Weekend Craft Update

This weekend was a mixed bag of knitting. I continued work on the current zig-zag scarf, and it will be done soon.

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I got a little bored with it, though, and am getting twitchy for  what’s next. I did the sample swatch below to try out the stitch pattern for the blanket I want to make.

It doesn’t look as intricate as the pattern photo, though. It could be the yarn. That blue isn’t what I plan to do it in; I have two cakes of Lion Brand Mandala yarn in “gnome” (rainbow) that I was going to use, but it’s a lighter weight and would take forever to make a big enough throw. So now I’m not sure. I might use some heather gray yarn I have around.

I have several rows of the Mandala yarn on circular needles right now, and I think it’s too lightweight, but I wanted to get the feel for using circular needles. I love the stainless steel points on the ChiaoGoo needles, but the way the cable slightly restricts movement  and having to be careful not to tangle yarn around it will take getting used to.

This morning, I finally blocked my first scarf. I don’t normally wear scarves, but this is lightweight and I might be able to wear it to an event this Saturday night, as it should be cool after dark.  We shall see.

That’s pretty much it. I binge-watched season 2 of The Santa Clarita Diet, then was sad it was over, so re-watched seasons 1 and 2 again. They need to have 50-episode seasons, and new seasons monthly, for at least ten years. Seriously. I love this show, Netflix, so get on that, okay?

Serene Saturday

It’s a bright, sunny Saturday, if a little cool. The Husband has already been out to the gym and for his morning walk downtown, sipping coffee and taking photos of beautiful historic downtown New Bern. He’s a morning person, and I…am not.

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He took the above shot of Christ Episcopal Church downtown, hands-down the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. Hope he doesn’t mind my sharing.

We might go out for a bit, mainly to get me out of the house. I don’t really need anything, but I haven’t been to Target in over a year, so I’m pretty sure I could find a thing or two, especially if we also go to the craft store.

What I actually have planned, though, is to finish up season two of The Santa Clarita Diet, which is the most hilarious show I’ve ever seen. Then back to season 10 of Doctor Who. And, of course, continuing my steep learning curve in knitting.

My second scarf is coming along, and I’m already itchy to start something else and learn new skills.

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Not finished or blocked, of course. It’s not that misshapen, I swear! 

I think the below blanket might be next. It’s called “Pemberley.” I’ll learn some new stitches, and while it looks like cable, it’s really a lace that resembles cable. I have two cakes of Mandala yarn in “gnome,” which is rainbow, but might see if some other yarn looks like a better choice.

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Sounds like a pretty good day to me!

Sanity-Saving Lifeline

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I’ve only been knitting about a month. I’ve made a bunch of practice swatches, a dog dishcloth, a scarf, and am working on a second scarf. Thank goodness for Facebook, because my crafty friends have been giving me helpful tips, including using a lifeline.

As much as it offends my over-achiever personality, mistakes happen. Stupid, soul-sucking, project-tainting mistakes. In crochet, since you work one loop or stitch at a time, it’s easy to rip out the work back to the mistake, even if it feels like a rusty ice pick to the heart to destroy hours’ worth of yarny goodness.

With knitting, though, it’s much harder. Some of this is because I’m still new. I’m at about a second-grade level when it comes to knitting, while I have a metaphorical PhD in crochet. But with knitting, you work with a full row of stitches on the needle. If you discover a mistake while on the same row, like if your stitch count is off at the end, you can usually figure out where the mistake is and un-work the stitches back to that point. Still tricky for me, as I can still lose a loop that way, but it’s possible.

If you don’t realize your mistake until several rows later, the expletives begin to fly. If you simply start pulling out rows to get back to where you can fix it, you then have to try to identify one complete row of loops and get each one back on the needle without losing a single one. Tough enough in a 35-stitch-per-row scarf. Much harder for a wider shawl or blanket.

I’ve learned knitters call ripping out stitches “frogging.” (“rip-it, rip-it, rip-it,” ha.)

