MoonBound

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Last weekend, a friend of mine went to a fair in Geneva, IL to see some rare breeds of livestock that were being exhibited.  She mentioned to me that there were going to be demonstrations of sheep shearing, the preparation of fleece and the making of yarn from the fiber.  While there, she texted me this photo:

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You are looking at a whole row of hand dyed, hand spun yarn being sold at the fair!  I love this picture, ( it looks like the weather was so  great – isn’t the sunshine gorgeous?!) and I wish I could have been there to see (and feel!) all of that awesome yarn.  Interestingly, I was actually perusing the hand spun yarn on Etsy that very same morning. 

Since she knows about my yarn addiction, my friend, who is also one of my coworkers, surprised me at work on Monday morning with this:

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It’s my very own hank of hand spun, natural merino wool yarn!  This is actually the first hand spun yarn that I have ever owned, so it was super exciting for me.  The vendor who was selling the yarn is a woman named Julia, and she is the proprietor of MoonBound Artisan Shop.   You can click on this link to see her blog.   She also has an Etsy shop where she sells her yarn. 

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The yarn has a nice twist to it, and I can’t believe how soft it is for 100% merino wool.  I have actually already finished the project that I decided to make with this yarn.  I literally couldn’t wait, although I did agonize a bit over what pattern would be worthy of such yarn.   I still have a few bugs to work out before I can blog about it, but details are coming soon!

Since I got a bit side-tracked by awesome, surprise, hand-spun wool, I took a break from my On The Road shawl this week.  I really should have finished it last weekend, but now that I’m into the really LONG rows at the end of the shawl, the monotony has started to get to me.  I’m also a little concerned that is seems small – more like a shawlette – and that has dampened my enthusiasm to finish it a little bit.  The size normally wouldn’t matter at all except that I was hoping to make this shawl my entry for the county fairs this summer, in which case, it needs to be a shawl and not a shawlette. 

Here’s my progress so far:

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The shape is really wide, but not very long, so it reminds me of a scarf with tapered ends more than a shawl.  I was thinking that I would just add another repeat of the green and gray to add length, but it doesn’t appear that I will have enough of the green yarn to do so.  I’m currently on the last two stripes, so I plan to add in a few more rows within each stripe to increase the length at least a little bit.  I’m hoping my plan won’t interfere with the symmetry of the pattern too much. 

Then again, the shawl may also look completely different after I block it out, and I’m hoping that may also help with the length.

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In other news, the weather is finally getting warmer here.  I put in this year’s ‘bunny garden’ after work one day last week.  I planted lots of herbs and greens for my pet rabbit Pinot to eat and enjoy.  I did this last year for her, and it worked out great!  Once the plants took off, I didn’t have to buy greens for her for nearly three months!  And the fresh picked veggies are so much healthier for her.

Since this will be a long weekend for Memorial Day, I’m hoping to complete some of these open ended knitting projects.  In my way is some orange, cotton, sock yarn that is in a bag hanging from my bedroom door handle.  It has been calling my name, so I can’t guarantee that this weekend’s knitting will not be the start of yet another project instead of the completion of many already on the needles.  We’ll see how much self control I have….

~Happy knitting!

Cross-eyed Knitting in the Dark

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Last weekend, I started a new project:  the On The Road shawl by Janina Kallio.  I’m in a bit of a money crunch again lately so I needed to find yarn from my existing stash that would work for this pattern.  I decided on this:

Etsy 001

I picked Madelintosh Tosh Merino Light in the colorways Norway Spruce (bottom) and Composition Book Gray (top).  The shawl is primarily knit in garter stitch, so I’m whizzing right along with it and as of now, the shawl is about half-way complete.   I can’t wait to see it blocked.

Last weekend was a fairly busy one, and I got a lot done.  I had a work-related event Friday evening, and then Saturday I did more job-related work at home.  I got yard work done, and shopping, and I started my new shawl.  Sunday, I went to see my mom for Mother’s Day, and spent most of the day visiting with her and my sister and nephew.  I brought the shawl along since I knew I would have down-time there.  As the evening approached, a storm was moving in, and I headed home, trying to stay ahead of it.

