Monday, July 29, 2013

Gone in a Flash

We spent the weekend with my grandparents across the state while my brother was in town visiting. It was a really good weekend. I love spending time with my family, but now that I'm in grad school, I get less and less time to do that, even though they are so close. I'm going to try to make an effort to get out there at least once a month once school starts up again. The last time I visited before this weekend was in December. :S Comps and a million students just ate up all of my free time!

While we were there I had hoped to take photos of the sweater I finished a while ago. I wore it all day Saturday (it was chilly!), but didn't get a single shot of it.

What we photographed instead was hummingbirds!

I love hummingbirds. My grandparents live out in the country and they have always had an assortment of wild critters around to entertain us. Hummingbirds have always been the favorite (with wild turkeys a close second because they gobble back at you). We watched them chase each other around and fight with the biggest bumblebee I have ever seen for rights to the hummingbird feeder. We could have watched them for hours, but there was visiting to be done. :)

It was great to see my grandparents (two sets), my aunts, and my brother. But, now it's back to work! Not much longer before school starts up and I've got a serious deadline to meet before that comes!

I hope you all had a fabulous weekend. The weather was so incredibly perfect. It still is! Did you make the most of it?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Start Your Sweaters

Listen? Do you hear it? The sound of hundreds of knitting needles clacking away?

Today is the beginning of the much-anticipated Summer Sweater Knit-a-long, hosted by luvinthemommyhood. The Ravelry group has been abuzz with excitement. I haven't looked today, but I suspect everyone is so busy casting-on that it might be a bit quieter than normal. :)

I have a rather extensive list of sweaters to finish and start this go-round. We'll see how many I get through. Monday I showed you the little black box in my newly organized corner that has yarn ready to cast-on in it. Here's what's in it, all for the SSKAL:

On the left is two skeins of Quince and Co. Tern in a new color, Syrah, for Wispy. The black and white skeins are The Fibre Company Canopy Worsted in Orchid and Obsidian for Frontenac (which doesn't really count in this KAL because it doesn't have sleeves). The purple skeins at the bottom are Sundara Petite Sock Yarn in Lunar Eclipse for Buckwheat. You've likely seen the pink cakes before. They are a mystery yarn, 100% wool, for a design I drafted up just last night. I'll share more of the details and process with you as I work on it. :)

I can't cast anything on until my Celestarium is done (which will be very, very soon!) and I might finish my Deco and/or Sybil before I cast anything on, but I'll likely start with Buckwheat, then the design, Frontenac, and Wispy once I start casting things on. As my poster indicates: I want to believe I can do it all. ;) We'll see!

Want to join us? You should! Go sign up at the link I provided at the top of this post and visit the Ravelry group! The ladies there are really great and really chatty. Whether you join or not, it is time to start thinking of sweater season. Got any patterns in mind for yourself?

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Corner Office

John is a very tidy person and I am not. I'm the kind of person who piles things up in corners until I find the energy to get around to sorting them and putting them away. These things are largely books for school and paperwork like bills and stuff. About a year ago John was kind enough to set up my desk for me in a place where I could get a lot of use out of it. I did. For a semester. After that it became a book and paperwork pile collector. He bought a bookshelf for me today and rearranged my little corner into a very nice workstation so that I can work on my dissertation in the coming weeks, months, and years. I love it! I just hope I can keep it tidy. :)

I've had a hard time finding a place where we could appreciate the terrarium. The white bookcase does a very nice job helping highlight its green insides.

John was secondly concerned that I have enough space to store some yarn because my stash has taken over much more of the corner of the living room than is allotted to it. The little black canvas box on the bottom shelf is perfect for some skeins that are fixin' To Be Knit Very Soon. I'll show those skeins to you Wednesday as they are quite related to the beginning of the Summer Sweater KAL. I will likely move my swift and ball winder down to my new work space too and try not to let all the knitterly goodness distract me from my school work...too much.