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Which brings us to Monday night and the lifeline.

I’m doing a zigzag scarf. It has a left-slanted segment, then a right-slanted one, ten rows each. Each consists of a pattern row and a purl row, repeated five times for ten rows. Late Monday, I discovered my mind had wandered and I had repeated the left leaning segment, meaning I had a long, 20-row left chunk, totally breaking the symmetry. Can’t fix that by throwing in an increase or decrease in the next row.

Motherfluffer.

No choice. I had to go back to the end of the previous segment and re-work the ten offending rows. Thankfully, I’d listened to Jody and had been putting a lifeline through rows 10 and 20 each round. This is a purl row, so no worries about getting it through a K2tog or YO.

In theory, this was all hunky-dory. In reality, not so much, and I almost got a nosebleed thinking about it. But a-frogging I did go, with a churning stomach and nervous sweat upon my brow.

When I got to the lifeline, I handled the scarf like it was made of nitroglycerin, tissue-thin crystal, and bunny-fluff. I carefully and meticulously inserted the needle through each stitch that had the lifeline…and we all survived.

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This is how I placed the line. I use crochet cotton and a tapestry needle and work it carefully through each loop, being sure to get all strands of the yarn in each stitch. I do this in row 10 and 20, and when I get to 10 again, I pull out the first line and use that, so I always have two.

This is what it looks like.

I almost didn’t bother with lifelines, because I’m pathologically lazy, and taking time out from knitting to do something so dull and utilitarian makes my teeth itch. But lifelines are like insurance. A nuisance to obtain and pay for, until you need it. The claims are a pain to deal with, and the item in question might not ever be as pristine and perfect as it once was, but in the end, you’re glad you had that security.

Bottom line, I’m still alive, my scarf is still alive, and my house isn’t full of broken objects hurled about in a flurry of frustrated anguish. I’ll have to be a much, much more experienced knitter before I consider “working without a net.”

Just Look At The Flowers…

Last spring, I still had five rose bushes. I also had two puppies, who are 17 months (Oliver) and 19 months (Mozzie) today. By last fall, I had one rose bush, and it’s definitely the worse for wear. The other four are…gone. Not destroyed or torn up. Obliterated. The three-tier raised garden beds weren’t planted last year, because I’m not a total imbecile. The Direwolves decided the gardens were puppy jungle gyms, so I’ll be scavenging the boards for parts.

At any rate, I’m sticking to my deck rail planters and some large pots on the deck. And as it’s getting springy in eastern North Carolina, we made an outing to get some flowers today. It will be a while before they fill out, but it feels good to be doing something summery.

There are four of the rectangular rail planters and two of the round pots.

We also went to the craft store because the tiny row counter I had has decided to play hide and seek way too often, last night somehow getting completely under the recliner by my couch, way in the middle of the square wooden frame beneath it. I’d just about decided Oliver had eaten it. But I got a bigger one, the red object I sort of chopped out in the image below.

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The yarn is nothing special; I just liked the colors. I wish the one indie yarn shop in town hadn’t closed last year. Now that I’m knitting, I’d love some boutique and specialty yarns. With crochet, my projects tended to be larger scale, making fancy yarn cost-prohibitive.

With the plants planted, it’s time to work on my Rolling Meadows scarf. It’s about 10″ long so far. These images aren’t the best, because this scarf will need a good bit of blocking when done to show off the shape and pattern, so I just stretched it out so you could get an idea.

Information on the pattern and yarn used can be found HERE on yesterday’s post.

Thank goodness I don’t have to cook today! We have guests this weekend, and we went  out to lunch, and have a fridge full of leftover pizza from last night.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be butt-planted on the couch now, knitting and watching Doctor Who, until 9:00 when tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead starts. I host a live chat in a private Facebook group, so if you’re interested, send me a message on Facebook and ask me to add you!

New Project Time

I finally finished my first official knitted project, a fan and feather pattern scarf. It still needs to be blocked, which I’ll do in the next couple of days.