I had some new cargo on the way back:  an old cedar blanket chest that I purchased at a local resale shop for $20.

Etsy 001a

Etsy 007

I’ve been searching for an old cedar chest for around two years now.  I have mentioned before that I enjoy knitting-related antiques and vintage items, and I have been hoping to find a cedar chest that I could use for storage of my wool yarn and woolen knits.  Natural cedar repels moths, and it smells wonderful.

I have seen a few old chests over the last year or so, but none of them really spoke to me, or were exactly what I had pictured in my mind.  About three months ago, I stopped at this resale shop in town to find a small curio cabinet, and as I made my way to the back of the shop, I noticed this chest.  It was in pieces, but I realized that it was cedar, and it had the rustic, simple appearance that I was looking for. 

I talked the proprietor down from $24 to $20 and took it to my parent’s house, where it has been since then, so that my dad could repair the lid which was missing some wood.  My plan now is to refinish it for use in my home.  As you can see, the outside is a little rough-looking, with scratches and white paint spatter, but the inside is just lovely!  I so prefer the look of natural wood.

Etsy 001b

So I finally brought the chest home last weekend, and the storm rolled in about 30 minutes after I got the chest in the house.  I was looking forward to my evening, and to unwinding for a few hours in preparation for the work week.  I hoped to get my laundry done, and do a bit more knitting.

I had just started the first laundry load when the brunt of the storm hit and knocked the power out.  I had to take the dogs and relocate to the basement in the dark to the sound of tornado sirens outside.  The storm was intense, and it flooded my street.  As I sat on the floor of an interior room of my basement, I realized that water was seeping in along a crack in the wall.  So much for a relaxing evening!

Wet dogs wearing rain coats.

Wet dogs wearing rain coats.

After a few trips out into the pouring rain to address the cause of the seepage issue, and three phone conversations with a dismissive power company representative, I finally decided that my evening was toast.  The house was hot and humid since I couldn’t run the AC without electricity, I was going to have no clean laundry for the next day at work, and the realization of these things was making me increasingly irritable. 

In an attempt to save some part of my evening, I decided to try to knit by lantern light.  I really wanted to get through a few more rows of my shawl, and since I couldn’t work or do laundry without power, trying would at least make me feel like the night was not a total loss. 

The LEDs in the emergency lantern were making my eyes strain as I tried to see my stitches, so I tried to add candle light, which didn’t really help.  Then I tried to employ the use of a strategically placed book light.  I spent three hours knitting, nearly cross-eyed, in the dark.  It made me realize that I need to be better prepared for events like this.  The power was out for five hours.

At work on Tuesday, I decided to check out the Internet for a weather radio and some high power emergency lighting.  In my search, I actually found a store called the Weather Radio Store!  They sell only weather radios and emergency preparedness supplies.  I found this fascinating.  I made an order for some essentials, but I think it would really take a head-lamp (which the store also happens to offer) to knit in the dark without going blind.

I’m hoping to have a more relaxing weekend this time around.  I’m picturing knitting by visible light while wearing freshly laundered clothes above a dry basement.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Have a great weekend and happy knitting! 

Inventories

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Well, it’s the last day of my week-long break from the college.  It’s always a huge disappointment when a vacation is over.  I was shocked at how run down I was after the last few semesters, and I needed  a good week to recover, so I spent my week doing a whole lot of nothin’. 

Even so, there is a part of me that is ready for vacation to end.  Somehow, I seem to get along better when I am busy and continuously occupied.  I plan to remind myself of this discovery when I inevitably reach that point in the middle of the upcoming term when I begin to feel crushed by deadlines and responsibilities, and I’m convinced that the solution to it all is more time off. 

I think that my dog Flash must know that today is the last day of my break.  He spent most of the day outside on the deck, refusing to come in. 

