A Christmas Confession

Dear friends, I have such a confession to make.

Remember all those gifts I was knitting away on before the holiday? Well… I’m so sad to report that I pretty much wholly failed to get finished object photos of them. In the end, it was all I could do to get them dried & wrapped on time. Rather than be a pain & ask the recipients to temporarily give their gifts back so I could photograph them or — worse yet — pose with them, I just let them go.

I’m the first to admit that where this could have been a colorful & exciting post, it might be a little anticlimactic, but I wanted to share the details of my holiday knitting anyway. The projects were really lovely to work on and well received, so I want to tell you about them. Even more importantly, at the heart of everything I write about here on the blog is knitting and spinning in my honest to goodness real life. And in real life, some times you run out of time to take pretty pictures. And that’s ok.

I’ll start with the Wanderer Mukluks.

Somehow I have zero color photos of these (I’m so sorry!), so you will have to trust me when I say that they were earthy and gorgeous in color. I knit them in a very light brown-grey and a deep chocolate brown. For those interested in the specifics, I used Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted in the Echo & Chocolate colorways that I purchased from Eat. Sleep. Knit. I picked this yarn largely because it is machine washable and thus care is easy as I knew my sister-in-law would appreciate it. I actually machine washed and dried them prior to giving them away  and the wash & dry made them even softer than they were originally. I will definitely keep this pattern & yarn in mind for future projects.

Next was Fractal Danger.

img_1689And for this one, at least I have some color WIP photos…

img_1688As you can see, it’s a rich, rich red — a skein of travelknitter Tanami 4ply Camelsilk to be specific which I received through my subscription to The Golden Skein. Made of a blend of 50% camel and 50% silk, this yarn drapes like no one’s business and is soft and utterly delectable. My mom knits shawls and scarves for herself a lot, so I was on the fence about whether or not to knit this project, but when I recalled this skein in my stash I went for it. It’s a luxury she wouldn’t usually get for herself and the classic red is a color she’s been enjoying lately. I went for it and it wasn’t lost on me that she put it on as soon as she opened it and wore it the whole day.

Of course, I did share the hats I made for my kiddos.

img_1807This is the Hipster by Tin Can Knits in Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label in the Poppy colorway. I had plenty of yarn so I went with the slouchy fit for my son just for something different for him. I can tell he’s a little unsure of the different fit, but then again he’s often resistant to change. I won’t lie, we are always working to expand his comfort zone so as silly as it might sound I thought this would be another nice and easy inroad into relaxing his rigid ways.

Then there was the Everyday Brew by Clare Devine.

img_1808I made the ribbing generous and knitted it to the slouchy specifications so my daughter could wear the brim folded back…

img_1809Like so!

My girl often is the first to get chilly when we’re out in the cold and this toasty hat is her new favorite to stay warm. I knit the gauge a little on the tight side, so this Malabrigo Chunky (leftover from her Little Miss Charming sweater) is extra cozy. Like my mom & her Fractal Danger, my girl put this hat on as soon as she opened it and wore it all day.

I also managed to whip up a quick moebius cowl for my mom.

img_1757This is based loosely off of a pattern I wrote for a moebius cast-on class I used to teach. My mom’s sister passed away a little over two years ago and when she did she had just started knitting this cowl. As her family went through the process of sorting her things, this project landed in my hands. At first it was a little too sad to touch, it was still on her needles with her stitches and inside the bag with it was a little note inside the bag reminding her to talk with me about it when we next met. Shortly before the holiday, I came across this though and I decided that it was time to finish this project for her and it seemed only right to give it to my mom. I finished it Christmas night and gave it to my mom the next morning. It feels good to have finally finished this project and my mom seemed happy to receive it.

