Month in Review: December

Adios, December and 2011! It’s been a productive month, and a productive year.

I did finish a pair of Wishbone Socks (blog post coming soon).

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I finished a Maile Cardigan.

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As well as my Chambourcin.

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And I knit another Due North.

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I broke out a crochet hook even!

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And I started on a Parseltongue Hat, which I may finish today to include in December’s count.

I did bring in a good amount of yarn as well, but mostly in the process of stocking up for next year’s yarn diet. Let’s just leave it at that.

I’m looking forward to 2012 and having a little more freedom with my knitting goals, while hopefully creating a little more wiggle room in my stash bins. What are you looking forward to in 2012? I hope everyone’s having a fun yet safe New Year’s!

Looking Forward

Traditionally, this time of year—after the holidays, right before we toss out the calendars—is a time for reflection and planning resolutions or goals or simply wishes for the upcoming year. I’m no exception. I think creating goals, whether they’re yearly, monthly, weekly, or even hourly, are important to us as human beings; they give us something to strive for, something to attain, a reason to get out of bed every morning. I know there’s a sense of urgency and peer pressure to come up with lofty resolutions for each new year, and I think that’s bunk, but I don’t see anything wrong with creating goals whenever you feel like it.

Last year, I set myself the goal of knitting a pair of socks every month. I did not quite make it, though I did knit quite a few pairs of socks this year. Nothing bad will happen because I didn’t meet this goal, and something good came from it in the form of learning and warm feet. I learned that I hate telling myself what to do, in terms of my fun, relaxing knitting hobby. Before this, I knew very well that I hate being told what to do in general. I suppose I didn’t extend that to my knitting life. Feeling like I had to knit a pair of socks every month, that I was “failing” if I wasn’t constantly working on socks, was such a chore and a bore and I hated it. It tarnished (but did not kill completely) my love for sock knitting.

One of my big plans for this new year is to go to Paris. I’ve been trying to go to Paris for nigh on ten years, and something has always come up when the time seemed ripe for traveling abroad. Knocking on wood that this year is The Year, and that in nine months or so, I’ll be going on a little mini-hiatus while exploring the City of Lights.

As part of my larger goal of getting to Paris, I need to set smaller, personal goals for practicing self-restraint and self-discipline. SO. BORING. I know. But I need money to pay for this trip, and the easiest and least painful (in that it doesn’t involve selling body parts) way to have money is to tighten the reins on my budget and spending habits. That part doesn’t largely apply to this knitting blog, except that I have in the past spent a ridiculous amount of money on yarn each year. (“Ridiculous” may be a relative term.)

So for 2012, I’m not setting goals that are specific to what I’m knitting. Once again, I am vowing to not buy any yarn, with two exceptions:

  1. I can buy yarn if it is absolutely necessary to finish a project. There are a few projects in my queue where I know I need one more skein of yarn. Take my Tilted Duster for instance. I’m pretty sure I’ll need one more skein of Cascade 220 to knit it; I’m just trying to find a place that has this color (I suspect The Loopy Ewe will likely restock it, maybe when their brick and mortar store is open in a couple of weeks). If nothing else, I discovered Amazon sells it. That was an eye opener.
  2. I can buy yarn in Paris.

That’s it, end of story. No more yarn coming into my house of my own will. (Aside from possibly the yarn I’ve bought with Christmas money to make specific projects in 2012.) Again, if someone gifts me with yarn, that will totally come into my house, because otherwise I would be RUDE. Though if someone feels the need to gift me with a knitting-related thing, I have a fancy pattern wishlist queue over on Ravelry. Not angling. Just saying.

Related to that goal of not buying yarn is to knit from my queue. I’ve spent the last few weeks matching queued projects to stashed yarn, or adding projects to my queue to knit with stashed yarn. I’ve got more than 170 projects with patterns in hand and yarn to match that I can knit over the course of the year. If I get bored with or bogged down on a particular project, I can just go shopping in my “ready-to-go” queue, or pick out a skein of yarn from the many residing in my apartment and go from there.

