It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Mr. Knitting Sarah had to work on Turkey Day proper, but had the following two days off of work so we decided to rendez-vous up at my parents’ house for a mini-break. We had a marvelous time complete with yummy food, good company, and some little adventures including a trip to Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a favorite spot for us as the walking trails are relatively short & paved and there’s always plenty to see as well as a very fun nature center that the kids love.

As usual, Mr. Knitting Sarah enjoyed howling with the wolf pack and I have to admit a highlight for me was watching one of the wolves wag his/her tail while he/she howled. I’d never noticed that before and it was just a very touching to see the canine clearly happy to be singing. I was mildly disconcerted when I walked over to see what my daughter was looking at and saw that…

…the mountain lion had started chewing on its enclosure. Of course I understand these enclosures are safe enough, but I’ve been at zoos when monkeys escape and have run-ins with eagles (true story!)and other random things happen so I can’t help but be acutely aware that we may place animals in nice enclosures, but we never really tame the natural world. A cougar gnawing on anything less than a foot from my child regardless of the safety features will always be unsettling to me and I’m at peace with that. But I digress and I’m happy to report we all survived the harrowing adventure to the very safe wildlife sanctuary.

I’m also happy to report that all the myriad of breakages that happened before the holiday have been rectified. We have a new and amazing clothes dryer, a microwave that is no longer making like it might explode, and I found a keyboard that does not have any sticky keys to substitute for the one on my computer that started to fail. It’s like a whole new magical world here!

This magical feeling, however, may actually be due to the fact that we also took some time to decorate for the holidays.

IMG_1507Moose led the way with some serious holiday napping.

IMG_1509-2We got the kiddos a little mini-tree for their room and my daughter decided they had to have ALL the Christmas baubles I made during the Merry KAL. She later brought a handful out for the main tree, but I’m glad I caught a photo of the mini-tree buckling under the glory of the Merry KAL.

We bought an nice full artificial tree about 12 years ago when we bought our house and about 5years after we got it the base broke. Unable to find a new base that would fit and unwilling to buy a new one, every year since I’ve spearheaded a campaign to keep the tree upright while investing as little money as possible. I’ve used towels, cardboard, duct tape — you name it — it was always an adventure in “engineering” and it has always involved at least one catastrophic tipping per year.

This year, we finally opted to spring for a new tree.

IMG_1503-1We downsized quite a bit so that the tree would fit a bit better in our tiny house that will be full of family for the holidays. A smaller tree also means that I can leave my wheel out in the main living space until the real influx of people arrive. There will be a lot of very merry spinning this month, indeed.

I also had the kids set me up with a little advent calendar. We always have these countdown calendars for the kiddos and I kind of wanted in on the fun this year. Since I didn’t know that Opal makes one until it was too late, I handed the kiddos some sandwich baggies and my neatly wound sock yarn leftovers. In the secret of their room they each picked 12 yarns and placed them in individual baggies and then put them in my fantastic giant project bag from The Fawn and The Fox.

IMG_1515If I’d thought ahead at all I’d have whipped up or purchased a Christmas-y project bag, but… well, hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it.

The idea is that each day I will avert my eyes and grab one baggie (or one yarn) out at random and add it to my Knitted Patchwork Blanket. As you can see by the 4 little blocks in the left-hand corner, my big aspirations with making progress on this blanket this year did not amount to much so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to resurrect this project in a fun way. The kiddos have opened their advent calendars for today, I can’t wait to dig into mine in a few minutes!

Of course there’s some holiday knitting happening around here, too.

IMG_1513And there’s a whole lot of unrealistic expectations for what I’ll actually accomplish in the next 24 days. No matter, though. I’ll get to what I get to and I’ll be enjoying the very merriness that surrounds me because it’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.

December (and Final!) Merry KAL Wrap-Up

365days ago I invited ‘anyone and everyone’ to join me in a year-long knitalong. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and a part of me kind of expected that I might be working on Arne & Carlos’ 55 Christmas Balls to Knit alone all year. To my great surprise & delight, within a couple days interest was growing & a group began to form. Martine from iMake heard about the KAL & offered to co-host & open a thread in her Ravelry group so that we’d be able to more easily chat about our projects. Some knitters created a ball every single month, some dropped in and out as time allowed, some joined right away in January, and some found us late in the year — whatever the case, I just want to say it has been a privilege to work with each and every knitter in the group. You have made this project so very special and incredibly fun.

And today, December 31st, our little knitalong comes to an end. We made it! Hooray!