HandsomeflashCut

He and my other dog enjoyed having me around all week, and since I was in need of a rest, I was home with them most of the time, knitting, working on the lawn and watching movies.

 

I did make a quick trip out to the Menards store in a neighboring town this morning.  I really like Menards, and our old store was closed at the end of last summer in order for a new, larger version to be opened a few blocks away.  I was needing some grass seed and some wood stove pellets, so I thought I would make a quick trip.  It was my first time shopping in the new location, and I was totally unprepared for what I was about to walk into. 

The new store is two floors, connected by these giant, escalator-style ramps that shoppers, along with their shopping carts, can ride on up and down the levels.  I have never seen anything like it.  At the top of the escalator ramps, in between the one carrying people up, and the one carrying people down, was a live pianist, playing the piano!  The store also has a metal and glass, tubular elevator running up and down between the floors, carrying shoppers, again with their carts, to their destinations.   

The amount of money that must have gone into all of that has got to be staggering.  I really don’t get it.  I just wanted grass seed and it didn’t make much sense to me to that I had to ride in an elevator that looked like a space ship in order to get it,  while being serenaded by the stylings of a live pianist.  If Menards doesn’t know what to do with all of its money, they can give some to me…

 

Switching gears:

I was perusing some of my favorite knitting blogs in the last few days (something I haven’t had much time to do until my recent break).  Wendy of wendyknits.net just finished an awesome cowl called Foolproof, named for its amazing, novel, and unique construction.  Foolproof is a no cast-on, no bind-off, no seaming pattern that ends up a beautiful, intact cowl with a striped sequence pattern by the time you knit the last stitch.  I’m obsessed with the pattern after seeing Wendy’s completed cowl, so I purchased the pattern, and now I just have to decide on yarn.  I want to knit it in fingering weight, and I need two complementary colors. 

What’s even better is that Foolproof is knit in garter stitch, which will make for easy, mindless knitting now that I will be back to work.  It’s perfect!

I have completed a ton of projects in the last two weeks:  experimental felt bowls, hats, two bags, kitchen towels and pot holders.  Most of it has been for the Etsy shop, and it has been great fun. 

This is my absolute favorite bowl that I made by felting wool and mohair.

This is my absolute favorite bowl that I made by felting wool and mohair.

 

Cute cotton towels made from an awesome free striped towel patten from Lion Brand Yarns.

Cute cotton towels made from an awesome, free, striped towel pattern from Lion Brand Yarns.

I do still have some larger projects of my own on needles all around the house, too.  Off the top of my head, I can think of a pair of striped socks (almost done!), my Leaf Scarf, a sweater that I don’t think I have mentioned once here on the blog – but it’s nearly 3/4 finished and seems to be turning out well, and that second pair of Chivalry mitts that is a bit more than half way done.  So much knitting!

Chivalry mitts pattern: two years ago, I finished the fist mitt of this pair...

Chivalry mitts pattern: two years ago, I finished the fist mitt of this pair…

In other news, my sister has requested a pair of Angora mittens for her upcoming birthday, and I already purchased the yarn:  Kollage yarns Scrumptious in the colorway Key Lime.  The fiber content is 70% Angora and 30% silk.  I think that the yarn has been discontinued completely, so Web’s has it on closeout. 

It appears that one of the last spring break activities that I will be engaging in tonight (my last night before going back to work) will be breaking out the swift and winding several skeins of yarn… but first, I will go feed two hungry dogs who are waiting for their dinner.

~Happy spring! 

Baby robbins in my evergreen bushes!

Baby robbins in my evergreen bushes!

FO: Radiating Star Blanket (& a sleepless night…)

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Radiating Star1

If you noticed that this blog posted around 5am, it’s the cold, hard truth.  I wasn’t feeling well last night, and I went to bed around 10:35pm.  What followed was a succession of events (of the canine variety) roughly every two hours, until I gave up.