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Here it was as it was nearing completion. Definitely has mistakes in it, but I’m pretty happy with it.

And all you crafty types know what that means. A new project! I’m still a beginner, and while I want to do a lot of complex Celtic knot style cables, I’m not there yet.

I started work on a zigzag scarf, but it had a long repeat with complicated rows, nothing I couldn’t do, but we’re having company this weekend and I should try to be able to follow a conversation instead of laser-focusing on the pattern, so I chose the Rolling Meadows scarf, HERE.

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I’m using Chroma worsted yarn from Knit Picks, in “Drawing Room,” and I absolutely love the soft colors in this yarn.

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And here we go, the very beginning!

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In the past, I just did the easy, basic thumb cast-on, but yesterday I learned to do the long tail cast on, which I think will give me a nicer starting edge. It’s curling here, but that should smooth out when I eventually block it. I can’t wait to get to work on it today and get to where I can see the beautiful color blend begin to unfold.

I love to learn at least one new skill with each project, and in addition to the long tail cast on, for this one I also learned ssk (slip, slip, knit), which is a decrease stitch that leans the opposite way of k2tog. Guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. 🙂

What are you working on this weekend? You can share photos with me on the Furwood Forest Facebook page. I’d love to see your current projects!

Knitting Right Along

I’m making significant progress on my first knitted scarf. I feel a little less like I need a couple of extra hands, or additional fingers on my original equipment hands, or that my existing ten fingers each need a few fingers of their own. I still have a long way to go before knitting is as natural to me as crocheting, but I have 40 years’ experience with crochet and only a few weeks knitting. The over-achieving perfectionist in me weeps at this realization.

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Getting long, but I want to be able to wrap it, so I have a way to go. I imagine I’ll see where I am when I finish this ball of yarn, then decide if it’s done.

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In this close-up, you can see the white crochet thread “lifeline.” One of my Facebook friends clued me in to this trick when I had a near-disaster. I’d finished a row and had a disturbingly wrong number of stitches, so I started working back to where I thought the error was, but bungled it to the point I didn’t know which stitches were really stitches and I thought I’d ruined the whole thing.

Fearing the worst, I went all last-ditch-effort and just pulled out a few rows, until I came to a spot where I thought I could see all the loops and meticulously, painfully, anxiously slipped each one onto the needle. Amazingly, it worked.

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Good thing, too, because my knit-picky nature will not accept the above as a valid belief system.

Now I’m using lifelines. When I complete a Row 1 in the pattern, I use a blunt needle and some crochet thread and slip it through each loop on the needle. Theoretically, if I screw up again and can’t fix it just by un-working a few stitches, I can pull out everything back to the lifeline, which since it goes through each stitch in the row, will keep me from losing the stitches, allowing me to slip them back on the needle and go from there.

The thought of having to do this makes me hyperventilate a little, but the first time it happens, I’m sure I’ll be glad I have this back-up plan in place.

It sure will save a lot of wailing and swearing and throwing of objects and stabbing-of-things-with-knitting-needles, which is a “win” in my book.

Yarn Stash Busted

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Either this is not true, or I’m not a lady. One of those.

As all yarnoholics know, parting with a single skein is akin to giving up a semi-major internal organ, and there’s always so much glorious new yarn to “adopt.” Lace weight, chunky, variegated, wool, bamboo, crochet thread, cotton, alpaca in all the colors of the rainbow.

First it’s a basket. Then a storage container. Then more storage containers and other random receptacles…until it’s out of control.

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been married for almost 35 years, and crocheted for62e1f42d3f808a79d7283d6a480605d5 around ten years before that. Lately, the stash had exploded from the walk-in closet in my office and begun to infiltrate every corner of the house. The couch in the office could barely be seen, there were baskets and bins on the floor, the breakfast bar looked like the discount table at the yarn shop, yarn was spilling off the end table in the family room, and I couldn’t close the lid of my storage ottoman.