As always, I have my finished photos ready for you.

dec ballsI did all three balls, of course,  and I used natural/white & grey for all three. I wasn’t sure how great they would be with the lower contrast, but I absolutely love them. I think they are just perfect for snow themed ornaments.  Many thanks to my knitting buddy who gave me the white when I knew I would run short. Unfortunately, this did not completely allow me to avoid yarn drama. With about 4rows left to go on the last ball I completely ran out of grey. Smack dab in the middle of the holidays when my LYS was closed. Suffice to say, an emergency yarn order was placed and I managed to get the yarn here & finish on time. Phew.

Sadly, this delay forced me to take photos this morning in the middle of our current cold snap. At about 10degrees F today, it is significantly warmer than the high of 1degree F yesterday, but when the wind blows, it is still awfully cold. It took me about 3 trips outside to get the clothesline & all the Christmas balls hung this morning.  Brrrr!  But so worth it for the final group photo — I thought we were all worth it. The photos of individual balls I took on our family tree. Speaking of which, let me get to it…

First, Christmas Ball #2: Frost.

ball2I love the two alternating designs.

ball2-2This side is so simple, but so pretty.

Next, Christmas Ball#3: Snowflakes

ball3This little ornament is super dainty looking — love it!

And, last but not least, Christmas Ball #4: New Snow

ball4 The design is so classic & traditional looking. Old school. Sweet.

To be sure many of us will continue on to knit more of these delightful ornaments, both those with patterns in the book and of our own design — but it will be a bit different apart from the familiar voices of this knitalong. I am looking forward to staying in touch, though, through following my fellow kniters’ blogs and projects. I should see some of you over at Martine’s crochet-along — she’s spearheading a crochet snowflake project for 2014 that is sure to be grand. If I’m lucky, a few may even come along on my next year-long adventure — I’ll announce that tomorrow so stay tuned!.

And last but not least, at the suggestion of some of you I’ve also started the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group — it’s a forum for you to share ideas, ask questions, spread enthusiasm, talk about & share a photo of what’s on your needles, inspire friends, show off your projects, and generally talk about your knitting & spinning experiences. Everyone is welcome — I would love to see you there!

I will close this post our MerryKAL tradition — the clothesline photo of all the Christmas Balls to date. The Merry KAL has been tremendous — A big, no  h u g e, thank you to everyone who participated! You’ve made it a grand adventure! Let’s do it again soon!

December all ballsxoxo

Sarah

Get Christmas Knitting Done: Check.

I have not really taken part in the whole knitting for Christmas tradition in the past — at least not beyond little things like mug cozies or a stray hat here or there. My husband gets his skein of sock yarn with the promise that someday it will become socks, but that’s been about it.

This year I did all right though. Six hats, one little girl’s scarf, three skeins of handspun, two pairs of socks, and a partridge in a pear tree. That last one I’m kidding about — I did not knit a partridge in a pear tree (I love that I have to clarify that because it could happen). It’s true that today I wrapped up the final Christmas gift. And by ‘wrapped up’ I literally wrapped it, the knitting was done a couple days ago. I did snap a couple photos for you though before I lovingly tucked it into its box with fancy paper.

irland finishedSocks for my husband.

For those who like socks to match, you will notice these do not. I will be honest, patterned socks that don’t line up don’t bother me a bit. For these, however I actually had them matching at the cuff (by complete accident), but a knotted join of the yarn about 2 or 3 inches down threw them off. True, I could have hunted down the right spot in the yarn to continue the pattern, but that’s really not how I roll because I don’t mind that they don’t line up and my husband probably wouldn’t notice either way. That’s not a slam, by the way, that’s just knowing my audience and with my husband warm feet is the objective, not socks that are all perfectly matchers. The finished socks are lovely & my husband will probably not believe his eyes when he opens finished socks on Christmas morning. He will read this, see the photo, and then still be shocked. My track record is that bad. Thankfully, he loves me anyway.

irland2These socks are made using the Churchmouse Yarns & Teas Basic Sock pattern. As usual, I knit using sport weight yarn and followed the fingering weight instructions. This is what works for my husband, so we go with it. For a change I knit these in stockinette instead of ribbing on the cuff & top of the foot. I thought it’d be fun to see the pattern in the yarn. Oh yes, the yarn. It is Regia 6-ply Irland Color in the Grau colorway. I bought this yarn in 50gram balls, so I had some ends to weave in along the way. While I’d definitely prefer a 150gr ball, these skeins were a good deal and really as long as you consider ahead of time where to join the yarn so it isn’t irritating on the foot, the extra couple ends to weave in aren’t bad. I love the durability of Regia for sock yarn and the sport weight is great for quick socks that aren’t too bulky.

