September

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Autumn seems to be arriving right on time this year, which is so lovely, because September is often peak fire season and heatwaves are not uncommon this time of year around here. This September, however, has been cooler and we’ve even had rain! The leaves on the trees up here in the mountains have a tinge of yellow, so we’ll have some brilliant color very soon. I’ve decided to keep track of what’s been going on for the last few weeks and then just publish a post at the end of the month, so here we go!

In September I finished a most enjoyable series of books called The Lunar Chronicles. I actually read the first one, Cinder, at the beginning of the summer and then requested the others from my library. I had to wait a bit for Scarlet, the second book, and then immediately read the last two, Cress and Winter over Labor Day weekend. I’m not sure how to classify them other than sci-fi/steampunk/fairy tale retellings, but it was a fun series that I highly recommend.

Speaking of fairy tales, I usually also have an audiobook going for my drive to and from work, and this month I finished As You Wish, followed by a screening of The Princess Bride (currently on Netflix). It was charming and fun, and reminded me how much I loved the movie. I highly recommend the audio version of the book, it’s read by Cary Elwes himself, and features many of the other cast members too.

I try to bring my lunch to work most days. I’m always on the lookout for good salad recipes and usually will prep all the ingredients and then eat the same salad for a few days. I found a couple winners via Pinterest this month. First up was Lamb and Dill Meatballs with Horitaki salad. The meatballs were really simple and so delicious. As soon as I was done with the first batch of meatballs I bought more ground lamb for the freezer so I could make them again soon. Basically, everything in this salad is my favorite, so it’s a big winner.

lamb meatball salad

Another new and delicious find was this Moroccan Steak Salad. The prep for this one was more intensive, but worth it. The pomegranate seeds were a nice touch.

steak salad

Here are some of my favorite finds this month:

  • Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way – I’m not an artist, but I decided to start practicing drawing. This is a fun book, full of prompts and different types of paper for sketching. So far I have created some terrible drawings, and a couple that I actually like. I may share more on Instagram eventually.
  • Duolingo <– the link goes to the website, but I’m using the phone app. Twenty-something years ago I was pretty good at speaking Dutch. When you don’t use a language for that many years you get a little rusty. I’ve been practicing with 5-minute sessions and it’s coming back!
  • Hillview Yarns is an Etsy shop recently opened by my friend Vivian. I’ve invested in a few skeins for some hat designs I’ve been working on, and I just love the colors she’s been coming up with, especially her blues and greens. I just got a skein of Socky McSockface for a pair of elaborately cabled socks that I can’t wait to cast on.
  • I’m working on my first sweater made from my handspun yarn, and have another handspun sweater quantity in the works, but I really want to make Mohr from the new Brooklyn Tweed collection.
  • I invested in the handiest piece of jewelry ever: Wrist Ruler (I have the medium leather), also available at Tolt

I like collecting my favorites for the month and just throwing them up here. I think I’ll keep doing this each month.

lovely things

Some things I am enjoying right now:

::Lilacs::

It’s a good lilac year. It was warming up a couple weeks ago, so they grew and bloomed quickly, but then it cooled down and got rainy, so they’ve been lasting longer than usual.

::Book Recommendations::

Modern Mrs. Darcy and her What Should I Read Next podcast

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I’m going through a bit of a reading lull at the moment, but listening to episodes of this podcast is helping to get me enthused about reading again.

::Organization::

Bullet Journaling

I’ve always been on the lookout for the perfect planner, I’ve tried all the apps, and I have lists on bits of paper scattered all over. I think Bullet Journaling is the perfect solution for me. Sometimes I have to-do lists a mile long, but sometimes keeping a calendar seems like overkill for my relatively peaceful life. With a bullet journal I can adjust it as needed. So far I’m finding it helpful to use a page for a weekly spread, rather than daily pages. I also love having a place to keep lists of projects I want to do, and books to read, and recipes I want to try. I even keep a post-it on my current weekly page to use for listing groceries I need to buy. It’s as simple or as complicated as I need it to be, I think it’s really genius!

