Saturday, 26 May 2012

Time to get serious

After using the yarn for the caretaker's hat that I'd originally bought to make Deane some fingerless mitts, I got to thinking about all the stuff I'd promised to make people and hadn't yet made.  Whether I'd promised the person to their face, or just in my head, is inconsequential.  To me, they're both the same.  So I decided to compile a list of everything I plan to make both for others and myself, with a goal to try and finish, if not all, at least the majority of them by the end of the year.

THE LIST (In no particular order, just to be clear)
  • fingerless mitts for X in black
  • fingerless mitts for T in green
  • fingerless mitts for mum, because I forgot she wanted some for Mother's Day, or maybe these
  • scarf for _________________ (shh, it's a secret!)
  • shawl for mum (the original size is too small) - just an extension, not the whole thing again
  • sweater for me
  • socks for X (no pattern required)
  • socks for T (no pattern required)
  • socks for school librarian (again, no pattern required)
  • socks for Deane (haven't decided yet what pattern, so many to choose from!!)
  • fingerless gloves for Deane (maybe.  I'm still a little annoyed about the $2 shop ones)
  • armwarmers for me
  • sweater for me
  • kindle covers x 3 for mum, MIL and bff
My challenge is to make it all with stash.  I did have to buy yarn for the librarian's socks and mum's shawl, but everything else I think I've got covered.  As for stuff I want to make just because:
  • another scarf, but in handspun for... unknown at this time
  • stole for unknown person, haven't decided yet
  • shawl for unknown person, maybe me
  • another shawl, in some more handspun
  • this stole, in my handspun laceweight
  • these socks, and these, and these, and a whole bunch of other socks
I am realistic, and know that I can't get everything knit by the end of the year if I include both lists, but I hope to make a pretty good dent in them.  Plus, as much as I love knitting socks and giving them away to all and sundry, I'd imagine people are getting a little sick of them by now ;-)

I finished the most awesome round six socks the other night:


Dolce Pazzia in Vintage Purls Porphyrogenitos

I have a sleeve and a half left to go on my Zephyr cardigan, so I'll be able to dig into The List very soon!  I do have some very important sooper sekrit stitching I have to get done though, so I must be disciplined and be sure to get that finished.  Better get a deadline date actually, so I know what I'm working towards...

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the round seven socks, which is due out between 1 and 2am NZ time - I don't need to knit them as I'm out of the competition, but the specs are very interesting, and there's been a lot of speculation about what technique will be used (much discussion about twined knitting).  Can't wait to see what it is!

So much to do!!!  Enough waffling from me, I have stuff to make!  Mmmm, waffles... that reminds me, gotta go order a waffle iron.  Have a good weekend, and stay warm :-)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Selfish motives

So I knit the school caretaker a hat.  You know why I did it?  Because it made me feel better.  Dude's got a bald head.  Lives alone.  I'm sure he's perfectly capable of going out and buying himself a hat if he wanted one.  Probably doesn't even want one!  Been bald for years.  Shaves it every day himself.  Might not even want to wear a hat.  I don't care.  I still feel better having made him a hat.  Snuck it onto X's head this morning while he was eating breakfast (hence the jammies), so I could get a few pics before wrapping it up and taking it over to school:


Closer look at the decreases (which actually turned out to be a useless, blurry pic anyway):


Exeter hat, knit in Patons Bluebell Merino 5-ply (sport weight).  Okay for a yarn, but certainly not my favourite.  It's cable plied, and I just don't like the look and feel of it.  Don't think I'll use it again.  This yarn has been in my stash for some time - I bought it ages ago with the plan of making Deane some fingerless gloves, but just never got around to it.  He bought some cheap nasty ones from the $2 shop anyway, so he can go jump ;-)  I knit the hat to 8.5" before starting the decreases, which seems to be the general consensus among people who've already knit this hat.  The 9.5" as recommended in the pattern seems like it would be just that little bit too long.  I'm happy with how it came out, even if it never gets worn. 

