Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions Old and New

Today, another year draws to a close, and it's time to take stock. For this purpose, I pulled up my list of New Year's resolutions for 2007. How did I do? Let's take a look!

1. I will finish my cross-stitch UFO. It has been sitting there for 7 years, that's enough.
It's still sitting there, unfinished. I guess this one gets carried over.

2. I will try Fair Isle knitting. This one is left over from last year. What can I say, I'm a coward when it comes to colorwork.
I did it! I finished a stranded colorwork project a couple of days ago and will blog about it as soon as it reaches its recipient. It uses three colors, even, though never more than 2 per row. I'm still freaking proud of this thing.

3. Start holiday gifts in time to actually finish.
Well... kind of. I finished the last gift 1 day after it was due, so that's an almost.

4. Knit more socks.
Yes. I think I knit around 6 pairs this year, including Sock Pal socks and other gift goodies.

5. Knit a lace garment that has shaping in the lace part, not just the stockinette section.
Nope, didn't do that. Another carryover!

6. Learn to crochet properly. By that, I mean learn to crochet something other than a dishcloth.
I did crochet something other than a dishcloth, so I guess that's a yes. I discovered the magic of combining crochet and felting. Stick your almost-FO in the washer and watch your mistakes disappear!

7. Get in shape. Not moving makes my inflammatory arthritis worse. Also, I need to get in shape so I can
I'm doing a bit better, but still not really -- another carryover. But this year, I'm definitely going to

8. do the breast cancer walk.
Too many people I know have either been diagnosed with breast cancer or have had a breast cancer scare this year. I need to do something about it, even if it's not much.

9. Stop being a coward when it comes to applying for jobs. I mean, why?
I did that. Got two offers, accepted one. Yay, me!

10. Eat healthy. Junk food makes the hormones unhappy. Unhappy hormones make me unhappy. It's not a good thing.
I'm doing much better on this one. Now, I eat healthier, and I'm working on switching to a completely vegetarian diet. I feel good when I don't eat meat, and I have a soft spot for fuzzy critters.

Which brings us to this year's resolutions. That was a 50% success rate... it could be worse. In addition to the carryover, I want to

1. Become a vegetarian. I've been eating less and less meat, but the key to success for me is to not replace meat with carbs. I can't eat tofu because it messes up my hormones, the husband is allergic to onions and peppers, it's going to be a challege. But once I get used to doing the cooking and planning a certain way, I'm sure I'll do just fine.

2. Really get cracking on ye olde professional development. Continuing ed rocks.

3. Knit up a large portion of my stash. I'm not ashamed of the amount of yarn I own, but there is so much I bought when I was a beginner and didn't have a clue what I was doing. I mean, 10 skeins of mustard/purple colored chunky yarn? Yes, it was on sale, but... what was I thinking???

4. Knit even more socks.

5. Do a better job keeping in touch with my friends. Friends are a blessing and should not be taken for granted.

6. Try entrelac. It's so pretty.

7. Sell all the clothes I haven't worn for a year or more on e-bay. There are people who would love them and wear them more often. My going out days are pretty much numbered, and I now wear corporate clothes 5 days out of 7. Out with the frilly, lacy stuff, welcome, new corporate goth wardrobe!

I think that's it for this year. Together with the carryover, it brings me to 12 resolutions for 2008 - let's see how I do this time around.

And in case you're wondering what I'll be doing New Year's Eve, I won't be knitting. I'll be playing the Lord of the Rings roleplaying game with Mr. Batty and some friends. Yay for geeky activities on a night when we'd stay up late anyway. Makes me feel like a teenager all over again.

So, to all you people out there, knitters and non-knitters alike: Have a happy, healthy new year. See you again in 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Take a deep breath...

...because the holiday knitting is finally done. The last piece is a little late, but it's washed and blocking and heading out to its recipient as soon as it dries. I'm quite proud of this one and can't wait to show it off!

Loads of pictures are coming up as I finish all the WIPs that have been waiting for the holiday extravaganza to be over. In the meantime, I give you this picture to tide you over:

Confused pirate or witch with black cat familiar? You decide!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

SP Package (lots of pictures)

It's been a while since my last post. Super Secret Christmas Knitting will do that to you, as will the fact that I'm not done yet and must knit longer and faster in order to get everything done. Fortunately, there are other things to put on one's blog, like the fabulous SP package I received from Eryn.

She mentioned sending something for the kitties. It was when Morgana jumped on my lap and wouldn't stop sniffing the package that I began to suspect what that "something" might be.