So there you go: Get Christmas Knitting Done: Check.

Having finished all my holiday knitting, I finally got around to a little something for me. I have a good number of scarves, cowls, and shawls in a variety of colors and I like to rotate which I wear. A basic black hat is a must for me to be able to easily coordinate my other knitwear with my black coat. My current black hat has seen better days, so when I ordered in the Quince & Co Osprey for my daughter’s hat, mitten, scarf trio for Christmas, I added a skein of Osprey in Crow for myself. I knew just what I wanted…

betsy3Betsy by Jane Richmond.

betsy1A sweet lace beanie in a chunky weight yarn.

betsy2I have wanted to knit this hat since the pattern came out in February — in fact, I bought the pattern right away, but you know how it goes… the to-do list is fluid & Betsy just kept getting bumped from the top of my queue. Holiday knitting down, Osprey in hand, I cast-on a couple nights ago and wrapped up knitting last night. I wove in the ends and wore it out on my errands today.

betsy on 2Oh, there I am with the selfie du jour — hi everyone! I usually refrain from selfies, but I  wanted you to see the fit of this hat. Definitely a beanie, but the lovely squishy Osprey is super warm so for a little hat, this beauty keeps my head plenty warm. It hasn’t been washed yet, so it’ll loosen up a little over time, too. I love the little lace pattern in this chunky yarn. You just don’t usually get this kind of feminine touch in chunky hats that often. Early Merry Christmas to me!

And — although I’ve been putting it off for a while so as to avoid the fact that it’s ending — I have officially started my last month’s installment of the Merry Knitalong.

20131219-143053.jpgIt is so bittersweet. Even Moose is kind of bummed.

But we persevere. True to form, as I finish up my final installment of the Merry KAL I am starting to finalize my plans for next year. I’m starting to get pretty excited for 2014 — great things are on the way!

December Merry KAL Announcement

Welcome to the very last of our monthly Merry KAL announcements!

I am always looking for things to come full circle. I look for it in life, in nature, in human behavior, in my work — everywhere. The sun rises on a horizon and sets on a horizon. Doing something kind for another person leads to good karma paid back. When I write a story, I like to weave a tale that at its conclusion nods to where it all began. In this way, I think it’s only fitting that we end this year-long KAL where we began, with a snowflake.

We started in January with Christmas Ball 1: Snow Crystal. This month we will finish this KAL with your choice of the other three snowflakes in the Arne & Carlos’ 55 Christmas Balls to Knit.

December’s Christmas Ball(s) is your choice of

Christmas Ball 2: Frost

Christmas Ball 3: Snowflakes

or

Christmas Ball 4: New Snow

As always, you are welcome to knit one, two, or all of these balls or to choose your own design for the month. Please don’t forget to share your knitting on the Merry KAL thread on Ravelry — you can find it here!

Before I leave you to get knitting today, I wanted to take a few moments to bring a fun project to your attention. My co-host Martine has announced that she is teaming up with a friend to bring you another Christmasy project for 2014! Based on the same general premise of the Merry KAL, this will be a year-long crochet-along. Each month Martine & Jen will announce two snowflakes to crochet — one easy & one advanced — and participants will be able to follow this framework or choose their own to crochet up.  Like all iMake CALs/KALS they are informal & flexible, so you are free to drop in and out as life permits. Martine took the time to announce this CAL early to allow for everyone to add the book to their wishlists this holiday season — thanks, Martine!

Anyone interested, please check out Martine’s post of the iMake blog where you can get all the details on this CAL. You can also visit the Snowflake CAL thread on Ravelry to talk with fellow participants, ask questions, and just get excited and prepared to get crocheting. My crochet skills are quite remedial, but I am going to check it out. I think the fact that there are both beginner & more advanced options each month will make it a great project for learning.  In fact as I was writing this post, Martine just posted up a segment on her blog about ‘Snowflake Training’ including a video to help those new to crochet get started. See, with Martine at the helm, this is guaranteed to be a blast — I hope to see you there!

All this being said, I guess some things don’t have to totally come full circle. Sometimes in life you get the chance to switch gears and carry on a little longer along the same creative vein.  For just a little longer enjoy the Merry KAL while you get excited & prepared for the Snowflake CAL. Most of all this month though, enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones!