I dropped it in at the school library this morning (where the caretaker goes for his break) and the librarian put in a request for socks.  She's a self-confessed 'sock fanatic' and asked for some in red or orange - her two favourite colours.  I'm cool with that, she's a lovely person that I don't mind knitting for.  I think it'll be a plain ol' vanilla pair though, but what will make them cool is the yarn they'll be knit in:


Self-striping sock yarn from happygoknitty!!  (Picture from online store, used with permission).  So its not exactly red and orange, but hopefully it'll be close enough.  Again with the selfish motives... I've been wanting to try this yarn for some time, as I have seen it at markets and heard about it from others.  It's 100% BFL (blue-faced leicester) which, apparently, is good hard-wearing sock yarn that isn't awful and scratchy.  And it won't need a fancy lace pattern, or cabled pattern, or any other pattern, because it knits up stripy!  How awesome is that?!?  I'm thinking I'll do afterthought heels, so I don't break up the stripe pattern.  Thanks to Sock Madness for getting me to learn yet another technique...  (Plus, I'm interested to see how fast I can knit a sock, after seeing this video.  Sure, he knits a heel flap and gusset, but I figure a heel's a heel, right?  Don't think I'll be doing a time-lapse photography thing or anything though (although that would be fun!) - I just think it would take me way longer than five hours.  I'm guessing that guy's a pretty fast knitter).

Speaking of Sock Madness, I didn't make it through to the last round :-(  But that's okay, I still had a truck-load of fun.  The Round Six socks are a bit of a challenge, but they're really pretty.  Here's the first one:



It's a little hard to tell from the pictures, but there's beads in that there sock!!  It's so pretty!!!  Much better in 'for true life' as my boys would say.  What's also hard to tell from the pictures is the seriously awesome colour they are - a dark, rich royal purple.  So beautiful.  I'm knitting them in Vintage Purls Porphyrogenitos, which was the sock yarn club release for the Murex socks.  I'd link to the sock pattern, but it hasn't been uploaded onto Ravelry yet :-(  I liked the socks, but not enough to want to knit it.  I figured the colour was perfect for Sock Madness, and I found some matching beads.

So the Round Six pattern is Dolce Pazzia.  It's slow going for me - I'm not that experienced with fiddly lace knitting, and have zero experience knitting with beads.  I have to use dental floss to attach the beads (method shown here), instead of a crochet hook, because I can't find one tiny enough to fit through the centre of the beads.  It took me 12 hours to knit this sock - I got up at 3am because T was invading my bed and refused to get out (he was a little under the weather) and I couldn't sleep, plus the pattern had been out for two hours already.  So I trudged downstairs and cast on, then slogged away with the fiddly pattern and tiny beads until I'd finished one sock.  Logged on to Ravelry to discover somebody from the fast team had already finished!!  Super speedy!  I fluffed around a bit with the second one, knowing there wasn't much chance of making it through (only one person per team makes it to the last round), and sure enough, four hours after the first person finished, the next person finished - somebody from my team.  Game over for kreachr.  At least now I get to enjoy knitting it, rather than rushing through it.  And I don't have to stress out about the last round!  I can sit back, relax, and wait to see who takes out the competition :-)  I'm pretty sure I know who it'll be...

Well, time for me to go, it's school pick-up time!  I shall be knitting some more on the pretty socks tonight, and perhaps some of the sleeves of my Zephyr cardigan - the body is finished, I just have the sleeves to go.  Exciting!  I can't wait to wear it.  Starting to get pretty chilly now.  Enjoy the rest of your week, and stay warm :-)

btw, this is my 200th post!  Wow!  I talk too much...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mother's Day - success at last!

Previous years' Mother's Day celebrations have been a little lackluster in the kreachr household - last year was forgotten entirely, much to my annoyance.  So I was a little dubious about this year.  I didn't want to poke and prod and have to remind the family, although I was very, very tempted to do so.  I had to bite my tongue several times.  I was even more worried that it would be overlooked again, when Deane wandered up to bed a little after 3am on Sunday morning.  Only four hours until my usual get-out-of-bed time.  I wanted pancakes!  How can I be sure he would wake up, get out of bed, and make the buttermilk pancakes I'd been fantasising about for days, when he clearly wouldn't have had enough sleep?
I stayed in bed, just relaxing, and thankfully was given a small blessing in the form of T, who wandered into the bedroom at around 8am for a cuddle.