::Beautiful Knitting::

waiting for rain

My next new knitting project is going to be this beautiful Waiting for Rain Shawl. I have some Lakes Yarn in Fernan Merino Fingering in a pretty silver-green color. I am not allowing myself to cast on until I’m finished with two other projects first. This is highly motivating, however, and I hope to get to this within the week.

something new

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If you follow along on Instagram, you probably noticed that I picked up a new hobby. Many years ago I went one Saturday to a knitting group that met in Balboa Park. A woman was teaching spinning with a drop spindle, and I gave it a try. It was awkward and slow and not very fun. I bought a cheap drop-spindle and some fiber and tried again at home, but it just seemed so laborious and still not fun, so I decided that I was definitely not a spinner.

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I have no idea what happened, but all these years later, it suddenly seemed like I should try spinning again. I think it just gradually entered my subconscious and niggled at my brain and I suddenly just needed to get another drop spindle and some pretty hand-painted fiber and give it another go. I blame the podcasts I listen to and watch (Prairie Girls, Knitmore Girls, and The Fat Squirrel, to name a few) for sparking this interest and fellow Instagrammer Quiltotaku for sending me over the edge with her beautiful yarns and spindles.

So I carefully studied YouTube videos and bought myself an inexpensive spindle (which even came with a niddy-noddy!). I combed through all the pretty fiber artists on etsy and settled on a braid of Targhee wool from Pigeonroof Studios, and a tried it one more time. This time it clicked, and I went from parking and drafting to flicking my spindle and letting it go while I drafted my fiber bit by bit. That first skein is full of fat and thin sections, the colors are barber-poling all over the place, and it’s a big, bulky yarn. But it was so much fun and by the time I was done I was completely addicted. I knit it up into a squishy, slouchy hat and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I quickly placed an order for more fiber, this time some beautifully carded batts of merino from Nunoco on etsy. I also invested in a Bosworth spindle that is equally pretty. I managed to spin this second batch of fiber a bit finer and more evenly than the first, I love the gradient shift from pink to gold to green. I’m still looking for the perfect cowl pattern for this little ball of yarn.

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In February I found a spinning class that meets Wednesday evenings, not too far from where I work. It’s through the local adult education and has been meeting for years. The teacher is brilliant and many of the ladies are talented fiber artists themselves. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in the past few months. I’ve never had real-life fiber friends, so I can’t even express how happy I am to have found this group. I don’t have a spinning wheel of my own just yet, but there are class wheels I can use during class and everyone has been so generous and allowed me to try out their wheels. I’m saving my pennies and hope to get one before the year is out.

In the meantime I’ve spun more fiber and invested in more spindles and made more yarn. It’s so much fun. BUT. There’s only one cloud in all this. I managed to give myself a repetitive motion injury. My left thumb has developed an annoying pain from flicking the spindle, so I’ve had to set aside my drop spindles. Luckily I can still spin on the wheel during class, but I have to be careful not to overdo it. It twinges a bit when I knit, so I’m also limiting my knitting time just a bit. I’ve learned my lesson, though, and I’m doing what I can to make sure this heals and then I’ll get back to my spindles. I just have to remember to take frequent breaks and not spin for hours and hours at a time.

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fairy stones

Finally! I finally got it together and wrote up a pattern for the Fair Isle hats I made late last summer. After spending time the past week or so re-visiting my hats, I think I want to knit another one. Hats are the funnest projects for stranded knitting. They’re small enough that the extra work of juggling two colors doesn’t turn into an endless slog, but the changing colors and patterns keep you going. I know I have to fight the impulse to do just one more row when I’m working on something colorful and fun.