November Merry KAL Wrap-Up

I finished up this month’s installment of the Merry KAL a while ago, but I have been putting off photographing due to some very, very cold weather here. Cold as in highs in the low 20s (20 deg F, that is). This morning I had no option to put it off any longer and thankfully the weather cooperated with a balmy 28F. My hands only kind of froze taking photos and thankfully I was smart enough to put on a fresh pot of coffee before heading out.

Before I get to my photos though I want to share some of yours. Since this month was the choose your own adventure of the Merry KAL, I asked that anyone game send me a photo of their finished Christmas balls so I could share them here. It has been pretty quiet on the thread — I assume you are all as consumed as I am by preparing for the holidays & knitting other gifts — so I want to extend a special thank you to those who took the time to knit up a ball (or two) this month and send their photos. I did not have a chance to respond personally to your emails, but I want you to know that when I got them, they sure made my day!

Without further ado, our artists this month.

First of all, Tony (Ravelry ID: bonitoclub).

tony's squirrel Tony — who was the very first to join the Merry KAL — has been an absolute treat to knit with. He chose the super cute Christmas Ball 45: The Squirrel. How can you not love that bushy tail!

Pam (Ravelry ID: gbsnowflakes) joined us about 3months ago, learning the 2-color stranded knitting along the way & even finding herself bitten by the designing bug.

pam's snowflakeShe selected Christmas Ball 4: New Snow. Isn’t she doing amazing?!

Then about a day ago I got another message from Pam. She had knit up another ball!

pam harris christmas ballHaving let her daughter pick her favorite design, Pam whipped up Christmas Ball 31: Heart Lattice. She presented it to her daughter yesterday at Thanksgiving so it could be the first ornament on her tree. How sweet! And I have to say, I love this motif!

And of course we have my lovely co-host, Martine (Ravelry ID: iMake).

martin's squirrelShe also selected Christmas Ball 45: The Squirrel!  Proof that great minds think alike? Or that squirrels are beloved little critters? I think both.

Finally, my selections. I chose two.

bird close upFirst, Christmas Ball 42: Bird on a Branch. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog knows I live in a house of bird watchers, so a bird simply had to be made. I will admit, it is my favorite Christmas Ball so far. I might say that every month though. I kind of fall in love with each of the designs I knit.

bird branchI wanted to do the brown on grey for this ball, but it looked very not festive, so on a whim I added a round of alternating red and green on the top & bottom of the ball. I love how it turned out — just enough color to make it Christmasy.

Second, I chose Christmas Ball 10: Ski Jumper.

skier frontI don’t get to go very much any more, but I love the ski. And I just thought this design was so fun & carefree (and it really did not want to stand up on its own).

skier sideHere’s a snapshot of the side. Yep, just a fun & easy ball.

two ballsHere are the two together — my November installment of the Merry KAL.

And this is an outtake from my photo shoot…

crazy moose1Note the crazed dog in the lower left hand corner. He loves the snow. A lot. And when my hands are blocks of ice he is raring to go, dropping his frisbee at my feet.

And here is the proper photo sans crazy dog.

nov ballsHappy Merry KAL everyone!  One month to go!

Check back tomorrow for the December announcement — our very last announcement!

November Merry KAL Announcement

I’m not sure if I ever mentioned it, but before I launched the Merry Knitalong in January I created a schedule. My calendar included the plan for what ball(s) would be knit each month. I have made some adjustments here & there, but for the most part I stuck to the plan.

This month, I am taking a leap from that plan. After watching a couple of our Merry KALers do some custom designs, I thought it would be fun to celebrate the individuals involved in this project.  Now I realize that not everyone will want to create their own designs and that is totally fine — I know I won’t have time to do so. I did however think it would be fun to let my fellow KALers take control this month. So this month’s Merry KAL installment will be….

Choose your own ball(s)

Select one or two designs from Arne & Carlos’ 55 Christmas Balls to Knit — any designs you want.

What I would love to do would be to feature your Christmas ball(s) here on the blog at the end of the month, so please submit a photo to me at knittingsarah [at] gmail [dot] com when they are complete if you would not mind me posting it — even better if you include the reason why you selected it! Still feel free to post up photos & progress on the Ravelry thread, but I would love to have a little compilation here at the end of the month. Whether you select a design from the book or create your own, I want your work to be featured.

I’m looking forward to seeing what designs you choose!

Happy Christmas knitting!