My early morning hours went something like this:

  • 10:35 pm  —  Pounding headache.  Tylenol.  Bed.
  • 1 am – Dog #1 jumps out of bed and does the “potty walk”.  This means a trip outside is needed.  If this is not achieved immediately enough, the sound of a urine stream (always in a carpeted room) will promptly follow.
  • 2am – Dog #2 jumps out of bed and stumbles around the house making loud gagging noises.  This doesn’t stop until I get up to assess the situation and comfort said dog.
  • 3am – Dog #2 is now somehow aware of some wildlife creature lurking outside.  He is now making groaning noises while I ignore him and try to sleep.  Concurrently, dog #1 sleeping to the right of my head is exhibiting some impressively loud gut sounds.
  • 4am – Dog #2 gives up on the groaning and gets back into bed.  Dog #1 jumps out of bed.  This is followed by the sound of a urine stream hitting the bedroom door (in the carpeted room).
  • 4:01am – Exhausted,angry ‘dog-mom’ launches out of bed AGAIN. 

After the third trip (in four hours) to the back door with the dogs, I cleaned the urine out of the carpet and gave up.  I’m ashamed to say that these episodes of elderly dog shenanigans sometimes make me consider getting into the closet and shutting the door.  I haven’t ever actually done it, but that’s only because I know that the resulting clawing at the door would only ruin the finish.  And this would likely be followed by the sound of a urine stream.

I would like to state that both dogs are sleeping soundly while I type this.  How nice for them. 

Luckily, my day yesterday was much better than this morning has gone so far.  I attended a baby shower held for my cousin who is having her first child.  Everyone in attendance had a great time.

I decided to knit her a baby blanket as part of her gift, so I went on a search last week for a pattern that I liked.  I didn’t really want to make a tired, traditional blanket, but I needed something that would work up quickly. 

What I found was the Radiating Star Blanket pattern by Alexis Layton.  The pattern is available as a free Ravelry download HERE.  I love the look of the blanket, and actually, the pattern is really easy and fun to do if you can knit in the round on circular needles.

RS1

I used an acrylic yarn that I bought at a local, chain craft store since most things coming into contact with babies will need to be washed sometimes.  I went with Bernat Softee Chunky yarn in Seagreen.  The pattern is written for chunky weight yarn, but I picked super-chunky yarn since I had very little time to complete the project.

I used size 11 needles, but I think if I had used something even larger, like size 13, the blanket would have had a nicer drape.  I also ran out of yarn due to some miscalculations (I always forget to leave enough yarn for the bind-off!) in the last few rows of the pattern.  Due to this, I was not able to put in the edging row which was designed to help control the curling that stockinette stitch likes to do.  Sigh.  My options were to either rip back three rows of work and then put in the edging and bind off or just bind off the last row and call it a blankie. 

The perfectionist in me hates that I chose the latter.  I already have plans to make a second one of these with the necessary adjustments just to appease her. 

So the blanket was a little stiffer and a bit curlier than I had envisioned, and I searched for a solution.  Blocking it was the obvious choice, but I knew that soaking over 900 yards of super chunky yarn would pose some challenges.  I think it would have weigh about 80 pounds when wet, for one thing.  I entertained ideas of steam-blocking it, which I have never done before.

Blocking1

I ended up trying it.  I pinned and stretched the finished (dry) blanket on the rug.  Then I used the steam setting on my iron. 

 Blocking 2

I sprayed the blanked down with steamy water, and then steam-ironed it thoroughly.  I was pretty sure that the steam from a little iron would never penetrate the super chunky acrylic, and that therefore, I was wasting my time.  I was excited to find that it actually did penetrate and relax the yarn which smoothed it out while the stitches became more even. 

Blocking is wonderful (especially for perfectionists), isn’t it?

Blocking 3

So the final blanket turned out looking nice and polished, and I felt better about giving it as a gift.

Welcome Baby!

Hopefully it will get lots of use and snuggles.

Radiating Star blanket2

~Happy knitting (and possibly sleeping…)! 