To add to this fun (and yeah, this planning and coming up with a way to make it easier to resist yarn purchases has been fun), I’m going to see if I can knit a half-marathon’s worth of yardage out of my stash. That’s 23,056 yards of yarn. An average of 1,921 yards every month. Nevermind that my average for the past four months was just over 1,400 yards. Details, details.

Along the way, I’ll also be trying out new-to-me techniques, such as steeking (eeking is more like it—scissors! knitted fabric! noooooo!) and double-knitting. And hopefully developing more productive coping skills than “Stressful day! Buy yarn!” Not that there’s anything wrong with mechanism; indeed, yarn is, in general, much preferred to other coping mechanisms. That thinking simply doesn’t jive with my overall plans for the year.

So here we are, a few days left in 2011. What are your plans for the next year, knitting or otherwise? Are you going to set some sort of goal or milemarker for yourself?

Sweaterday: Miniature Edition

What’s that you say? Sweaterday? But I finished a sweater earlier this week! This is true, but I finished a second sweater this week.

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I knit the Maile Sweater by Nikki Van De Car for the same baby-to-be who is getting the panda bear and the crochet blanket. Worked in a fingering weight yarn, this sweater should be a good weight for a baby living in Florida—not too heavy but hopefully warm enough for those times that the temperature does drop. The sweater is unblocked in all of these photos, because I finished it Wednesday night and didn’t have time to block and dry, but I imagine it will probably grow a little bit.

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The yarn is hand-dyed by my friend Lizz, so I don’t know a lot about the details of it. I love how it striped a bit in the sleeve.

And of course, my favorite place to add detail on a baby sweater is in the buttonband. I went diving into my button stash and came out with these adorable little white buttons.

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I’m so excited to give these gifts to the mom-to-be. I hope she can use the blanket and the sweater in Florida, at least a little bit. It’s about 80° right now, if that gives you any indication about the weather in Florida’s “winter.”

Back to work on my socks!

Friday Finds

Maybe you’re rushing around trying to finish gifting (dare we go so far as to say finish gift knitting?). Maybe you, like me, have given up gifting knitted items to people who live in pseudo-tropical climates (though I did say I’d knit an earflap hat for my dad for those few times when he might go some place cold and needs his ears kept warm). If you’re in my camp, hopefully you’re enjoying today by knitting selfishly for yourself—I finally cast on for this month’s pair of socks. You know, with ten days left, that sounded like a good idea. Ten days of no work? This can totally happen.

Whatever you’re up to today, here’s a short and sweet Friday Finds. I’ve got socks to knit and family to hug. Not simultaneously, I don’t think they’d appreciate a needle tip in the back.

  • Normally I go with the fake, pre-lit tree, but this does have a certain appeal! Giant wool Christmas tree, story by the Daily Mail.
  • Please take a peek at Gabrielle Henry’s Faultline shawl ($4). One dollar from every sale goes directly to the Red Cross New Zealand, and the Kiwis, still recovering from the massive earthquakes earlier this year, just had smaller quakes in the Christchurch area this week.

  • I love this. There are not enough words to tell you how much. Boreal (£3.95) by Kate Davies.

  • Yeah, I’m on another stranded colorwork kick. Olafsdottir ($7.95) by Carol Sunday.

  • I love the pattern on these fingerless mitts, though I would be tempted to turn them into mittens. Nadolig Fingerless Mitts (£3.95) by Kim.

  • Absolutely delicious twisted stitches in this shawl from Lily Go. Rendezvous ($5.50)

  • Quoth the Raven ($16 collection) by Lisa Mutch is all around stellar. Be sure to look into Nevermore (pictured), Lenore, Plutonian, and Ominous.

  • On the Right ($5) by Debbie O’Neill is squishy, stripey garter stitch set at odds.

FO: Chambourcin

It’s done! The photos are terrible. Still, here’s a taste of what it looks like. I’m hoping to snag my friend’s husband to take some proper shots later next week. Here’s my Chambourcin.

