Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Wishes

Santa has been visited ...

The crafts have been crafted ...

All the decorations are just right ...

And the sweets are ready to eat ...

Now it is time to rest, relax, and wait.

All the best of Christmas to you and a happy, blog-filled 2008!

Holiday Traditions Exchange

With all the Christmas knitting and stomach flu going around our house, I've been a bad blogger. A week ago I received a marvelous box from my Holiday Traditions Exchange partner, Sara. What a wonderful box of goodies we received! Even the wrapping was fun - bits of Christmas-colored fleece remnants. Genius idea.

The kids' ornaments were so nice and are on the kids' tree now. I LOVE my felt wreath - just the kind of sweetness I was hoping for. And look at her son's precious recipe card!

How did she know our shared affection for Tasha Tudor? She even included a copy of A Doll's Christmas, a book I had been hoping to add to our holiday book collection. The extra recipes were also a nice surprise.

And do you see that red scroll tucked in the box?

What a wonderful letter she included sharing her family's holiday traditions and explaining a bit of what was in the box. I was sorry to have run out of time before we got to make the cookie tree - but it is so on the list for next year!

Thanks so much, Sara - and Merry Christmas!

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Calling it Quits for Christmas Knitting

I made most of my goals this year, so it time to call it quits for Christmas knitting. I finished Mom's pair of socks, and I'm only short one and a bit of dad's convertible fingerless mittens, but have been given an official pardon from the 'rents. When I tried to excuse my tardiness by accusing them of not being very ramped up for Christmas, Dad got a little defensive. So I asked "Do you have a tree?". "Sure" he says. Ceramic trees don't count, Dad! In fact, I let him know that you are officially "old" when you only have a ceramic tree up. Is it any wonder I don't get invited home very often!

But I did get the last of the presents completed for Tim's family. Here is the hat I made for his brother. It's Kim's Hat from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, knitted on size 7 circulars and dpns out of the recommended Manos de Uruguay.

I ran a bit short, so I swung by Unraveled to pick up a coordinating color. They helped find the perfect color - sort of looks like soil layers - but I really don't like how they have all the yarn organized by color. I came in looking for Manos and needed professional help just to figure out what they had in the store.

I tightened up the gauge to make the hat fit the recipient (the final dimensions seemed big), but didn't really think about adjusting the inches of height. I knitted the men's size, but got the women's dimension for the circumference. Perhaps I should have knitted the women's height as well. I have the same head dimension as my brother-in-law and it is comfortably snug. The men's size at gauge would have floated on his head.

On my daughter it looks very much like a top at, don't you think?

It's not so bad in person, a little funky edge to a ski hat design. And by getting extra yarn, I have just the amount for another hat for my perpetually cold husband. Win-win for everyone - except my Dad!

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Dirty Little Secret

It seems that there is a bit of a secret among rural dwelling folks. We all love to burn things. What a bonding moment occurs when you bring up the subject of bonfires or burn piles. Ignition techniques are assessed, types and quantity of burn material is discussed, and injuries are compared.

When the burn and was lifted after the summer draught, we had quite a burn piles amassed. Brush cleared from the woods, more cleared logs, and a load of construction scrap wood made for a huge pile.

I was in charge of starting it and discovered the beauty of dried corn stalks for igniting a ripping fire.

This fire was SO hot. I started pulling off pallets and plywood to try to keep from burning down the whole place. Luckily, I kept hold of both eyebrows this time.

Fire is kind of pretty, isn't it? The brilliant tangerine color was so hard to capture, but fascinating to watch.

I wasn't the only one to be captivated. Brendan was stalking the fire the whole time. At one point the wind picked up and was wrapping over like a wave. Looking through it made it seem like Brendan was surfing the flames.

Momma was a big chicken and was hiding from the heat behind one of the many pieces of construction equipment laying about our field.

And when you're standing around for hours watching things burn, your mind starts to wander. And lo, and behold, this is what a pumpkin looks like on a smokin' hot pile of embers.

We are SO having a New Year's Eve bonfire! Pumpkins optional.

Christmas Knitting in Full Swing

The elves have been slaving away over the knitting needles around here. Ha! Don't I wish! My daughter told me that Mrs. Claus should bring me knitting needles that knit by themselves. Oh, please. Oh, please. Just like Mrs. Weasley! But instead, I've made some impossible goals for myself and now it is time to pay the fiddler (anyone else out there reading Johnny Tremain?).

Task #1: Child's Rainbow Scarf for my dear sister in law - DONE!

This pattern from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts has been tempting me since I first saw the book and saw Brooklyn Tweed's post. This is a fun project, so I know the recipient will love it (or at least have the grace to fake it convincingly!). I used 2 different skeins of Noro Silk Garden on #6s in a "fake rib pattern" in 2x2. Very reversible and not as drawn in as a traditional 2x2.

Here it is in its full-length glory:

And bundled like a little yummy cake of love that it is:

Knitting this was so entertaining as the colors continued changing. This is my favorite stretch:

The scarf's real-life colors are even richer than this photo shows. Truly yummy. A very satisfying knit all around.

Task #2: Junior-Sized Buttonhole Bags for two dear nieces - DONE!

The fun of felting never fails to amuse me. I just need to do when there is more light for photos! That's a "gingerbread" tree - made with a sugar ice cream cone - added for scale.