She wouldn't go away. No amount of shooing, moving, or tempting with cat toys would do the trick. This was a cat on a mission!
"Sniff, sniff. There's something in there, and it's for me. Don't try to mess with my head, woman, I know catnip when I smell it!"

Organic, weapons grade catnip, to be exact.

A pinch of this stuff on their old cat scratcher, and they were sniffing, licking and rolling. These cats sure like their catnip! It's fair to say that this particular package was a big hit with the kitties.

While I didn't start out by sniffing the package, I am just as thrilled with its contents. Look, it's a black bat washcloth, together with some of Eryn's wonderful soap. Almond Biscotti, yum! I never sniffed the package, but I sure sniffed the soap and can't wait to try it.
And those little white pearly things are stitch markers. They look a bit like tiny snowmen, very cute.

Then, there is the key lime taffy and the orange marmalade. And a little flip-flop key chain. Goodies from sunny Florida, sent to snowy New England, and a very nice reminder that this winter storm will end someday, and the sun will come out again.

Before it does, though, we can enjoy the spiced cocoa in the snowman mugs. Sit in front of the fireplace, watch the snow outside, and sip hot chocolate. And I'm taking some time off around Christmas, so I know what we'll be doing with our free time!

There was some chocolate in those mugs, but, um, something happened to it. Can't take pictures of it, sorry! : )

Maybe I should also mention that Eryn can read minds. When I first saw the Ice Queen pattern, I decided I needed to get my hands on some black laceweight mohair and knit one for myself. Now, look what came in the package! Yes, that's black laceweight mohair, together with a note mentioning that it's intended for the Ice Queen. How perfect is that?

By the way, black laceweight mohair has the same effect on Morgana as off-white DB Cashmerino Aran. She can't resist it, which is why I'm holding it in one hand and taking a blurry picture with the other. Every time I tried to set it down, she was on it within a fraction of a second.

There was also a little bell ornament, which serves a double function:

These cats love bells.
And we're all saying thanks to Eryn for sending us a wonderful package. It really is amazing.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Secret Knitting... and another Incident

There has been a lot of secret knitting of late. Holiday gifts, birthday gifts, all sorts of gifts I don't want people to see ahead of time. But now that my sister's birthday package has arrived, I can share at least some of them.

A while ago, I knit an Odessa as an SP gift, and I really liked it. I liked knitting it, and I liked the finished result. Because I have to be able to take my knitting on the train, I decided that it was also the perfect gift for my sister's upcoming birthday, with a few modifications.

For one thing, I left off the beads. Don't get me wrong, I love the beaded version, but I was going for a different look, more everyday item that would go with thick mittens than delicate beaded hat. So instead of the DK weight the pattern calls for, I went with DB Cashmerino Aran, which is soft and cushy and simply wonderful. I wanted something that was really going to keep my sister's ears warm.

Unfortunately, the spiral on top of the head was difficult to photograph, but the stitch definition is lovely.
The biggest risk I took, however, was not with stitch definition. Even though I picked a thicker yarn, I decided to use the needle sizes called for in the pattern. I wanted to knit at a tighter-than-called-for gauge for this yarn to achieve a nice, dense fabric. It worked, and I was so happy the hat didn't turn come out enormous!

Pattern: Odessa (for link, see above)
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in color 300001 (They probably dunk this stuff in catnip to achieve this wonderful off-white; Morgana goes positively berserk when I'm working with this yarn!)
Needles: US #4 and #6 Addi Turbos, knit pretty tightly on purpose
Modifications: No beads and aran weight instead of DK. In spite of the thicker yarn, I knit the 5.5" called for in the pattern before starting my decreases. I wanted a hat that would keep my sister's forehead warm and cover her ears. Warm ears are important.

And, speaking of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, here is a picture of the Fetchings I am knitting out of the same yarn. I went down two needle sizes, and they are still loose. My wrists are tiny (not even 5 inches), my hands are small, and this glove is wobbly instead of stretchy on me. Also, I don't think the picot castoff works for me on this particular project. The glove has more of a sturdy look, and the picots are elegant/playful in a very feminine way that, to me at least, doesn't go with the rest of the glove. I think I'll either cast off in pattern or use EZ's sewn castoff the next time around. I'll also leave out 10 stitches -- if I go down another needle size, I'll be knitting on 3s.

Now, about the Incident. If you look closely (click on the picture), you'll see that some stitches aren't quite even, and that some ends have worked themselves loose. That's not because I'm a sloppy knitter. I was lying on the bed reading when I saw the cats run in. Merlin had something in his mouth, and on closer inspection, turned out to be my Fetching. Mr. Batty, attracted by the horrified sounds coming from the bedroom, ran over and rescued it. The kittens are so lucky they're cute!