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The bottom edge is a bit roll-y, but it is stockinette and it does have to deal with my belly, so I’m not terribly surprised. And I really need to remember to add length to my sweaters. This is a common problem I have, but I just get impatient and want these pieces to be done already and then they end up just a smidgen short.

Not so short that I will not be living in this sweater for the next few months. Oh no. I have a wonderful collection of camisoles to wear under it, no problem there.

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As you can see, I also need to do some work on the neckline edge. I’ll probably hit it with a steam iron, though likely not until I get to my parents’ house, as tonight and tomorrow morning are a little busy with last minute travel preparations and trying to finish a baby cardigan before I leave (because I’m insane).

The yarn (Sweet Georgia’s Tough Love Sock in the Berry Tart colorway) is awesome and so soft. I love the way the colors flowed together throughout the whole project. The pattern (Chambourcin by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud) is wonderfully written, with clear directions for every step of the way. And it’s easy to modify this to fit your body. The pattern is intended to be knit with a bit of negative ease at the bust to help keep the fronts separate and open. Based on my measurements and the fact that I carry most of my weight in front, if I’d just knit the 46¼” I may have ended up with a bit of positive ease. To combat this and knit more to my measurements, I knit the 42½” size for the back and the 46¼” size for the front, and it worked out perfectly (horizontally, anyway, ignoring the aforementioned length issues that I have).

And just for fun, here’s a wider shot with sneaky Vera photobomb. She could not be more bored.

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FO: Due North

This is actually Due North, take 2, but I knit my first polar bear before I had this blog.

A couple of notes about this pattern before I get into this particular version. Due North was published in Family Circle Easy Toys in 2005. It’s now out of print, but Amazon (which I linked to) does have used copies available. I was able to find a copy at a library in Florida, but not quite fast enough to knit the first bear before I had to return the book, so I copied the pattern and have jealously guarded it since. If you like to try before you buy, you can use the Ravelry library search function to see if it’s in a library system near you.

Enough boring blathering, there are pandas to talk about.

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Yes, this time I knit the bear “panda-style,” using black yarn for the legs and white for the belly and face. It’s not completely accurate—a panda’s back legs are black, but not their rump—but this was easier than dealing with intarsia and again, babies shouldn’t be judgy.

In the first incarnation, I used Berroco Plush. I still had a skein of white, so I was hoping to find a skein of black to knit this panda, but they’d discontinued the black dyelot, and as of today, I see they’ve discontinued this yarn entirely. I had been searching for another yarn, and it went against all my yarny principles—was I really looking for a synthetic eyelash, chenille, or bouclé yarn? Yes, yes I was.

I found the replacement in Trendsetter Zucca. And as weird as it is to buy this yarn when I tend to stick to wool and wool-blends only, it makes for a fantastic little bear.

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So fantastic in fact, that this little bear almost did not make it in to the box I sent home to my parents house (I’m hoping to see baby-to-be’s mother over the holiday break and give it to her in person). So fantastic that I had to order more of the black yarn so I can make at least two more pandas for other friends who will be having babies in 2012. So fantastic that I’m considering ordering one more ball of the black yarn so I can make a panda for myself.

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This pattern (and I did find a slightly different version at Patternfish, though I think I like the look of the original more) is really awesome to make. You start at the back, with the back legs and tushy, then you knit forward to the front of the head and then down and back to the underside of the belly and back legs. It’s really hard to describe, but trust me, it works.

I find that it’s helpful to knit the yarn to a tighter-than-called-for gauge to make sure the fabric is dense enough to contain the stuffing. With the Zucca, I started knitting this on size 10s, but the fabric was too loose and open. So I ripped (let me just say this yarn is surprisingly easy to rip back) and re-knit on size 8s. The resulting fabric is still squishy and used less yarn (one ball and 15 grams of a second in the black, less than half a ball of the white), yet dense enough to contain the fiberfill. The panda itself is super soft and cuddly and I hope the little one in question is able to love on it for a long time.

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You know, this little bear is going to be at my parents house while I’m there. Maybe I can just buy a panda for the baby…