This is the Mason Dixon Knitting pattern, with 30 instead of 40 garter ridges on the bottom and 24 instead of 30 stitches picked up around. I also increased the straight section by 8 rows. Can you tell why it is called the "unpattern"? I used two shades of Cascade 220 double-stranded on 10.5 circulars. I actually knit these both in one day - woohoo, continental stitch! - and felted them today.

When we bought our front-loading washer this summer, my only concern was about whether or not I could felt. I assumed I'd have to trek over to friends' houses to make their laundry areas smell like bad perms. Well, I ran into a Girl Scouting friend who was knitting in public and she revealed that she regularly felts in her front loader. Eureka! I almost ran home to try it. I used the regular cycle with warm water in a load of laundry and one trip through was not enough. Two worked fine. I think another trip through could have happened. See what good things happen when you knit in public?

Next up - the Kim Hat (also from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts - my holiday handbook) for my brother in law. And finishing those socks for Mom. And those gloves for Dad. And a stocking for Tubby. And new hand warmers for me. And a doll for Erin. And...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Meet Horace

Spoiler alert: Sara - don't read until your package arrives!

I'd like to introduce a very brief friend of mine, Horace the Hog:

And here is the south end of a north-facing Horace:

Pig tails rock!

Horace was a brief friend because he was sent on his way yesterday to his new home in South Bend, Indiana as part of our
Holiday Traditions Exchange hosted by Montessouri by Hand. I had to get his hammy little self in the mail before I claimed him as my own. His pattern is from Wee Wonderfuls, so I could always make another. Maybe Hortense, his sister, in pinks? I really liked the gold and love colors together (from my husband's mom's vintage stash). I didn't make him attached to a little wagon because it seemed too binding. A pig's got to live free to kick up his trotters when the need arises.

The moms and kids in each family are exchanging hand-made ornaments. To celebrate our move out to the sticks, we thought that we'd try a country theme and went with felt for our ornaments.

Brendan made the polka dot one for a fellow-nine-year-old with the craziest color combinations that he could muster. Erin was making one for a two-year-old and was very specific about making a "Christmas scene". She tried several iterations before discovering these buttons. I think she wanted to add glitter, but since these took the better part of three hours to complete, we simply ran out of time. Also, I was afraid the little guy would end up eating/wearing all the glitter if he got to playing with it, so we just tucked in a little padding for extra squishiness. Love how the pinked edging makes the backing part of the design.

Here is our troop ready for mailing.

We were also to include a tutorial on a family tradition (mine was about how we make Potato Chip cookies - powdered sugar coated cookies), a family recipe, some Christmas tunes, or anything else we wanted to add. I tucked in a felt recipe card holder with Christmas Eggnog, Potato Chip Cookies, and Cheese Things recipes. (My country theme is starting to sound like a white-trash Christmas!) We also added a few chocolates and some more crafts to make a package more fun.

Here are the packages ready for packing into their mailing carton.

Erin and Brendan labeled their presents with such care. Love the little drawings.

So off our package goes. We hope it brings all the good cheer of Christmas to our newest friends. Merry Christmas!

First Snow

I'm a little behind in posting these pictures, but I wanted to share our celebration of our first "snow" a week ago today. It was really just a dusting, but we all piled outside and ran around as if we were in a blizzard!

Did you know that it's good luck to catch a snowflake on your tongue?

Not pretty, just lucky!

And no, that's not dandruff - just a prefect snowflake from the Big Snow:

Last week: snow. Today: 70 degrees.This is seriously cutting into my cocoa consumption.

Monday, December 03, 2007

It's All About Me

I've heard it said that over time pets and their owners start to look alike. I think the same may be true of my knitting. It seems that everything I am making lately winds up fitting not the intended recipient, but me. Larger sizes, smaller sizes - it all comes back to my size.

Case in Point #1:

I'm making my Mom a pair of socks for Christmas. Sockotta, size 1 dpns, top down, pattern from the Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. Since I was (and still am) getting 8 stitches per inch for gauge, I simply followed the charts for my mom's regular-width, size 7 feet. Problem is they look like lumberjack socks. I slipped them on to check (as I have the same length, but wider, foot) and they fit me pretty well. Certainly not at all tight. Maybe even a little bit too long (and I stopped early on the foot length because it was getting so big).

Here's how they look (that's an ornamental pumpkin - they're not THAT big!):

And here's how the foot looks to me:


The good news is that I weighed the finished sock and I have enough yarn for the second sock. I think that I'll finish these off and give them to my mom. If they don't fit her, I'll get a new pair of socks and Mom can pick her new pair.

Case in Point #2:

Dad's getting a pair of convertible fingerless gloves/mittens featured on the cover of Knit Pick's latest catalogue. I really like the pattern and the Shamrock yarn it calls for. Here's what I have so far:

The flecks in the brown are colorful enough to make the knitting fun, but not too flashy for my Dad.

Yummy, no?

Here's a view of all the openings. I slipped this one on also to check for size - and guess what? Yep. This one fits, also. Really well. Looks like my gauge got tighter, so I'm reswatching now. I made a note in case I ever make a pair for myself.

Why is that when I knit for myself it never seems to quite fit (I've gone through 2 sock patterns making socks that are way too wide even for me), but when I want to knit for others, it all come back to my size?