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The name for this hat came from a friend who told me about the famous cross-shaped stones that are found in a national park in Virginia. I don’t have a fairy stone of my own, but I hope to find one some day. It includes two sizes, a S/M, which fits up to a 20″ head and should work for most older children, and a Large, which stretches up to 23″ for most adult heads. You can get the pattern on Ravelry, right here, and it’s just $4!

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Photos in this post were taken by Sunnie Lynne (aren’t they great!).

Fairy Stones Hat Pattern

mice

Since I still have Fair Isle on my brain, here’s a quick little project to get your toes wet and use up your tiny scraps. Fair Isle Mice! How adorable! I might need to make one this week.

mice

all the knitting

How about a knitting update? I have been just knitting my little heart out. It’s the perfect thing when you don’t have much energy for anything else. I was also motivated by the fact that my sister is having a baby girl in October, and there isn’t much that’s more fun to knit than tiny, cute, baby things. I’m doing my best to make sure she’ll be cozy and warm for her first winter. These photos all showed up previously as Instagram photos, but I’ve sent everything away, so they will have to do for now. Click the photos for my Ravelry project pages, links below go to the pattern pages.

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Patterns are:
Cascade // Beyond Puerperium // Sleeping Cedars

Is this not the cutest set? I also added little pearly buttons to the cardigan.

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Semis de Printemps // Béguin de Printemps

I didn’t want my other niece to be too jealous of her new baby sister, so I made a couple things for her as well. I love that little teddy bear pattern, and will probably make more, including one for myself because he’s just so cute. I added the garter stitch scarf in yarn to match the sweater.

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Sweet Peasy // Brambles Bear

I did make some things for myself, but need to get some better photos. There are also multiple adult sweaters underway at the moment, but they take so much longer than baby sweaters, I admit that I’ve fallen victim to the instant gratification of knitting tiny things. It’s still so warm, but I’m sure my motivation to finish the bigger projects will increase once it starts cooling off.

fair isle

I got bit by the Fair Isle bug recently. It all started with the making of a hat earlier this spring. I’ve been doing a bit of reading and research, and made a mitten for a bit more practice (is it just me, or are mittens more difficult than hats? I had a much harder time keeping the floats even and not too tight). Then I bought some neon pink yarn to use for pocket linings on a sweater that I will not even be able to cast on until later this fall. It sat in my knitting basket, taunting me with its cheery brightness, especially next to the charcoal grey yarn I plan to use for the body of the same sweater. And then I had a vision of a Fair Isle-style hat in those two colors. So I printed up a few sheets of knitter’s graph paper, and got out my colored pencils and started coloring. I also have a basket full of Knit Picks Palette yarn, and pulled out a few more shades of grey to make an ombre background. I’m having a lot of fun figuring out a pattern, I knit a little, then color a few more rows on my graph paper, and knit a little more. If it all works out (and I’m thinking it’s going to), I’m going to be writing up the pattern to sell on Ravelry.

Color work like this is so addicting, I always want to do just one more row to see what the pattern will look like! Oh, and it seems that photographing neon yarn is really tricky. I’ll try to do better once it’s all done!

Some related links:

knitting ADD

I’m a little scattered, knitting-wise, so I’m just going to throw a bunch of my recent knitting-related thoughts up here and maybe purging my brain will help me focus. I keep wanting to knit all the things and also buy all the things.

  1. Knitting Projects: I still have that list of sweaters to work on, and I really do want to get as many of those made this year as possible. The trouble is that I keep getting distracted by other things.citadel
    I just finished a hat, I have two shawls, and a baby bunting on the needles, and I am trying to write up a pattern for a pair of socks but I can’t make the chart work properly. So what do I do? I just go ahead and start one of those sweaters. Yeah, that makes sense.
  2. Yarn: I should write a post about stashing yarn. My stash is currently pretty great, although maybe a bit too big. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to buy more yarn. I’ve gotten a lot better about buying yarn with a specific project in mind. But then I saw this the other day, and there was no way to resist.dragonfly
  3. Knitting Supplies: I would like one of every thing from Fringe Supply Co., but especially this needle gauge, some bento bags (in natural linen, please), and a rice basket or three.
  4. Knitting Podcasts: Since I can’t knit while I drive to and from work, I like to listen to people talk about knitting. I’ve found that the podcasts I like the most are the ones with two people having a conversation. My most favorite podcasts right now are Knitting a Story (I like the way they giggle, and I think we would be friends IRL), and Prairie Girls Knit and Spin (I would also like to be friends with them, and I like their giggles too).