My knitting space has always been the space where I can see the tv best from the couch, but since John has been making more room in his den for his books and moving mine to other places in the house where I can get to them more easily, I've been thinking more about different knitting spaces, like a new one upstairs, right near my newly-homed knitting magazines and books in a big, comfy chair with a perfect view of the western horizon. What can I knit up there? I don't know! That's why I haven't knit up there yet! Something mindless yet dreamy, I think.

I've been dreaming of the perfect house a lot recently (the black and white composition book on my desk will be dedicated to those ideas) and knitting spots have definitely been a dominate thought. Do you have a dedicated crafting space in which you only do that craft? Or are you like me and just do it...wherever? A comfy chair in front of the tv? A window seat? A yarn room? I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Dress

At Last

Pattern: Lacy "New Look" Dress by Claire Montgomerie in Knitting Vintage
Yarn: Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk in Natural
Needles: US 5, 4, and 3
Project Page

I can get married now, yay! It isn't planned for a while (or at all, really), but now when it inches closer, I'll have one less thing to worry about! It's not quite complete as a wedding dress, but the knitting is all done. I envision a sash with flowers (I pinned one), a tulle underskirt (pinned a pattern for that too), and a champagne slip. Simple, yet cute. Just what I wanted!

I have nothing good to say about this pattern, so I won't say anything at all (Thumper taught me that!). Check out the project page for my rants and modifications. Right now the sleeves are a touch too tight, so I'll probably have to redo the bind-off. Otherwise, the fit is great!

The yarn is also pretty fabulous. It's incredibly soft and has a wonderful halo. Of course, being lace weight, the dress is also very light and airy. The silk gives it nice strength. I hope it will keep the dress from growing. It will be stored folded up, just in case.

Since it's my wedding dress, I can't share any full modeled pictures. You'll just have to wait until the wedding day photos. Whenever that will be.... :)

We need eloping suggestions. National parks, spots not frequented by people in overwhelming crowds, preferably in the west. Have any favorites?

For more FO Friday posts, visit Tami's Amis!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Big Stash, Big Memories

Besides grafting the bodice of my wedding dress to the skirt (woohoo!), I'm not working on much knitting, per se. Instead, I've been working on updating my Ravelry Stash. It's gotten rather enormous in the last year, but last week it got an abnormally large number of additions because of the sad news that the yarn shop at which I worked was closing its doors.

Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool XL

Last Tuesday, Crazy Girl Yarn Shop closed its doors. It was a sad day and a crazy few days leading up to it. Saying goodbye to our regulars was the worst, but seeing crowds upon crowds of people coming in for one last purchase was sort of nice. We hadn't been so busy in at least a year. Many of us (employees and customers alike) are still sort of in shock, but moving forward. We have generated a knitting guild chapter in the area to fill in the hole for regular knitting groups who met at the shop. Hopefully these new meetings will take off like they did at the shop.


It's not like there aren't any other knitting shops in town. There are three, actually, but each has a quite different atmosphere and clientele than Crazy Girl did. I always have and will continue to visit them, but I know none of them will be able to fill the void that Crazy Girl has left in me. I have gone every week since I moved here five years ago (it was just a few minutes' walk away!). I got hired because I was always there anyway. I absolutely loved working there. I met so many incredible people! I hope I can keep in touch with them all.

Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light

In any case, I bought too much yarn last week and these are only one-skein samples of the piles I picked up. I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with some of it, but as long as I have it to remind me of the shop, I'm happy to keep it stored away until that project comes up. :)

I swear up and down that I will have an FO for you Friday! Either a sweater, mitts, or The Dress!

For more WIP Wednesday posts, please visit Tami's Amis!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Fuzzies

I've been neglecting the blog. Summer is cuddling me with the sweet embrace of laziness and I just can't say no! I've had a sweater finished for two weeks except for the buttons. This week! I said that last week and the week before, though, so...I guess we'll see. :)

The other thing that's been keeping me away and contributed to the craziness of last weekend was this little guy:

This is Teddy. He might be temporary, he might be in his forever home. We haven't decided yet. We do know he is super cute! A friend of a friend found him wandering around outside on Independence Day, starving and parched. He took good care of him, but knew he couldn't keep him, so my friend called me. The vet says he's pretty healthy, just underweight. The big bunnies aren't too impressed with him, but maybe with time.