Me: "Do you want some breakfast?"
T:  nods (a boy of few words, is my little guy)
Me: "Shall we get dad to make pancakes?"
T: nods enthusiastically
Deane: mphrfhmr ::staggers out of bed::

Sorted ;-)

And you know what?  They were goooooooooood...

I managed to lie in for a while longer as the pancakes were being cooked, reading a little Catching Fire (the second Hunger Games book), then meandered down for the lovely pancakes and a pot of tea.  Time enough left for a shower and hair-dry before wandering off to my usual Sunday afternoon knitting session at the library, then home again for Family Movie Sunday - we watched Gremlins.

I managed to finish off the pair of treehouse socks:


If you're wondering why I'm standing like that, it's  because I was trying to get the 'zip' and button as well as the overall design of the houses on the socks into the picture.

And while we were watching Gremlins, I cast on the Zephyr cardigan with the most scrumptious of yarns, the Malabrigo Rios I purchased in America.  Not much progress on that yet, as I have been busy studying, but I'm doing well time-wise (assignment due mid-June, only needs 20 hours or so of work, so plenty of time!!) so once I get my housework done, it'll be all on!  Until the Round 6 pattern is released for Sock Madness of course...

Snuck in the pair of Round 5 socks while you weren't looking ;-)  Knit these in two days (yes, I had fun taking pictures ;-p):


Here's a close-up of the detailing on the side:


These were really fun to knit, using a technique I'd never even heard of, let alone tried!  It's called roosimine, and the patterns are called roositud patterns.  The method involves 'weaving in' the contrasting yarn as you go.  Once you get the hang of it, it's quite easy.  The hardest part is getting the tension right.  But it's easily adjustable once you've finished the pattern anyway, so no real issue there.  The whole round was over in three days, which I think might even be a Sock Madness record!  (Not including the last round, which is ridiculously quick and only involves the super fast knitters left in each team).

This pattern was Roosimine, and I knit them with 'naked' Skeinz sock yarn, left undyed from last year's Sock Madness, and some Cascade Heritage Silk Paints that I bought in America.  These are going to my mum for Mother's Day.  A little late, but that's okay with her.

All in all, I'm happy with this year's Mother's Day.  It went okay.  I hope everyone had a good day :-)

This week has been cold and wet so far - fine with me.  I plan on knitting the Zephyr cardigan as quickly as possible, and cast on a hat for the school caretaker, Mike.  He's outside in all types of weather, maintaining the school grounds.  Not only that, he helps the school kids cross the road every morning and afternoon, rain or shine.  The dude is completely bald (he shaves his head daily), and I feel sorry for his noggin, so I think it deserves something cosy.  I'm thinking this hat, with some black sport weight yarn I have in my stash...

I'm fighting the urge to cast on a couple of different pairs of fingerless mitts, and a couple of scarves as well, not to mention a shawl or two, and a sweater... or two... It must be the weather.  That's my excuse anyway.  I must be disciplined and stick to one project!!  Or two ;-)

Have a good week!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Life has returned to normal in the household of kreachr (well, that depends on what you consider 'normal' to be, but I guess it's our kind of normal) - the boys are at school, complaining about homework, fighting over who played longer on the XBox or the computer etc etc.  Deane is back to working late and not being home in time for dinner.  I just submitted my second assignment, and started the third module only to discover a very large bump in the road.  I'm awaiting a reply from the tutor, so in the meantime I'll hang out here and update y'all on the goings-on.
Speaking of study, I was very pleased to discover that I received an A- for my first assignment - I got 78/100.  Yay!  I was quite happy with that.  Just went through the tutor's remarks and reasons for why I was marked down - could've kicked myself for a couple of them, as I had clearly over-thought things (because, of course, I was trying to make sure I wasn't going to over-simplify it and lose marks...) but for a first assignment in oh, twelve years or so, I'm not complaining.  I just hope I can keep it up!  I'd like to achieve the same or better for the rest of my papers.  That's not likely to happen, but a girl can dream ;-)

Knitting has been sporadic, for obvious reasons (see last two posts), but I have managed to get a few projects finished.

