School has Eaten My Brain

Hi all — sorry for the lack of blog posts recently.  I’ve just started taking some classes again, and they’re currently eating my brain —  the winter intersession intensive course is over, and now I’m taking 3.5 courses for the spring semester, which leaves little time for knitting or writing about knitting, sadly.  I will try to not be *quite* so slow to get things up on the blog in the future though — I’m going to aim for one post a week.  Let me know if there are any topics you’re dying to have me cover!

In the meantime, here are some pictures of Jesse in his Owls sweater, which finally fits him (and he’s been living in 24/7) and with his dad in their matching Netherlands Sampler sweaters:

Currently, I’m working on some colorwork gloves (a test knit) and top-secret never-ending gift (still) and trying to figure out how best to use some yarn that was given to me by a friend who is moving overseas.

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2011 in Knitting

2012 has gotten off to an exciting start — I’m taking a class that’s taking up a bunch of time, and work is getting more and more interesting (and busy) so sadly I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit. I love year-in-review posts though — it’s nice to reflect back on the knitting from 2011 and look forward to what 2012 will bring.

2011 had a lot less knitting in it than did 2010 — having a baby in November 2010 may have had something to do with that, but by the close of the year, I could feel the pace starting to pick up again. I’ve definitely had more energy recently for my knitting than I did in the early months of 2011, and that’s a trend I’m hoping continues.

This past year also had a fairly good balance of knitting work (commissions, test knits, sample knits), gifts for people dear to me, and selfish knitting (knitting for me, James, or Jesse). I think that 2011 may be the last year I knit for Christmas — with 19 immediate family members on James’s side, it just gets a little overwhelming. I’m glad I’ve done it in the past, but I think now might be the time to say I’m done.

In keeping with last year’s post, I’ll do a quick overview of the knitting of 2011 by category. First, sweaters.  Most of the sweaters I did this year were baby sweaters (three new baby cousins, and a rash of friends having babies will do that) but I also made one for myself, Hey, Admin, which is a nice addition to my summer wardrobe.  I made three five-hour baby sweaters for my cousins’ babies, Kinsale for Jesse, and a baby version of the Netherlands Sampler Pullover for Jesse.  I also made a Baby Surprise Jacket for a friend and fellow knitter’s baby girl, who arrived just this past month.

Two blankets were completed this year — Tweed Baby Blanket for Jesse, and Wool Leaves for Andrew and Kat, for their wedding.  Both were mostly knit while I was pumping milk for Jesse at work, so they took longer than I thought they “should” but I’m very glad I knit both of them.

I also made two scarves — one, really, plus a neckwarmer.  Both lace.  It’s nice to switch up what kind of texture patterns I work with every now and then.  Keeps it interesting!  The Diamond Lace Scarf was a sample knit, and the drop-stitch neckwarmer a gift for a friend who needed a little extra warmth and care in her life.

My first attempt at a knit soaker for Jesse was pretty much a failure, but it was cute before it got totally stretched out.

Hats and mittens were another area I tackled in 2011 — two Junie Caps, one for Jesse, one for a friend, and two sets of mittens, one for Jesse and one for a friend.  (hey — maybe if I keep this up, my toddler will learn to share?  A mom can always hope!).  I also made a pair of fingerless mittens for my father-in-law (pictures not off the camera yet).

Christmas gifts this year were nativity sets, which were fun, but I really want to redesign the pattern so the people can be knit in the round — there was WAY more seaming up at the end than there had to be.

Seven sweaters, two blankets,  two scarves, two hats, three sets of mittens, and three nativity sets isn’t too bad for the first year of motherhood!