And somewhere, in the spare and random moments in between everything else, I finished a project for myself.

cafediem2Remember this skein of Three Waters Farm BFL in the Cafe Diem colorway that I’d spun into a skein of 2-ply yarn? Well, I managed to find time to participate in the Three Waters Farm Behm-along and create what may be a new favorite scarf/shawlette…

knit upMeet Easy by Martina Behm. This is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable easy knits I’ve ever worked on. For me it was total cruise-control knitting and I was able to just enjoy watching the colors of this beautiful yarn unfold…

detailBecause my yardage was a little on the short side and my yarn a little on the heavy side, I went up to a US size 8 needle. Because this pattern works off of the knitter finding the halfway point via weight, it’s easily adjustable for such modifications and lets you use every last bit of treasured skeins. I tried a little too hard to squeeze every last bit from this skein actually cutting myself short and subsequently ended up ripping back to the midway point plus a couple rows to be able to finish properly. After this experience, I’d recommend being a little less cavalier and a little more conservative when it comes to locating the mid-way point of your skein, but thankfully I enjoyed this knit enough that I totally didn’t mind re-knitting half of it.

And that, my friends, is the entirety of my holiday knitting (I think). I’ve got a Christmas Eve cast-on, a finished skein of handspun, some birthday shenanigans, a new finished shawl, and some travel knitting to share, but I’ll save that for another day. For now, I’d just like to say that whatever your last week brought your way, I truly hope you were happy and healthy, that your handknits were received with love, and that you found a little time to create something for yourself, too.

Christmas Eve Cast-On

If you’ve followed me for a while here, you’ll know that I always say I don’t knit gifts very often unless a friend or family member expressly asks. I love it when people do ask, but I’m just not a knitter who enjoys surprising others with knitted items very often. What can I say? I’m so weird! In any case, I always into the holiday season blissfully knitting on whatever I want. I do, however, inevitably choose a few small things at the very last moment to knit up for gifts. Why do I do this to myself? I have no idea. You’d think this would be insanely stressful, but after one tense year of trying to finish socks for my hubby on time, now I have a very strict no stress policy. I knit to unwind and while I do indeed put in extra time for a few small holiday gifts, I’m a firm believer that what gets done, gets done, and what doesn’t, doesn’t. End of story.

This year, as you know, I have a few projects that’ll be wrapped up as gifts — two shawls and a pair of slippers were the original goal. Well, I finished those (photos to come post-holiday) and then decided to finish my handspun Easy shawl for the Three Waters Farm Behm-along (photos to come once it dries). And then, with less than a week before the big day, I noticed all these fantastic hat patterns flooding social media and like so many, thought — “Oh yes! That’s a great idea! I can knit a new hat for each of my kids.”

So I did some stash diving and pulled out some sweater yarn leftovers. Yes, a Hipster Hat (taking advantage of one of the 12 Days of Christmas free pattern offerings from Tin Can Knits) in Tanis Fiber Arts’ Green Label in the Poppy colorway for my red-loving son.

img_1713And I finished it today. I have one more skein of this yarnwhich I’ve dog-eared for a  Cabled Canuck for me. I can’t have too many red hats. That’s a fact.

Next up though, I’ll be casting-on Clare Devine’s Everyday Brew for my daughter. Brought to my attention by the lovely ladies at Cream City Yarn who I got to visit last week, this is knit in a bulky weight yarn and is sure to fly off my needles. And then…

I have a plan.

I’ve been seeing the hashtag #christmasevecaston a lot lately and it got me thinking that I should cast-on an extra special project on Christmas Eve. Luckily, I have just the extra special project!

boxIt arrived on my doorstep a couple weeks ago and I’ve been waiting for just the perfect time to share with you and cast-on. My very first Imperial Yarns in a very cute hat kit.

Imperial Stock Ranch all started with one man, Richard Roland Hinton, who was born in 1852 while his family traveled the Oregon Trail. You can read the story of how he built this ranch on its website, but suffice to say with a focus on sustainability Hinton didn’t just establish a ranch in 1871, he created a legacy that would last long beyond his years. Today this ranch thrives on producing acclaimed black angus beef, lamb, and — of course — beautiful wool. They harvest this wool once per year and it is then “custom milled without harsh chemicals or extreme temperatures, leaving it comfortable soft and pure.”

yarnI can attest to that. The single ply yarn ‘Tempest’ included in the Chain Stitch Slouchy Hat Kit is easily the softest American wool I’ve touched. This single is available only in this kit at this time and – wow — is it ever something special!