Not quite finished, but half done, are the Sock Madness Optional Round socks:


These socks are great!  Designed specifically for Sock Madness, they incorporate several interesting design features, like the button flap at the top (btw, there's no button hole - the button is sewn on after to hold the flap down), the faux zip down the side, and the patterning on the sock itself - little mini houses!  There is a thread in the Sock Madness group called The Treehouse - it's where Madnessers hang out between rounds, and where people go after they've finished knitting their socks to get a little (imaginary) pampering from the cabana boys and gogets - drinks of any kind, paraffin wax hand treatments, massages, whatever you can think of.  It's also where chatter about the next year's crazy pattern designs goes on - will there be zips?  Buttons?  Kitchener stitch over 3,000 stitches?  Steeks?  25 stitch per inch gauge, knit on size 0000000000 needles?  Any combination of these?  Speculation gets a little on the ridiculous side, but it's all part of the fun, and these socks embody the fun of Sock Madness quite well - it was designed by two participants, and I think they did an excellent collaborative job.  The pattern, of course, is called da Treehouse.  I haven't yet cast on the second sock of the pair, but it won't be far away.  I'm knitting them with Serenknitty sock yarn in 'Coppered Pink' (I don't think she sells any more, her etsy shop appears to have closed...)

Next up, the SM Round 3 socks:


Aren't they beautiful?!?  The pattern is I Want to Beleaf, and it was knit in Vintage Purls 'Sunshine', which was an exclusive Summer Sock Yarn Club colourway for the Demelza shawl, which I liked, but thought was a little too... open... for my tastes.

These were cast on and knit mostly in Florida.  The foot of the second sock (after the heel turn) was knit on the plane from Orlando to LA, and the toe grafting and weaving in of the second sock was completed the day we arrived home (after a nice hot shower, and my cup of tea and marmite on toast).  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my team had not in fact finished the round without me - there was one spot left!!  I snagged it an hour before somebody else.  I felt guilty for a while about 'stealing' it off them, but then got over it.  She kindly pointed out that I deserved it as much as she did - after all, we'd both knit the same pair of socks, I'd just knit them that tiny bit faster.  So anyway, I decided to name the socks 'Florida Spring Sunshine'.  Or Florida socks for short ;-)

Once these were finished, I decided to cast on a pair of fingerless mitts for my niece, to match the cardigan for her birthday.  Of course, when I say 'match', I mean the colour/yarn.  The patterns have no similarities at all:



The pattern for these mitts is very simple and easy to follow, and fairly quick to knit.  As it says, they're great to knit up for little girly gifts.  And they fit me too, so obviously a versatile sizing.  T put them on and hinted, very heavily, that although they were pink, they were nice and comfy, and maybe they'd look really good in green.  His favourite colour is green.  If they were green he might like them more.  Once it was established that perhaps I would knit some in green for him (minus the lacy patterning at the cuff, of course), X piped up that he would like some in black.  So I guess I'd better knit some more soon...

On to the next pair of socks!  The pattern, conveniently, was released while I was online checking Ravelry.  It came out quite quickly after the previous round was finished, because the designer was going away and wouldn't be available for questions if they left it too long.  Worked for me - I was the first one finished!!


Mosaica socks, knit with the Araucania Ranco I purchased in the US, and some leftover black Patons Patonyle sock yarn I had in my stash.  They were knit using the mosaic knitting technique - something I hadn't tried before.  It's a way of doing colourwork using only one strand of yarn at a time, with a series of knit (or purled) and slipped stitches.  You can also work it flat - something that is very difficult to do with stranded knitting, and mostly avoided (which is where steeking comes in - argh!).  I basically knit these over two days, but as it was 2am when I finished, I counted that as a third day.  Gotta be honest with your dates for the competition...

