested a pair of fingerless mitts to keep her fingers warm while reading in bed.  Since the request came in a full year in advance, her project was the first off the queue and into the gift pile.


These were a delightful combination of easy, interesting, and quick.  There were several knitters who mentioned that the one-size-fits-most sizing on this pattern is too small for average hands.  I found this to be the case as well, so I added a few stitches across the palm.  This worked out beautifully, and I even have enough yarn left over to either make another pair of mitts or a pair of socks for myself.

For the Knitters:

Next up was a small bookmark project for my niece to accompany an illustrated women-in-science book I think she will enjoy.  I typically don’t gift books to my niece, because a) she is exceptionally knit-worthy and I am the only knitter in the family at this time; and b) we have another aunt who is a retired librarian and excellent at choosing the perfect book for each of us.  But this time I was reasonably confident that my aunt and I wouldn’t be duplicating efforts.


This little lace beauty is actually crochet, instead of knit.  It’s the perfect pattern for a little bit of luxurious yarn.  Just like with knitted lace, take the time to block it properly.  Even with crochet, the lace looks like a garbled mess until blocked to shape.

For the Crocheters:

Next on the gift pile were a couple of knitting projects for the newest member of our extended family.  My new nephew was born just before Christmas.  Which caused me to think about making a birthday/welcome to the world present and a first Christmas present as well.

This blanket pattern has been in my favorites for years, just waiting for the right recipient.  It looks super complicated – and yes, there are cabled stitches involved – but the pattern was so easy to follow and I found myself doing the “just one more row” thing when I worked on it.  Definitely a sign of a happy knit.  The pattern is not sized for a baby blanket, but the number of chart repeats is easily adjusted to make a smaller size.


For the Knitters:

I also worked up this cute little gramps-style baby cardigan.  I can’t resist seeing little baby boys dressed up in classic adult-style sweaters.  It just puts a huge grin on my face when I think of my nephew wearing it over the next few winters.  It might be a bit on the big side for a newborn, but I’m hoping that means it will also still fit next winter.


The stitch and yarn used in this pattern are really stretchy to accommodate him filling out over the next year.  I also knit an extra inch or so into the length, because if he’s anything like his sister and cousin he’ll be a little on the tall side.  The only other modification was a change in gauge – from the worsted weight yarn called for in the pattern to the fingering weight I chose to use.  He lives in a warmer climate, so a worsted weight would generally be too heavy.

For the Knitters:

My biggest gift project of the year was also a request from the holiday season the year before.  Son had watched my progress with finishing the crochet bulldog toy for Husband and thought it was pretty cool.  I casually mentioned that there was a dragon pattern by the same designer.  He’s got a thing for dragons, so he asked if I would make it for him.  Of course I will!

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Friends, if you are embarking on one of these Heidi Bears projects, take a bit of advice.  Plan ahead.  Far ahead.  Each of those motifs is individually crochet, then attached to the ones next to it in a very particular order.  These are very large projects – the bulldog contains 58 motifs, the dragon contains 128 motifs.  I budgeted 30 minutes to make each motif and another 30 minutes/motif to attach them together.  It took months.  There was a spreadsheet to make sure I stayed on target.  Yes, I am still sane and Son was properly appreciative.  Whew!

For the Crocheters:

Previously mentioned, Husband asked for a colorwork hat that represents his interests.  I really stepped well outside of my comfort zone for this one.  I am neither confident in colorwork, nor in the design of a colorwork pattern for Husband’s 24″ head.  I drafted a simple chart option, he approved of the draft and the idea of an overall scattering of the motif across the hat, he picked the final colors, and I worked out the draft pattern that I used to knit the hat.

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The whole time I was terrified that I was pulling the floats too tightly, or not tightly enough, or the circumference wasn’t going to be big enough.  The end product is squarely in the “amateur” zone.  The design and pattern was fine, but my concern over the float tensioning was justified.  I need a lot more colorwork knitting practice.  However, it fits and he loves it.  Which is cause for celebration.

For the Knitters:

  • Pattern: my own
  • Yarn: Loops & Threads Woolike
  • Ravelry Project Page: here

For the last gift project, I knit a simple short cowl for my knitting group’s annual gift swap.  This became my purse and evening knitting for the stretch of aforementioned working my tush off between being sick and going on vacation.


This textured cowl turned out very well, even in a variegated yarn.  I have plans to work it up again in a solid color yarn, with some matching fingerless mitts.  Stay tuned.

For the Knitters:

  • Pattern: my own
  • Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Alegria, colorway 8106 Botanico A
  • Ravelry Project Page: here

Whew!  That’s a lot more crafting than I thought was on the list when I sat down to write this blog post.  No wonder I have an overwhelming urge to knit all of the selfish items in my queue.  2017 may be the year for selfish knitting – at this moment, the holiday gift queue is empty.  Wonder how long it will stay that way?

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Happiness is a Pair of Handknit Socks

Have I told you how much I love my handknit socks?  If not, be assured that I do.  Very much.  So much that in 99.9% of the time I’m wearing socks, they are handknits.

The other times?  Well, even I can admit that when it’s nearing 100 F outside it’s too warm to wear wool on the feet.  And the only reason I resort to store-bought socks during those times is that I have yet to knit myself a pair of cotton socks.  Wearing socks in summer occurs so infrequently.  Because flip flops and socks don’t belong together.

But back to the glories of handknit wool socks.  I like that they fit my feet perfectly.  I like that they guard against blisters.  (My shoes, no matter how well-made or how broken in they are, always rub blisters.  I guess I have Princess feet.)  I like that I made them.  I like that they can be whatever color and pattern I want.  I like that they keep my toes warm.  I like that I can customize them.