Holiday Traditions

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A1

When I was growing up, I had an aunt named Bertha who loved crafts of all types.  In addition to ceramics and sewing, she was a talented knitter and crocheter.  When I was around 10 years old, she made me a lovely sweater to wear, and I remember being disappointed with how quickly I outgrew it.  I liked it quite a lot, but due to being a young, growing girl, it didn’t fit me beyond one winter.

I liked the sweater so much that I kept it all of these years.  My mother (Bertha’s sister) didn’t even know that I had stashed it away as a little girl.  It just felt wrong to pass it on or to donate away something that my aunt had made by hand. 

I would have had no way of knowing back then that I would eventually be an avid knitter myself,  appreciating the sweater even more than I did before.   

Hand-made sweater

There is one photo of me in the family album – wearing the sweater – which is kind of neat to see.  (I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I fit this little sweater at the age of 10, but there I am!)

AuntBerthaSweater

Aside from Santa and Mrs. Claus, that is my big brother and my little nephew in the shot with me. 

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll be glad to know that my sister liked the mittens I knit for her.  Here we are looking happy after opening gifts last night:

Sisters2012

~Happy Holidays!!!

The Best Laid Plans (and FO: Glen Cabled Scarf & Hat)

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I finished my scarf on Sunday night and promptly began the matching hat.  The hat was completed late last night. 

I think that the detail in the scarf will show up better once the scarf is blocked open a bit, but I sort of aborted that plan in order to begin wearing the scarf immediately (it’s been cold here in the Midwest, and I have to be at work by 7:30 in the morning which makes for a chilly, dawn commute).

Even with my modifications for the bulky gauge of this yarn, the hat ended up too big.  Sigh.

I’m toying with the idea of using the remaining yarn to knit a second hat that fits me correctly.  If I do that, I will likely not have enough left for the mittens I originally planned. 

The good news is, I’m exhausted from this crazy week, and I don’t need to decide all of that tonight.  Off to bed for me for some much-needed sleep!

~Happy knitting!

Busyness, Blogs & a Bunny

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Due to life-related busyness, I took an inadvertent break from blogging.  Tonight was the first night in roughly a month that I sat down and knitted on any of my projects.  I nearly never go that long without knitting.  There has been a lot going on.

One fun recent development is that I adopted one of the laboratory rabbits who reached ‘retirement’ from the program at the college where I instruct.  She became a buddy of mine over the last year since I had to work with her in many of my classes.  She always gave me a chuckle due to the fact that she managed to intimidate most of our students since she is a rather bossy bun with a strong personality.

 

In the last two terms, all of the other retiring buns found homes, but not little ‘P’.  I guess being too big for your britches can have a down-side.

I always sort of knew I would end up with her, even though I have never owned a rabbit (and I have been trying hard to downsize the number of rescued animals currently in my care).  The universe sort of spoke on this one, and I have a new bun buddy who has been keeping me entertained in the evenings after work.

She is still a young rabbit, so she is having a great time enjoying freedom during ‘out of cage time’, and discovering all of the new and different toys that I manage to find for her. 

She adores fresh veggies – something she rarely got while part of the college program –  and she has discovered that she prefers meadow hay to timothy hay when given the choice.

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I think this photo speaks for itself:

~Happy hopping!

Always Knitting

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Last week, my order from my friend Mindy’s Thirty-One party came in.  I did a bit of Christmas shopping, but I also bought myself one of their Organizing Utility Totes since the party just happened to be on my birthday…

The utility totes are very durable and they feature many pockets and pouches.  There are limitless uses for them — Mindy is a dog groomer, and she uses one as her work bag.  I realized mine could make an awesome knitting bag. 

I wasn’t in love with the pattern selection being offered at the time of the party (I’m told it changes 3 or 4 times a year), but I ended up choosing this purple paisley.  It’s a bit loud for my taste, but trust me, it was the best option at the time.

You can also see that I had it embroidered in green floss.

I really do like it, and it is already useful for storage purposes.