I had four storage bins, two laundry baskets, a small wicker basket, a duffel bag, a few boxes, and the storage ottoman bursting with yarn.

Step One, get Handsome Husband to help me haul all the storage containers to the living  room.

Step Two, dump all yarn on the floor. This is reminiscent of what happened in fifth grade when a student’s desk was chronically messy. You’d come to school and discover Miss Vidas had dumped your desk contents on the floor, leaving you no option but to clean it up.

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This is after I filled a trash bag with odds and ends that were too small, tangled, or ratty even to donate to the thrift shop.

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Hello, Mount Yarn.

Step Three, commence to sortin’.

I started various piles. Cotton, lace/sock weight, worsted, crochet thread, chunky, sport weight…you yarnsters know the drill. This was especially necessary because I had partial balls or skeins of some yarns strewn throughout various locations, and I wanted to match them up so I knew if I had enough of a particular yarn to actually make anything.

Anything I didn’t totally love, or bought for things I never made, or didn’t have in enough quantity for a decent project went in the donation pile. I know people go to thrift shops for remnants or discarded yarn, either to make stashbuster projects, other small items, or to donate to charity.

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Big ol’ bag of donations. Included are two partial afghans which could be bound off where they are or finished.

Lots of yellow and orange. I hate yellow and orange. I bought multiple skeins, though, for some project or other that never got made.

Mozzie bolted at the rustle of the first plastic bag, because plastic bags are terrifying. He stayed in the bedroom throughout the process. Oliver, being a poodle, wasn’t about to miss a second, because poodles must observe, evaluate, consider, and process every single thing. Thankfully, he didn’t decide to help.

I applied the rule I give all my authors when I’m ordering them to drastically edit down their word count. Be ruthless. Be objective. You won’t even miss it once it’s gone. Great advice, but hard to follow.

Also, not great on my back, sitting hunched on the floor, crawling around from basket to basket, digging through the mound of assorted yarn. But that’s what ibuprofen is for.

Finally, after sorting through it all and encountering some projects I’d started–no lie–at least 25 years ago and putting sentimentality and unnecessary yarn aside, I reached Step Four, organization. This is what I had…

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Behold! A mere two storage bins! The top one has worsted weight and cotton. The bottom has fine and sport weight, crochet cotton, and a bag of assorted Caron Simply Soft. The storage ottoman, which lives in the family room where I spend 95% of my waking hours, has the favorites, new purchases like the glorious mandala yarn, my knit-kit and crochet gear, and the yarns I’m currently using. The two small boxes are the beautiful Chroma yarn I just bought for my first knitting projects.

And now I realize I have room for more yarn…and a coupon for 20% off from JoAnn’s.

Time To Unwind

For most of you, today is part of the weekend. As I’ve mentioned, though, publishing is a 24/7/365 business, so it’s rare to have any real downtime, but I turned in an edit yesterday, a day early. While I have to remain “on call” and monitor email for potential dumpster fires that need extinguishing, this is as close to a day off as I get.

Tom and I have a couple of big household chores we plan to tag-team tomorrow, but I’m more or less caught up for today. While I could get a head start on those tasks, I’ve decided to savor an afternoon with far fewer demands than usual.

Which means knitting and Doctor Who.

Since I’ve been knitting only a few weeks, this is my first official scarf, and only my second real project aside from practice swatches. It definitely has mistakes, but as I know from crochet, part of the learning curve is making mistakes and learning how to fix or minimize them. Overall, I’m happy with the progress.

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This is a feather and fan lace style knit scarf, and you can find this pattern HERE. I’m using Chroma Worsted Superwash Yarn by Knit Picks (70% wool, 30% nylon) in “Vermont.” I’m really loving this yarn!

Whatever you’re doing today, remember to take a little time to take care of yourself! We all need a little time to relax and indulge.