For a bit of a change of pace, I cast on a hat for my niece using, you guessed it, more Malabrigo Arroyo in English Rose.  Dude, this stuff just keeps going and going!  Out of three skeins, I got a children's cardigan, pair of fingerless mitts, and a hat.  And there's still some left over!!  This yarn is awesome :-)  Anyway, back to the hat:


The decreases are what decided it for me - they look really cool.


Ahaha, the things we do to our children!!  Making X model the hat for me so I could get a good picture of it before it was wrapped up and sent to Napier with my parents, who would hand it over for me.  The pattern is the Cream of Celery Soup Hat, and it looks fantastic knit with stripes, but I like it knit in one colour too (plus I was trying to use up the yarn!!).

That's it for finished projects for now - on to the second treehouse sock!  After that, I think I'll cast on this cardigan, using that gorgeous Malabrigo Rios I bought in America.  I need a squishy, easy-to-throw-on, warm cardigan.  I love my grey handspun one to bits, but I can't wear it all the time.  I want it to last!  It's starting to get chilly here, autumn is in full swing.  It's my favourite season - the leaves always look so pretty:




Don't you think?  Have a good week!!

Friday, 4 May 2012

American adventures continued

Right, where was I? Oh yes...

The next day, we had to move from one place to another, so spent the morning checking out and checking in. We intended to spend the afternoon at Kennedy Space Center, but it took nearly three hours to find it (should've taken 40 minutes - oops!). By the time we got out there, the tours had finished for the day, so we went shopping at the local Outlet Mall instead. We went to KSC the next day. I was surprised to find the boys didn't really enjoy it overmuch - I thought they'd find it really interesting. I found the movie about the Hubble telescope fascinating, at least... Next morning we headed out to IHOP for breakfast. I had the special red velvet pancakes, as recommended by our waitress Angelina. I'm glad I listened to her, because they were the BEST. PANCAKES. EVAAAAAAAR!!!


Mmmmmm, yummy!!! (I have since found a recipe online, and fully intend to give them a go over the weekend - fingers crossed!)  After breakfast we went on a hunt for a couple of local yarn stores. I had a list of half a dozen that were within an hour's drive from where we were staying, but as it was Sunday, only two were open :-( The first we visited was Sip & Knit in Maitland, where I bought this yarn:
Top to bottom: two skeins of Cascade Heritage Silk Paints sock weight yarn; one skein of Shenanigans 'Long & Strong Sampson' sock yarn, specially dyed for Sip & Knit (I think the colourway is called Daffney Gillfin, it's a little hard to read the writing); one skein of Araucania Ranco Solid sock yarn; one Schoppel Wolle Zauberball.

The other store we visited was KNIT! in Longwood, and they just happened to be hosting a sock knitting class. I met a few of the ladies - a couple of them were fellow ravelers - and I even got one of them to hold my SM round three sock-in-progress for a quick pic:


While I was there, I bought a sweater-lot (six skeins) of some of my favourite yarn - Malabrigo Rios in Teal Feather. I couldn't resist the price! Only US$13.60 a skein!! I think it will become a hoodie, or maybe a comfy cardi... That afternoon we went on a swamp tour via airboat, courtesy of Wild Willy's Airboat Tours.  Got to check out some of the local gators.  That was a fun ride!  And we got to meet Sergio and Cricket, the little baby gators:



T wouldn't touch them, but he thoroughly enjoyed the airboat ride, as did X:


There was some other neat wildlife in the area, including some crazy weird birds that ran across the water.  It looked hilarious!  Here's X checking out one of the bigger alligators in the area.  He found something funny, I can't remember what it was...



We had a good afternoon, and the folks were friendly - good southern people.  On our way home I got to do something else on my wishlist - visit Walmart!!  What sealed the deal was our airboat pilot telling me that you could buy guns off the rack there.  I had to see for myself!  All I found was a locked cabinet full of ammunition though - I assume they're not entirely crazy, and actually lock the guns away somewhere safe.  At least I hope they do...