I like that they last several years longer than store-bought socks.

Case in point:  Here is a recent photo of the toes of my blue cheer socks, completed in March 2012.


You can see there on the tip of the right one, the beginning of a small hole.  Friends, if that had been a store-bought sock, the hole would have developed after only one or two seasons.  I don’t know what my shoes/toes do to my poor socks while I walk around all day, but that is always where the hole develops.  I’ve been wearing this pair of socks every week for nearly five years.  That’s a darn good run.  (Pun intended.  Younglings may want to look up “darn” in the dictionary to get it.  It’s not what you think.)  Speaking of darning…  I think that’s what I’ll do to help this pair go for a bit longer.  I’ve got plenty of the original yarn left over.  The rest of the sock is doing just fine – no other holes or wear spots to speak of, and they still snap right back into shape with every wash.


Meanwhile, I added a new pair of handknit socks to the growing stash in my sock drawer.  These are also delightfully cheerful and warm.  Knowing that I am extra hard on my sock toes, I added a bit of texture there to help these last even longer.  Basically I worked the same pattern as for a slip stitch heel flap, but on the top and bottom of the toe section.  The result is a slightly thicker section of fabric that should take longer to wear through.

I’ll let you know how they’re doing in five years.  Time to cast on another pair!

For the Knitters:

  • Pattern: my own vanilla sock, sized for my foot measurements and knitting gauge
  • Yarn: Intrepid Otter STRIPES!, colorway Quiet Subversive
  • Ravelry project page: here
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I bet y’all are a little bored of so many spinning adventures in a row.  So let’s return to the land of knitting, shall we?  I’m playing with color there too, with a little texture thrown in for good measure.

I can’t show you the little pile of stealth projects that I’ve been steadily working on for the last several months.  Gift knitting takes up so much of my crafting time during this part of the year.  Rest assured that I have a nice little pile of finished or nearly-finished objects in the wings for some worthy recipients.  You’ll get to see them in January.  I can’t wait to show you the fun I’ve been having with those projects!

What I can show you are the other tidbits I’ve been slipping in here and there between the larger gift projects.  Some of them are for purse knitting, when nothing else is portable enough.  Some of them are for a little brainless, or nearly-brainless, break from spending so many weeks on a project requiring intense concentration.  Some of them are for setting up adventures that are yet to start.

For the purse knitting category, I cast on a pair of plain knit socks with a super fun self-striping yarn hand dyed by a local artist.  Red is not really my color, but I love how it cheers up the grey and purple bands.  (Spoiler alert: This will be a theme – stay tuned for more.)  Watching the endless progression of the stripes sliding off the needles is wonderfully delightful.  Yes, I know they don’t match, and I deliberately made them that way.  My other work is so detailed and regimented that I wanted something that was decidedly not.


I am most of the way through the gusset increases leading up to the heel turn.  Which means that for the next little bit – until I get through the heavy concentration work of the heel turn – this project is temporarily off of purse knitting duty.  I can’t let that go on for too long, so I’ll rush to get the heels turned in the next few days.  Then all will be safe and mindless through to the end of the cuffs.

For the relatively fast, nearly brainless, gimme-a-break knitting, I cast on this lightweight textured cardigan in a classic navy.  It is proving to be perfect for those hours at the end of the day when my brain is still going at a million miles an hour, but my body is telling me I don’t have the energy for something complicated or active.


This project is knit bottom-up, which isn’t my usual style.  But the sleeves are joined to the body at the underarm, and then the whole thing is continued up to the neck in one piece, so I’ll probably still like it better than doing a lot of seaming.  I made it more complicated in the beginning by changing the gauge – fingering weight yarn instead of DK or light worsted – but I can confidently do knitting math, and I love the drape and weight of this light layering piece.

For adventurous knitting, I’m working on setting up two yet-to-be-started projects.  The first is a new pullover sweater inspired by dresses worn in two of my favorite classic movies.  A little nipped-in waist, a little detail at the neckline, a little roominess in the shoulders, a little nipped-in cuff.


I’ve got the pattern all worked out and ready to cast on.  I’m planning to use the bag of olive green alpaca yarn that Husband brought me from his trip to Peru several years ago.  I’ve used this yarn before, so I know how it behaves before and after washing, and it’s going to look great.  This project is planned for the selfish knitting phase that starts immediately after the gift knitting phase is complete.  But it’s soooo terribly hard to wait!

The second is a design in progress to set up my last gift knit of this season.  Husband asked for a colorwork hat with a very specific theme.  I can’t confidently proceed with the knitting once the design is finished without getting his input on my plans, so it’s not really falling into the stealth category.  I mean, I’ll probably knit it out of his sight, but it’s not like he doesn’t know it’s coming or won’t have a good idea what it’ll look like.


What does setup look like?  Well, here’s a little swatch I knit up in a similar construction to get an idea of my gauge.  (What’s with the tiny swatches lately? I promise I’m not always this bad!)  And I’m doing some sketches and charting doodles to work out what the individual motifs will look like and how to stack them together.  Graph paper and spreadsheets are a big help for this project.  The general idea is of a Fair Isle inspired beanie, where instead of the usual traditional motifs I’m inserting made-up ones that represent Husband’s interests.  Yep, truly an adventure!

What else?  There is a spinning project, of course.


Like I hinted earlier, this one is full of reds and smokey greys.  I don’t know where this need to spin warm colors has come from, but this is not the only fiber in the spinning queue that includes these hues.  Follow the inspiration.

That’s it for now.  Only 44 days til Christmas – I’ve got to get back to work!  How’s your gift pile looking?

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