This is what keeps them from continuing their existence as a pair of fuzzy slippers. They are so adorable. As for the Fetchings, I'll try felting them a little when both are done. We'll see if the 33% microfiber will be enough to prevent this from happening.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Horcrux Socks and The Usurpers

And now for the prerequisite unflattering shot of my calves. My Horcrux socks are done, and I'm very happy with them, even though they are a bit difficult to photograph. This shot shows off the colors. On the whole, there are more pinks and green-ish hues involved, but these socks are eye-gougingly bright.

Without flash, the pattern is much more visible. The socks are Horcrux Socks because the zigzag lace is reminiscent of the famous Harry Potter scar. I loved knitting this pattern, even though the ribbing took forever. Really, what is it about ribbing? It just keeps going and going and going...

Pattern: Horcrux Socks - another one from the Six Socks Knitalong on Yahoo.groups. You have to be a member to access the pattern, but knitting six pairs of socks in one year is fun.
Needles: US0 Addi Turbo, using Magic Loop
Yarn: One of Ms. Mixie Riot's Yarn Oddities
Pattern Mods: OK, there were two. I added 10 rows of ribbing to the second section because I wanted the shaft of this sock to be longer. With my skinny ankles, the pattern would have been downright invisible if I had placed it any lower. To make the heel sturdier, I slipped every other stitch on the knit rows for the heel flap.

I'm currently working on Fetching fingerless gloves. Technically, they're a quick knit, and I should be done with them. Unfortunately, my chair has been usurped.

They're so cute, I can't just dislodge them!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Big Thanksgiving Post (long, picture heavy)

It's been a while since my last post. I caught a nasty stomach bug, but fortunately, it cleared up just in time for Thanksgiving. So, without further ado, I give you the Big Thanksgiving Post, which also conveniently covers knitty blog stalking assignments 8-10. Yay for multitasking!

Let's get started at the beginning, the morning of November 22nd. First, I put on my cooking frump. You can't spend an entire day cooking in regular clothes, and as you can tell, I'm ready for the cook-a-thon, sweat pants, bat shirt and all.

It's important not to get hungry while cooking. To make sure we weren't going to eat our Thanksgiving dinner piece by piece throughout the day, I decided to whip up some buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. Here they are, slightly too big, slightly misshapen, but very yummy. I usually put blueberries in mine. This time, however, defrosting them was too much work, and I skipped them.

In the Meantime, Merlin helped me pick out recipes from my cookbook and magazine collection. He likes food. A lot.

I got the necessary tools out of the Weird Implements Drawer. We don't have a junk drawer, but we do have this drawer full of Weird Implements. Just in case you're wondering, anything that's not a knife, spoon or a fork qualifies as a Weird Implement. Except the potato peeler. Don't ask me why.

We don't eat canned cranberry sauce. I thought I hated cranberries, but it turns out I just couldn't stand the canned variety. Every year, I make spiced cranberry sauce from scratch. I wish I had a good enough camera to take a picture of the subtle color variations in even one single berry. The intensity and depth of color is incredible, and I wish it were possible to make yarn look that way. And I also wonder if cranberries can be used to dye yarn. Hmmm...

While I am stirring the cranberry sauce and then passing it through a sieve (not necessary, but we prefer smooth sauce to the other variety), Mr. Batty checks our herb situation. We make a turkey with thyme butter and our stuffing has rosemary and basil in it. It's very yummy and we make it every year, even though it appears to be cursed.

A few times, I burned the pine nuts instead of toasting them. It's incredible how quickly they go from completely white to blackened. You have to watch them like a hawk and take them off the heat immediately when they're golden. This year, I almost burned the bread but didn't, and the pine nuts came out lovely. I put them in a bowl, then put the bowl on top of the refrigerator because we needed the counter space. And then I opened the refrigerator... not realizing that the bowl was balanced between the refrigerator itself and the refrigerator door. It came down with a crash, spilling pine nuts everywhere.

At least the bowl didn't break, and we managed to salvage enough to make our stuffing. Pine nuts are expensive. Keeping the cats out of them was a bit of a challenge, but we managed.

In the end, all the hard work paid off. Here is the entire feast: organic turkey with thyme butter, gingersnap gravy, country bread stuffing with parmesan, pine nuts and raisins, mashed potatoes, green beans, and apple pie.

Wait... something is missing. We almost forgot to serve the cranberry sauce!