how to read a knitting chart

I splurged on a skein of pretty, pretty Sundara Petit Sock Yarn this month for my birthday, and within a day of receiving it, cast on this terrifically ornate lace shawl. The pattern is charted only, so I thought it might be useful to do a little chart reading tutorial. Well, not so much a tutorial, as a “this is what works for me, and maybe I can offer some helpful hints to the chart-phobic” post.

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First of all, I’m a visual person, so I just naturally like knitting from charts rather than long written row instructions. I find that a chart helps me not only knit a row fairly quickly, I can also easily see where a stitch should be sitting in relation to the stitches above and below it. This has helped me learn to “read” my knitting, so I can figure out where mistakes have happened or just where I am in a particular project. I can understand why looking at a knitting chart for the first time might feel a little overwhelming. And I don’t expect that everyone will learn to prefer charts to written patterns, because I know brains work differently, but I hope I can de-mystify them a bit.

To work from a chart I do a few things to prepare. First, of course, I print it out, fitting the chart to the whole page whenever possible (unless it’s a relatively small chart with just a few stitches and rows that repeat, then it’s nice to keep it smaller). The designers of most of my latest charted projects have included full-page charts, which makes it easy. I really appreciate that in a pattern. I’ve quickly charted a simple pattern (that I do not recommend you actually knit, because it’s just some random stitches and I seriously doubt that it would produce anything attractive) to use as an example.

samplechart

This chart is for knitting flat, as opposed to knitting in the round. If you look at the row numbers you’ll see the odd numbers on the right side of the chart and the even numbers on the left. This is a visual clue that tells you which direction to read the row, starting from the side with the number. You’ll always start at the bottom of the chart and work your way up. In this case, you’d start working on a right-side row, following the symbols in row 1, from right to left. When you finish that row, you’ll turn your work and begin row 2, reading the symbols from left to right. If you look at the key, you’ll see that some of the symbols mean different things depending on which side you’re currently working. This can take a little while to get straight in your brain, but it makes more sense once you’ve done a few rows. Here, for example, you’ll end up with a few columns of knits and purls. In other words, you’ll purl a stitch on the right side, but when you turn and work the next row, the stitch on top of that purled stitch will be a knit stitch, even though on the chart it’s the same symbol (the single black dot). That’s because the black dots are always purl stitches on the right side, but knit stitches on the wrong side.

Next, let’s talk about those cable stitches. They look almost exactly alike, but there are really two different kinds of cables in this chart. When I have more complicated stitches like these, I like to color-code them to make it even easier on myself. I did this the first time I made a Habitat hat, which has a plethora of different cables, and it made it so much easier. I use colored pencils or highlighter markers, and choose a color for each type of cable. I color the symbol in the key and then go through the chart and find all the matching symbols, and fill them in with the same color.

When I’m working from any knitting pattern, regardless if it has charts, I like to keep the printed pages in a sheet protector, just so it doesn’t get too wrinkled and tattered. I discovered that putting a chart in a sleeve like that was great, but my usual method for keeping track of what row I’m on using Post-it notes didn’t work at all since they fall right off the plastic. Then I discovered a use for all the washi tape I’ve been hoarding. It works great on the plastic sheet protector, but peels right up to move to the next row. I can use the same piece of tape many, many times before it starts to lose its stickiness. And I can cut it to any length I need. So I start with a piece of tape that is about the length of the row, and I fold over the end just a bit, to make it easier to peel it up when I need to move it.

knitting chart in action

I always put my tape marker above the row I’m about to work. This helps keep me from making mistakes, because I can see what kind of stitch should be directly below the stitch I’m working. For example, when I’m working row two, I can see that I should be purling when I get to that yarnover stitch from row one. If my count is off and I knit into the yarnover instead, hopefully I’ll notice before I get any further.