Saw some other weird stuff there, like giant one kilo bags of cereal:


Pre-cooked bacon strips (ewwww!!):


And the American housewives' secret to the perfect pie:


Pre-made pie crust and filling-in-a-can!!  Cheaters ;-)  Oh, and I couldn't possibly imagine buying my meat like this:


It doesn't seem right to me.  But I guess it's just what you're used to...  We were all very pleased to find 'real' bread in the bakery section, and purchased a loaf still warm from the oven.  We devoured it within five minutes!  'Twas good.  We had a relatively early night (by our holiday standards at least), and the next day, we were off to Universal!!

By far the best day in my opinion - we went to Islands of Adventure and rode on the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster (which was awesome), Doctor Doom's Fear Fall (gotta love that zero gravity) after which we met the 'real' Doctor Doom:


And the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (very well done), as well as a few tamer rides for T.

Oh, and dad, I met a few of your friends - The Phantom, and that guy that used to drive your tractor:




But the best part?  Oh, the VERY BEST part was going to see this:



Gah!  All those muggles ruining my picture of Hogsmeade...



Squee!  The Three Broomsticks!!




I bought butterbeer (delicious, but very sickening), and pumpkin juice (apparently it's good - X had some), and every flavour beans, and a chocolate frog...  I did not, however, buy extendable ears or U-No-Poo:



It was fun to browse the shelves though.  We had a look in Ollivanders, but it was so packed full of muggles and wizards, you could hardly move, so we carried on to the rides.  The Dragon Challenge was utterly fantastic (even Deane said it was by far the best ride out of all the ones we'd been on), but I couldn't decide if that, or the Forbidden Journey was better.  They were both amazing.  Sadly, my family wouldn't allow me to stay there all day, so we carried on through the rest of the park.

Towards the end of the day, Deane and X went on Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges ride and got completely drenched from head to toe.  Ten minutes in the people dryer (yes, they have those!!)

didn't make them any dryer, or warmer, so it was time to call it a day - it was getting late anyway.  We grabbed some Popeye's Chicken on the way home (totally unrelated ;-P).

For our final theme park day, we went to the other side of Universal Studios.  It was much quieter over that side, which was a nice change from the craziness of Harry Potter World.  The best ride by far on this side of the park was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  After climbing for what felt like ages, there was a huge 17 storey drop.  Freakin' amazing, and oh so fun!  It was such a cool ride :-)  The Revenge of the Mummy was pretty awesome too.  The kids met a few 'celebrities' like Shrek, Sponge Bob and Homer Simpson:




And Deane and X did a bit of alley-way wall climbing:


We went and watched Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue, which the boys enjoyed, although they had no idea who Beetlejuice was (don't worry, we remedied that when we got home - they watched the movie.  T thought it was hilarious).

All in all it was a pretty quiet day, that we ended by having dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp.  I had a yummy pear and raspberry salad with chargrilled chicken, salad greens and pecans.  Mmmm, it was good.  Deane, of course, had shrimp.  X shared with him - that boy likes his seafood!

The next day was the day to pack up and ship out!  We went for a little paddleboat ride around the lake at the resort we were staying at before checking out, and met a couple of turtles on our travels.  It was hot and sunny though, and pedalling was hard work, so we didn't stay out for long.  We headed off to the airport and waited for our flights home.  Between Orlando and LA, I finished the foot of my sock, then had to tuck it away until we got home (couldn't graft the toe without a darning needle!  Wish I still had my plastic one - it broke).  From LA to Auckland I watched a couple of good movies (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and My Week With Marilyn), didn't sleep at all, but thankfully Deane and the boys did.

Oh, it was so good to get home!  The first thing I did was have a shower.  The second thing?  Have a cup of tea and some marmite on toast :-)  And there ends our tale of travels.  Next post?  Knitting!!  See you then ;-)