This hat is part of a new collection designed by Deborah Newton just for Imperial Yarns and I’ll be participating in the Deborah Newton Collection KAL. You can check out the list of eligible patterns here. The designer is an active participant in this KAL and she’s available for questions. Plus there will be a pretty sweet grand prize for those who take part, so if you’re interested I’d love it if you could join us. The KAL runs through January 31, 2016, so there is ample time to hop on board and treat yourself to some of this gorgeous American wool.

Now logically I know I’m just one hat and a few short days away from my super special Christmas Eve Cast On, but as I’m sitting here next to this wool… I won’t lie — it kind of feels like an eternity. My hands have some last minute gift knitting to get done before this treat can reach my needles. I suppose it’s time to keep my eyes on and hands off this prize though, right?

Missing: Handspun, Handknit Mitten

Usually when I get to my daughter’s classroom after school she is packed, zipped, and ready to go. Yesterday I was quite surprised to find her flustered with her stuff spread across her table and her coat half on.  The fluster turned to distress when she realized she could not locate one of her beloved rainbow mittens that I made for her last month. After taking them off to play in the sandbox at lunch, she forgot to take them back inside with her & one went missing. We are holding out hope that it re-materializes. 20131023-180819.jpgIn the meantime, if you see one of these lying about, please let me know!

Really, I am not too broken up. This is what happens when people wear handknits, especially kids. But my daughter really loved these special mittens that she watched go through each step — from fiber to yarn to mittens. Hope was not much comfort to my girl though I’m afraid and she asked if I could make her another set… for the next morning. Being light on super bulky in my stash, I explained that this was not likely. Instead, we ran out to the craft shop in town & got her a set mitten clips so that there would be no more taking mittens off and losing them. All mittens would forever be attached to this child & this promise allowed her to calm down a bit. Then we came home & picked yarn out for the next set. I had some Malabrigo Worsted in Intenso which contained enough pink to be acceptable. You would think someone who just lost a handspun, handknit mitten wouldn’t have a ton of leverage to be picky about color choices, but you’d be surprised what this kid gets away with in that respect. in any case, last night over coffee & conversation with a good friend, I began.

20131023-175253.jpgChoosing the aran weight yarn allowed me to try out Maize by tincanknits. Maize comes from The Simple Collection which is actually a completely free learn-to-knit program from Tin Can Knits. It includes 8 free patterns — start with a simple scarf and baby blanket, then graduate to a hat & cowl, then try a set of socks & mittens, and finally a simple sweater. All are modern, all are really classic designs, and I think all are worked in worsted or aran weight yarn. Not only are they free and supported by tutorials & PDF handouts (some are still in the works), but they are sized from “newborn to grandpa.” It. Is. Awesome. I printed out Maize & so far I am really impressed with the layout, the design & the ease of use. I will keep you updated on how these emergency mittens come along, of course, but already I can send a family classic in the making.

Of course, a knitting date doesn’t stop with just the yarn. My knitting friend just had a birthday, so for a gift I set her loose in my fiber stash to select a braid for me to custom spin for her. She chose a bea-uty.

20131023-175322.jpg Magnolia in Organic Polwarth & Silk from Cloudlover.

I have promised to be good about documenting all the steps for her so she can see the evolution of this project, so you will get to follow along, too!

First, however, the emergency mittens.

Oh, and this.

20131023-175307.jpgFor those keeping track, I am about 2/3 through picking up the collar stitches. From here all that remains in to finish the collar, add some ribbon & snaps and it will be complete.  So close!

I’m going to get back to work, because since I began writing we saw our first snowflakes of the season. The time is nigh for these handknits to be ready to use.

Oh, and don’t forget.

off handIf you see one of these laying about, send it my way. I know a little girl who would love to find it. Her mum would kind of like to see it at the end of her girl’s mitten clips, too.