There. And just in case you're wondering... Those are now Thanksgiving bat placemats. Bats are an all season item, as far as I'm concerned. Bat is my favorite color.

We stuffed ourselves silly. Even the kittens were tired after a whole day of cooking. They only got their usual kibbles, but here is Miss Morgana, taking a little nap on the couch. The post-feast fullness is contagious.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Horcruxes and Blog Stalking

I didn't feel like starting more than one colorwork pattern this week, so I started some Horcrux Socks instead. I know Ms. Pixie Riot is a bit Harry Potter fan, and it only seemed fitting that her fabulously bright yarn should be knit into these socks. It was surprisingly hard to get a good picture of these socks. In real life, the colors are much brighter than this. They have a real day-glo quality to them, which makes them fabulous.

The pattern is much more visible without flash, but the colors fade even more. This yarn is just right-in-your-face bright!

Finally, let me catch up on some blog stalking. Because I'm so far behind, I'm just randomly starting at week 7, the oldest picture of me. This is not the oldest picture of me in existence, but it's the oldest one I have available. It's on a cup my friend Nadine had made for me.

Now I would like to say that I am the cute blonde kid in the picture, but that's Nadine. I am the slightly peeved-looking black-haired kid in the 70's outfit. Here, have a closer look. This picture-of-a-picture actually looks better than the original because you can't see the thick horn-rimmed glasses. Yes, I was stylin'!

The dress is my favorite dress ever, by the way. It had holes in it, my mother threw it into the trash several times, and I fished it out every time. Why? Because it would twirl beautifully when I spun in a circle. At the time, that was more important than holes or the fact that it looked threadbare. It twirled.

Today, I'm going yarning with lindydiva. I'll have more to show you after that, which is good, because we are entering the time of year when at least part of my knitting is secret. There are other FO's, but I can't post pictures here because I know that most of the recipients of my knitting know this blog exists.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Et tu, Morgana?

I was going to talk about knitting today. But there was another cat and yarn related incident, one that needs to be shown to the world because it took a cat mere seconds to turn one of these pretty balls of off-white yarn

into this tangled mess. This is one ball of yarn. It looked like two.

The perpetrator? I staked out my knitting bag, and this is what I saw: Morgana sticking her fuzzy black head into the black tote I've been using to take my knitting to work. Where the yarn was. For some reason, this kitten is completely incapable of resisting Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. It brings out the inner lunatic in her like no other yarn. I wonder what's in it.

Mr. Batty had previously rescued said yarn from her, but as we see, she keeps coming back for more.
The reason they don't get turned into slippers for crimes against yarn and knitting? Look at this. Aren't they cute?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Spooky Flowers and ILG Socks

Halloween was fun. We had some trick or treaters, I ate candy at work and at home, Mr. Batty brought home this wonderful spooky bouquet, which has strands of fiber stuff that blinks. The blinking was hard to capture in full light, but here is a picture of the pretty colors,

and here is a darker picture with the blinky strands, the little dots to the right. They blink on and off and are a bright orange.

Friday, I was home sick. Mr. Batty had been coughing and keeping us both awake, and yesterday, I felt so bad I couldn't drag myself out of bed to go to work. It wasn't until about 11 that I made it to my comfy chair for some knitting, and I finished the I Love Gansey socks for the Six Socks Knitalong. It was a fun knit, in spite of some feline... issues.

Oh, and did you notice how the heart pattern on my favorite frumpy nightie matches the heart pattern on the socks? Did you?

Yes, that's me, all style and class when I'm sick and flopped around the house.

I haven't blocked them yet, but the damage Merlin did is staying inside the sock for now and is not visible, so that is good. And I am very happy with the look and feel of these socks, very Gansey, like a comfy, gray sweater.

Pattern: I Love Gansey Socks, available to members of the Six Socks Knitalong on Yahoo.Groups. You have to be a member to access the pattern, but there are some really good ones, and a new one comes out every 2 months!
Yarn: Trekking XXL in color 291, a dark gray with slubs in yellow, red, green, blue... very gray, yet also very colorful and fun to knit with. I really like this yarn.
Needles: US 0 circs
Mods: None, except that there are only 2 repeats of the heart pattern on the foot because my feet are so small.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Have a Happy Halloween, everybody! It's my favorite holiday, not that this comes as too big of a surprise. Mr. Batty brought home a pretty bouquet of orange, purple and green-ish flowers last night, complete with black and orange paper and little fiber light things that blink orange. So pretty, I couldn't stop looking at it.