You can see the pockets and size of the bag better in the above photo.  The pockets go all around the outside of the bag and the interior is huge.  It is awesome!

I’m not one for throwing parties, but I have already spoken to the consultant about the possibility of hosting my own Thirty One party at my house.  I think it would be fun!  We’ll see if I can make it happen.

~Happy knitting!

Focus!

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I’m having a bit of a hard time getting my focus back.  Now that all of the summer challenges and fairs are over, I am falling back into my old ways of project hopping.  I just don’t feel like finishing anything, and I have a million ideas for new projects that I want to start.

Erg.  I’m not sure if I hate this or love this about myself. 

I could have easily finished my Rayures Cowl in last few weeks.  It is only rows and some grafting (and some blocking) away from being complete.  An extra incentive on that one is that I could be wearing it in this chilly fall weather we are enjoying.  But alas…

Here is what I picked up on a whim last weekend, and a little bit again this weekend:

It’s my second, adjusted pair of Chivalry Mitts. 

Last weekend, I finished the first one, and now I am half way through mitt #2.

It would make perfect sense then to spend my knitting time this weekend finishing the second mitt, since again, I am knitting these with plans to wear them for driving.

Instead, I started this:

It’s another cotton dish towel from the Leftovers Towel Pattern.  I made one last spring using KnitPicks cotton Dishie yarn (see the towel HERE) and it turned out to be my favorite and most useful one.  I knit a little loop on one corner so that I could hang it from my pantry door in the kitchen, where I often need a towel.

I’m making this one from Peaches N’ Cream Cotton Stripes yarn that I bought last summer at good ol’ Walmart.  There is a remote possibility that I will finish it this weekend.

I shouldn’t even mention the fact that I have yet another incomplete towel — this one about one-quarter of the way done — that has been sitting on top of my printer in my home-office since last spring…

Project schizophrenia strikes again.

~Happy knitting!

A Week Behind

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When I made that quick post last weekend to show off my completed Woodland Turtle Cowl, I expected to be posting again in a day or two about the weekend I had.  Instead, I got swallowed up by work and life (I haven’t even knitted since last Sunday!) and never was able to gather the time or the energy to post again.

This weekend is still all about the work and hopefully some house cleaning, so it just works out that I still haven’t shared all of the fun happenings from last weekend.

Last weekend was the last Sunday of September, which means our knitting group met for a nice Sunday morning of coffee, tea and yarn.  The company is always great at our group, and everyone has a good time.  I wore my newly knitted cowl, fresh off of the blocking mats:

I also brought along some of my finished projects to share with the group.  When I was showing off my Cladonia Shawl (the one that won the ribbons at the Will County Fair this past summer) a woman at another table in the cafe  began talking to our group, and wanted to purchase our hand knits!  I did give her my contact info in case she wanted me to knit up a similar shawl for her. 

I got a ton of work done on my Rayures Cowl while knitting with the group, and it seemed like everyone was knitting something particularly gorgeous this month.  I wish I took more photos!  I did get a few photos of these lovely holiday ornaments being knitted by Jaime who owns the local yarn shop.

 

After knitting group, I stopped at a local craft fair being held in a park on the same street as the cafe where we were knitting.  It was a beautiful fall day, and all of the crafting booths were erected along the paths in the park which made perusing the wares feel like a glorious walk through the woods.  I have to say, I greatly enjoyed myself.

I purchased some hand-made soy candles as a Christmas gift for my sister.  She especially loves soy candles, and these were good ones (and you know how I love to support independent business owners).

I fell madly IN LOVE with some hand-made art pottery from Chestnut Creek Pottery.  The pots are produced locally by an artist from Portage, IN.  I wasn’t in need of any pottery, but here is what I came home with:

I am SO keeping knitting needles in the one with the heart-shaped opening.

Before I left the park (I didn’t want to leave!), I bought a big pot of mums from some students selling fall flowers as a school fund-raiser.  Here they are adorning my porch:

~Happy Fall!

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