For 2012, I’m going to try to do a little more selfish knitting, and try to keep knitting from stash — it’ll be my third year on a pretty strict yarn diet, but my stash still seems pretty big, so I think I can do it :)

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Adventures in 3-D Knitting: Nativity Sets

Way, way back in July, we went to visit some of James’s relatives in Maine.  We had a lovely trip.  A chance remark from one of James’s cousins set in motion this year’s Christmas knitting project:  nativity sets.  At this point, I don’t remember how it came up, but Cathy made a comment about how much my mother-in-law likes them, and that she collects them (which I had known, but hadn’t really thought about in this context much).   The more I thought about it, the more I thought that two of my sisters-in-law and their husbands would probably like them too.  I found this pattern online, and began raiding my mother’s scrap yarn collection (which my mother was thrilled about — some of this yarn had been sitting as scraps for a while, and the more of her old yarn I use, the more space she has for new yarn she actually wants to use!).

The actual knitting was not the most fun — there’s only so exciting little stockinette rectangles can be.  The magic though was in the sewing up.  Out of a pile of scraps, I got this:

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Sneak Peek

I’ve alluded to my never-ending deadline-knitting project a bunch of times recently, and I finally finished the first of six sections.  Here is your give-nothing-away-since-it’s-a-gift/surprise sneak peek!

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Shrunk — Just the Right Amount

Ok — here it it, the post you’ve all been waiting for — Finished, shrunken Stilwell!  You can see in these pictures that the pills are just as bad as ever, but boy oh boy does it fit better:

Close-up:

(oops — apparently the button band was a little tucked in — it normally isn’t).

I’m definitely calling this experiment a success!!

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Knitting for Comfort

How many of you knit to comfort yourself or your loved ones?  I bet a lot of you just raised your hands.  Lots of religious communities have groups that get together to knit “prayer shawls” for members who are going through tough times.  I really like this idea, even though I’m not really religious at all.  I think when there is something sad, or joyous, or both, that happens to one of my friends, I almost instinctively respond by knitting.  It’s how I show I care.  It’s how I can say “hey, you’re important and I want to help you mark this moment in your life.”  A lot of my knitting falls into this category, mostly in the form of baby and wedding gifts, but sometimes in the form of what might, in more pious hands, be called a prayer shawl.  Sometimes this isn’t a shawl or scarf at all:  when friends had a baby arrive seven weeks early with some major health complications, and I felt compelled to do something to try to help, despite the fact that they already had more casseroles than their freezer could hold, I knit that child a sweater.  It definitely wasn’t the most practical help they could use, but all of that stuff seemed to be adequately covered, and I still wanted to do SOMETHING. Now another friend is going through a rough time, having just lost a very much wanted pregnancy, and I again feel nothing *practical* per se is needed, so I’m knitting.

One thing about comfort knitting is that it’s not really the place for your most intricate work.  It’s important to find something you can complete quickly and get to the recipient quickly.  Grab something out of your stash and start on a quick knit like the Easy Drop Stitch Scarf.  This is what I’m doing this week.

What are your favorite quick knits when someone needs a little extra comfort in their life?

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Stilwell Shrinking

"Before"

In the fine tradition of “before” and “after” pictures, here is the kind of crappy before picture that doesn’t really quite compare with the after picture.  This picture was taken just after steeking the sweater, so there’s no button band, or buttons, but you can see how HUGE it is.  The button band was done lazily (read: badly — all in one piece with neckband, which warped the fabric of the sweater front oddly) and the button holes were too big, leading to too-big buttons.  The first thing I had to do in fixing this sweater was to rip out and re-knit the button band (properly this time).  Once the sweater had been fulled, I also discovered that the buttonholes had shrunk, letting me use much better buttons. Here are some more “before” pictures of the warping and not-quite-right buttons:

First step, as I mentioned in a previous post, was to try to boil the sweater.  Drop sweater in boiling water with a bit of soap.  Agitate. Pull out smaller, denser sweater.  That was the theory at least.  In real life, I agitated (and became more and more agitated myself…) for an hour before concluding that it just wasn’t working.  Not sure why.

At this point, I got pretty frustrated and dropped the whole thing in the dryer.  Forgetting that our dryer is S.L.O.W.  I checked on it after 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 20…  An hour and half later, the sweater had finally gotten felted enough that I was happy with it.  Well, I guess we know there won’t be any accidentally-felted handknits in our future laundry loads…

Pictures of me wearing the much-better-fitting sweater coming tomorrow! Stay tuned!

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