A few more random tips:

  • If you’re knitting in the round, chart reading gets a whole lot easier. Since you’re not turning your work, but always working on the right side, you’ll always follow the chart from right to left (again, starting with row 1, at the bottom). You’ll also not need to worry about working the same symbols differently on the wrong side.
  • If a pattern doesn’t have the key for the chart on the same page, I like to make a copy and tuck it in with the chart so I don’t have to flip back and forth if there are unfamiliar symbols.
  • If a chart has a section enclosed in a border (usually a contrasting color, like the red I used above), it means that the pattern repeats itself. This is where stitch markers come in handy. The stitches outside the border are usually the edge of your project, and you repeat the stitches within the border a certain number of times per row. Place a marker after every repeat, and you’ll have another little checkpoint to prevent mistakes.

If you’d like to go digital, I’ve heard really good things about the knitCompanion app. I haven’t tried it yet because I seldom have access to our iPad Mini. My husband usually takes it with him to work or is using it when he’s home. He insists that it’s our iPad, but it was really his birthday/Christmas gift, and I have all I need with my phone and my kindle, so I don’t mind at all. I think I’ll download the 15-day trial and see if it will be worth the $16 investment to use on my phone. It just seems like the screen would be a little too small for big charts. I will report back!

Did I miss anything? Are you still confused or chart-phobic? Do you have any good chart-reading tips? I’d love to know all the different ways others use charts, so please share in the comments!

 

a hat in the colors of spring

Instagram has messed up my blogging. I posted so many pictures of this project there that it feels a little redundant to blog about it, but obviously I’m going to anyway.

Hat

I’ve reached a point in my knitting life where I fear no knitting pattern, but I know there are lots and lots of techniques I want to learn and skills to develop. One of my knitting bucket list items is to knit a Fair Isle sweater (a là this pin, for which I am searching desperately for the origin), but I’ve only done a little stranding while making mittens. I haven’t been totally successful at keeping the tension of the strands even and loose enough, so I thought I’d practice some more before tackling a whole sweater. I found this hat pattern and despite that fact that I don’t often wear hats and usually don’t even look good in hats, I fell in love and had to make it. I picked a bunch of colors of Knit Picks Palette yarn, keeping my fingers crossed that they would work together. I think my next Knit Picks order is going to include a color card, which will make it so much easier to choose colors for a project like this. I do appreciate that they describe each color, and what I received was just what I was expecting, but having the actual yarn in front of me will make it so much easier.

Once I had my yarn I worked out which color would be used where and got to work. The pattern starts with a tubular cast on, and links to this video. I’d done it once before, but didn’t remember how to do it at all. It was a challenge, and I had to do it a couple times, but now I  think I’ve got it down. I will definitely be using it whenever I can, because I love the edge it creates, it’s round and stretchy.

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Once I got to the colorwork, it was impossible to stop knitting. I had to just keep doing one more row to see how the next colors looked. The whole thing only took about three days. I knit English style, so I made up my own technique which involved keeping both yarns on my right index finger and flipping them back and forth with my thumb. It meant that I had to untwist the two balls of yarn pretty often, but it also helped me keep a good tension and my floats are nice and even and all going the same direction.

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Look at that stranding! So pretty! So neat! So even! I impressed myself a lot with this project. There was very little puckering, even before I blocked it, and then once I did block it, it became nice and soft, and drapey. The only puckering left is in where I changed needle sizes, but that’s not in the stranded areas. And now I’m looking for any opportunities I can find to wear my hat, even though spring is on its way.

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