My grandma says our house is going to be a zoo in no time. John and I don't mind that idea much. :) Three super cute bunnies sure cuts into the knitting time, though!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Fullest of Weekends

My weekend was so full of new beginnings, fond farewells, and happy traditions, that it all spilled into the week and I didn't have a chance to decide which to share with you first! I'll share them all, it just might take a couple of weeks. :)

First things first, though. It's been about a week and I've discovered that I need to change a few tips in my terrarium tutorial. They will be changed in the original post for anyone who follows the tutorial. I have some mold that could have been avoided to some degree, I think, but it seems to be a regular problem for terrarium builders, so I won't worry about it overmuch. One of my plants had a few dead leaves on them and those should all have been pulled off before the plant went into the jar. You also probably don't need to add more than literally a drop or two of water. If you over-water (like I did!), just leave the lid off and it will dry out very slowly. You can poke a finger into the jar and test the warmth and humidity or just watch over the days to see the condensation inside dissipate.

I'm not terribly worried about the mold because it's natural and it's only on the dead stuff, so I don't think it'll take over. I have read that it take a terrarium a few weeks to stabilize. I hope it does! I'm really attached to it! I can't wait to make another. :)

In knitting news, I'm almost done with the skirt of my wedding dress (thank God!). That means the bodice is
next. I'm hoping it'll go much more quickly than the skirt. I'm ready for it to be done! I want to start something new so badly. The Summer Sweater KAL with luvinthemommyhood is starting up soon, so I just have to be patient.

Anyhow, enough about me. How was your weekend? Crazy like mine or just nice and relaxing? What did you work on?

All the pictures have nothing to do with anything in the post, just random pretties I snapped in the garden I'm tending this month while its people are away.

Friday, July 5, 2013

What to Do with Your Straight Needles

I have a pretty big collection of straight metal knitting needles. I sometimes use them, but generally find that they can make my knitting a little uneven, so they have been hanging out upstairs, collecting dust. I put a couple of them to good use last week...making a jar terrarium!

There are a million tutorials out there and they all say the same thing, so I'm just adding to the plethora, but I wanted to share because, though I am a crafty lady, I seldom have time to do them and share.

It all started with this bottle. We bought some Martinelli's Apple Juice a while ago (so good!) mostly for the bottle. John asked me what I was going to do with the bottle, so I hit the interwebs and found a solution! The first thing I did was remove the label by soaking the bottle in soapy water for just a couple minutes.

I then assembled the necessary ingredients and set to work! You'll need some rocks/pebbles, activated charcoal, sphagnum moss, woodland moss (or any kind of living moss), potting soil or orchid mix (I have the later), a trowel, and small plants. I forgot to photograph the knitting needles, but you'll need those too. I used a US 8 and a US 13, but it doesn't matter as long as you have at least one biggish sized one. :)

First, a layer of rocks for drainage. The sound of the rocks hitting the bottom of the jar made me fear for the jar's safety, so I tipped the jar on its side and gently poured the rocks in with the trowel. I poked the rocks around with a knitting needle until they were pretty flat and I couldn't see the bottom of the jar through the layer.

Then, a layer of activated charcoal. It will filter the air, so it doesn't get stinky and moldy in there. I think I probably should have put it down over the next layer instead of under it. Will it matter? Probably not. I couldn't get it spread very evenly, but it should just cover the rock layer.

Next, a sphagnum moss layer, again leveled with a few pushes of the head-end of the knitting needle (as opposed to the pointed end). You could do a layer of the orchid mix (a bark mixture) here instead if you have potting soil for the top layer. They both wick moisture and hold it, keeping the jar humid. John repotted his birthday ficus and used all the potting soil for that, so I only had the orchid mix for the top layer.