Yarn O’Clock Update

I have fifteen more pages to edit, and need to check email again, but the UPS guy just came. My first clue was the Direwolves barking hysterically. Tom wants to get a security camera for the front door, but we already have the Canine Emergency Broadcast System. But I guess a camera would let me know if it’s UPS, a random neighbor, or a SWAT team at the door without getting off the couch, so we shall see.

But look what arrived!

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Oops. I seem to have accidentally acquired more yarn. Well, not totally true, as this was the first “cake” style yarn I bought, but it was back ordered, so I found and ordered the luscious Chroma Worsted Yarn by Knit Picks I talked about HERE earlier today.

It’s Lion Brand Mandala yarn, and the color is “gnome.” I’d have bought it for the color name itself. Seriously, look at it. If you love yarn even a little bit, you’d have done the same. Even if you don’t love yarn, you want someone to make you something with this yarn. Don’t lie; I know you do.

It appears the color sequence only repeats once per ball, though, which means I should make something that takes at least 590 yards (5.3 ounces) of yarn, like a baby blanket or shawl, if I want to have all the colors represented, and I do.

Okay, time to clock back in, metaphorically speaking, so I can get to yarn o’clock!

Is It Yarn O’Clock Yet?

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Working at home is wonderful. Keep my own schedule as long as I get the job done, have my canine sidekicks/entourage with me all the time, no business casual or makeup, no commute.

There are some drawbacks, though, such as never really being “off,” the interruptions to do things like tend to the dogs–who are rather high-maintenance–Netflix, snacks, and Facebook.

Lately, my biggest distraction is…

Yarn.

If you’ve followed the blog, you know I’m a lifelong crocheter. (That word looks wrong. Trust me…I’m an editor and words are my business. But it’s not wrong. A person who crochets.) Then a couple of weeks ago, I began teaching myself to knit, first with some ragged, misshapen swatches, then a pretty decent-looking dishcloth which shall never see a dish because I spent hours on the thing, dammit.

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I’m a yarn hoarder. For crochet, though, I tended to stick to more basic brands, with Caron Simply Soft and Deborah Norville Everyday Print Yarn being a couple of favorites. I like to make big crochet projects, and balancing quality and cost is essential. But I always coveted some of the lovely boutique yarns many of my knitting friends used.

As I slowly build my knitting skills, I look for patterns that are very clearly knitted and don’t resemble any crochet style. If it looks like crochet, I can crochet something similar a hell of a lot faster than I can knit. It will be a long time before I knit consistently and quickly enough to justify doing an afghan.

Which means I’m doing small projects–again, sloooooowly–and I can justify buying more expensive, indulgent yarn.

Last week, I found Chroma Worsted Yarn by Knit Picks. It’s 70% wool, 30% nylon, and super soft and not at all itchy-woolly. And here’s the kicker…so many beautiful colors!

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More expensive than I’d usually buy, but as slowly as I currently knit, it will take me several decades to finish a scarf, so I decided to indulge. I bought five balls each of Vermont and Drawing Room.

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Vermont on the left has soft tones of pumpkin, teal, rose, and a heathery purple. Drawing room is grays and sage and lavender and aqua and cream. OMGGorgeous!

I needed a pattern that would work up not too slowly and wouldn’t look too much like crochet, and I chose a fan-and-feather scarf. I don’t wear scarves, but whatever. I might make an exception for this.

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Not blocked, of course, until it’s done (some time in 2056, I estimate). Experienced knitters will see the error where instead of two rows of knit followed by a row of purl I did a row of knit and two rows of purl, but I decided to leave it and keep going. 99.9% of people would never notice. This is in the Vermont yarn.

But that’s my dilemma. I have an edit I must finish today, and the work emails continue to flow, but this yarn is calling to me. I needed a new challenge, and knitting is challenging and satisfying. So is editing, but editing doesn’t involve oh-so-lovely yarn.

Now I have to be a grownup and put on my editing tiara, finish the edit, return it to the author for review…and then I can play with the beautiful yarn.