This being trick or treat time, people coming here should not have to leave entirely empty-handed. So, without further ado, here's a little something for everybody. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween goodies!

Some days are just better than others. Friday night, I got back from work, and a package full of Halloween goodies was waiting for me. Look at the spoilage! Two of my favorite kinds of chocolate, some orange tape with bats, stitch markers, a sheep pad and sheep soap that has a wonderful vanilla smell.

And then there is this scarf/belt/headband/all-purpose fabulous item. Such pretty colors, and the sheen is simply incredible. Because it all came in a cardless package from DeKalb, IL, I'm guessing that my benefactor is none other than CelticCoyote from the knitty board. Thank you so much for all the great stuff, it really made my day. And the chocolate... well, most of it is gone.


Several people have asked about my cat and the consequences of his encounter with my knitting. Here he is, the sock shredder, having fun in a laundry basket. It's one of his favorite toys.

He's lucky he is cute -- and that the sock damage was hideable. With wear and stretching, it will probably even back out. I haven't tried yet, but I will as soon as the second sock is done.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Incident

So, about the Incident. Let's first start with a little bit of background story. I've been having a fairly bad time lately, knitting-wise. Seams that don't look right, projects that leave me uninspired, or set-in sleeves that don't fit into the armholes on my Tangerine Twist because I decided to try seaming without blocking. See where my finger is peering out of a hole? That hole is created by extra sleeve fabric. Block before you seam, people. It'll avoid this unfortunate scenario.

But I digress. The Incident started out pretty harmlessly. I had finally knit something I really liked, something that made me feel better about my knitting. I was happy. Here it is, a shot of my I Love Gansey sock for the Six Socks Knitalong. You can't see the heart pattern or intricate cables very well in this picture, but you get the idea.

This will be important in a little while. I left the house for a trip to Jo-Ann's because I had a coupon. I love coupons, particularly when they make knitting books affordable. I was very happy when I came home and talked about knitting. To this, Mr. Batty said something along the lines of, "Oh, the cat did something with your knitting bag." My heart stopped for a second. "It had something to do with that gray sock you were making."
Gray sock. Gray sock. Gray sock. There's only one gray sock in my knitting bag, and this is it.

I lunge for my knitting bag as Mr. Batty tells the story. "I came up the stairs and saw the funniest thing. Merlin was on the landing. He was standing on his hind lags and he had your sock clutched between his front paws with the claws dug in. He was spinning in circles like a hammer thrower at an athletic event. It was so funny!"

These may not have been his exact words, because the entire time, I'm frantically digging through my knitting bag thinking, oh no, my sock, my sock!

I found it. The damage was not as extensive as it could have been. Once I calmed down enough, I noticed that most of the stitches he had pulled out of my beautifully even stockinette and my pretty cables were not entire stitches but single plies. I pushed them into the inside of the sock, and even though the yarn is superwash, I'm hoping that wear and blocking will do its work and pull the damaged plies back into place.

There is always hope.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Generosity, bats and an Incident

The generosity of knitters never ceases to surprise me. I was having a crappy day, the kind that starts out with the train being late, continues with the computer at work crashing, and ends with dinner not turning out quite the way it's supposed to. I was less than happy when I noticed a padded envelope I hadn't been expecting. When I opened it, I found this sign and a great Halloween card from Sue. It made me smile. Thank you, Sue, for turning a sucky day into great one.

The next day, as if one person caring enough to think of me during my favorite holiday season, I received a package full of Halloween stuff -- most of it bats. And we all know how I feel about bats! And in case you're wondering what the little spider web bag contains...

... take a look at this. Sock yarn hand-dyed by the fabulous Ms. Pixie Riot herself, in my favorite colors, named Spooky Girlfriend. I'm swooning. I'm groping. I feel truly blessed to have such generous people in my life.

Thank you, Pixie. I'm serious, you and Sue made me feel all warm and fuzzy. there is just something special in knowing that there are people who care enough to think of me for no other reason except that they're nice, thoughtful people who care.

Speaking of bats, I bought one of Momma Monkey's sock knitting bags (another one... I think I'm addicted). This one I couldn't resist. I mean, bats! And it matches my bat dress.

And finally, the Incident. Right now, I'm just a little too upset to write about it. Let's just say that this picture is a clue to what happened. Yes, this is my cat Merlin, and he is about to stick his face into the bag I use to lug my knitting to work.

But more of that when the impulse to turn him into a gray and white pair of fuzzy slippers has passed. Not that I'd actually do that, but right now, the thought is not entirely unappealing.