Here is the fun part, which I, regrettably, tackled so excitedly that I forgot to photograph it! :P In any case, I took the first plant from it's little plastic pot and removed enough soil from the bottom and sides of the root ball that it would sit low in the jar (not a lot of headroom in mine, but yours might be taller) and be narrow enough to fit through the mouth. If there are any dead leaves on the plant, pluck those off before you put it in the jar. They could get moldy. Once in, I positioned the plant where I wanted it by nudging it around with the knitting needle. Then, I used the trowel to pour in the soil I removed from the root ball and pushed it around the roots and tamped it down guessed it: the knitting needle! A larger sized knitting needle is helpful here because they tend to have a larger flat end, which tamps soil much easier than a smaller one.

I ended up having enough soil from the plants themselves that I didn't need to use the orchid mix at all, but you could use it instead of soil, as I had initially planned.

The final step is the woodland moss! Pour it in and move it around with the knitting needle. You can decently aim where you want things to land by tipping the jar and pouring with the trowel. The knitting needle is good for shaking things off the plants, too. I found a smaller needle works slightly better for that purpose. :)

This gets the sides dirty, though, so clean the inside when you are done pouring dirt and moss in. I speared a paper towel onto the smaller knitting needle and swished it along the worst spots. I would advise taping the paper towel into a ball on the end after you spear it so it doesn't slide up and down. That wasn't very helpful.

Add a drop or two of water (the soil and plants are likely moist enough to sustain the jar), add a couple of decorative elements, and you've got a cute little landscape in a pretty jar! I only added a pile of rocks, but I found an Etsy shop full of handmade terrarium decorations. She actually sells terrariums made with the single-serving bottles of this same apple juice, if you don't want to go to the trouble of making one yourself!

TIPS: You might want to start with a jar that has an opening big enough for your fingers like a mason jar or lidded glass vase. This was manageable, but might be too fiddly for some, especially if you want to put tiny decorations in just the right spot. Keep it out of direct sunlight so you don't cook the plants. Use tropical plants in bottles or jars with narrow necks and keep the lid on so they will create and live on their own humidity. If you get any signs of mold (it is normal in small quantities), take the lid off and let it dry out a bit. It needs very little added moisture to survive. You can make a terrarium with cacti and succulents, but they need an open, ventilated container to keep dry. Take the container with you when you buy plants. My nursery had a terrarium plant section. We just had to hold the plant up to the jar to see if it was too tall for the jug or test the leaves to see if they would bunch up enough to get through the neck. Go for variety in genus, height, color, and texture to make it really dynamic. Don't think too hard about it. Dirt and plants don't demand perfection. :)

My favorite part of this project was that I only had to buy the plants and the woodland moss! I have a couple orchids, so I have sphagnum moss and orchid mix for them. The stones are from last year's failed flower potting event and John uses the charcoal in his fish filters (go to a pet store or landscaper for small quantities of it!). If you are a gardener or plant-owner, you doubtless are equally or better equipped than I to do this on the cheap.

Sorry for the super long and photo-laden post! If you try one yourself, I want to see it, so let me know!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Tough One

Here's the update the world has been waiting for! The wedding dress.

It's going. I took a break from it last week to finish a sweater (which still isn't quite done, but almost!). We are getting on much better than we started out. :P After twists and lace mess-ups, frogs and tricky patterned decreases, we seem to be in great shape. In fact, all shaping is done for the skirt! The next trick will be trying to figure out how much it will grow in length after blocking so I know I've knit it long enough. I might just have to block it before I go any further.

It's turning out very nicely. I'm not crazy in love with it, but there is still hope. :) And a lot of knitting! I can't wait to go out and find the perfect slip for it. I can't decide which not-quite-white shade to go for. Silver? Ivory? Blush? I'll just have to see what's out there, I guess.

This thing has given me so much trouble already that it better be fabulous when it's done! Have you ever struggled and fought with a project? How did you feel about it when you were done with it? Or did you bother to finish it? :)

I hope you all (in the U.S.) have a wonderful Independence Day! Be safe, knit well!

For more WIP Wednesday posts, visit Tami's Amis!