Thursday, December 6, 2012

Done! And Happy Holidays!

First things first: I managed to finish my NaKniSweMo sweater on the morning of November 25. It was blocked and I was wearing it on November 29.

I'm pretty happy with it. Is it my favorite sweater? No. But I'll definitely wear it. I have a khaki dress I think will go perfectly with it.

So, then I blinked my eyes and it was suddenly December. What the heck?! When did that happen? 

As I have mentioned before, Purdue does a little thing called "24-hour Library" during prep week and exam week every semester. If you follow that link, you'll see what I accomplished during Spring 24-hour Library. In December, it's a great opportunity to get caught up on (or actually start...) Christmas knitting. This year, I am only knitting for two people: my daughter and my niece, Chloe. 

Tori fell in love with the Tank Girl Socks in the book "Knits for Nerds." She doesn't have any idea who Tank Girl is, but she loves the socks. So, I shall accommodate. 

That picture was taken yesterday morning around 4:30 am. By 8am this morning, they looked like this:

(That isn't really blue, it's more of a turquoise. And, now that I'm looking at the picture, I wish I'd have made the stripes mirror images...oh well.) If you are a knitter and you've actually seen the pattern, you'll notice that I'm not really following it at all, except that I'm using their charts. These socks are toe-up. The pattern is written for top-down. I'm knitting these using Cat Bordhi's Riverbed Master Pattern as the basic sock and inserting the color chart from the Tank Girl socks. The yarn is Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport. I was limited to stock on hand at River Knits because I didn't want to wait for something to be ordered. As a result, there's no green, but I substituted orange, which I'm perfectly happy with. So far, so good! 

Chloe, on the other hand, is seven years old. She has an American Girl type of doll that she just LOVES. So, I'm going to make matching sweaters for her and her doll. I did the same thing last year for my other niece, Abby. Her reaction was amazing. You'd have thought she'd died and gone to heaven while riding a unicorn on a rainbow ramp. 

I'm going to use the same patterns (February Lady, adapted for a child's size, and February Doll Sweater). Chloe's favorite colors are Pink and Purple, so I'll be using those instead of green and blue. Abby's sweater took me 5 days, and the doll sweater took about 2 days. So, I don't feel too bad waiting to start them until the socks are done. 

Are you making any Christmas gifts? I think it would be really fun to do a Handmade Christmas one year, where all the gifts are (what else?) hand made. Of course, I thought of this around Halloween, which really doesn't give enough time for that kind of thing. Maybe next year.... but we'll need to make the decision in January, I think.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One Week Check-in

So, I thought I was doing really well on my NaKniSweMo sweater.

All weekend, I knitted like a fiend.

My goal was to have the yoke finished by the time I went to bed Sunday night. But, it just kept going and going and going.
Monday morning, I took a good look at what I had. It seemed really big. I tried to convince myself it was just my imagination. (That was my first mistake.) After all, I'd checked my gauge at the beginning, and it was right on! As long as I was getting gauge, it would be fine. (That was my second mistake.)

I knitted for a while after dinner Monday evening, and the nagging feeling that I was knitting a sweater for a sumo wrestler wouldn't go away. Around 9:15, I thought, "Fine! I'll check the gauge again, but I know it's right. I know it is. I just know it." Well, I was wrong. I was supposed to be getting 27 stitches per 4 inches, and I was getting 24 stitches per 4 inches. I know that doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it really really is. For the body of the sweater I was supposed to have 324 stitches for a 48" sweater circumference (actually, a little less because of the cables, but you get the idea).  At the gauge I was getting, I'd end up with a 54" sweater--waaaaaay bigger than I needed!


So, I did what any Knitter would do: I ripped back. I reworked the pattern for the gauge I was actually getting, because there was no way I was starting over completely. I spent about an hour and a half ripping back to a more reasonable number of stitches, and a better-fitting yoke depth. All in all, I ripped out about a day and a half worth of knitting. Then I went to bed.

Tuesday morning, I divided for the sleeves, and got back on track.

I got some knitting done while watching election results Tuesday night. And I tentatively worked on it some more yesterday. Last night, I knitted all the stitches onto a very very long cable (from an interchangeable needle set) so I could try it on.

Success! The yoke fits beautifully! Now I can knit like a fiend again because I *know* I'm on the right track now. And, in case you are wondering: Yes, I will check my gauge more frequently. Damn rookie mistake.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaKniSweMo, or I've lost my damn mind

Lots of people have heard of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. In November, writers challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Way back in 2006, Shannon Okey decided to try a similar thing with knitting and called it NaKniSweMo, or National Knit a Sweater Month. Similar premise: challenge yourself to knit a 50,000 stitch sweater in a month. It sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Well, the sweater I've chosen will get me there and then some.

When I first started looking at patterns....yesterday afternoon....I started with a selection of 16 sweaters.

(In rows, from top left to bottom right, Autumnal Cardigan, Aquitaine Pullover, Wisteria, Quercus, Gullveig, Alpaka Tunic, Equinox Yoke Pullover, Ink, Gnarled Oak Cardigan, Oblique, Belted Wrap Jacket, Effortless Cardigan, Water and Stone, Cassis, Wicked, and Leaving.)

Then I started whittling down my options. I immediately eliminated anything that wasn't worked seamlessly. Seaming takes a great deal of precious time, reducing the odds that I'd have a finished sweater by 11:59pm on November 30th. Plus, I hate doing it. So, that eliminated 6 sweaters right away.

Now I was down to 10.  Next Step: get rid of anything done in plain stockinette. Too boring. I need something easy but with some interest to keep me going. That only eliminated 2 options.

So now we're down to 8. The final general elimination was pullovers. I just don't wear pullovers as often as I wear cardigans.

That brought me down to a very reasonable 5 cardigans, all featuring cables or lace, from which to choose. So, I sat and stared at them for a while. I even thought about putting a poll here on the blog or on Facebook to get the opinions of others. But, there wasn't time! So, instead, I polled my 14-year-old daughter, who confirmed my own thoughts. I had tried to convince myself NOT to choose this sweater, but I couldn't resist or avoid it. It's begging me to cast on. I even have the perfect yarn for it in my stash! I present Ink:

This is a fingering-weight sweater, knit at 27 stitches per 4 inches on size 4 (3.5mm) needles. It's knit seamlessly, from the top down with raglan sleeve shaping. It features cables that are narrow at the neckline and grow wider as the body is knit. The long sleeves also feature cable detailing, but only from the elbow down. It's gorgeous.

Here's the thing: It's a fingering weight sweater, knit at 27 stitches per 4 inches on size 4 (3.5mm) needles!  The yoke alone has more than 31,000 stitches! I think I've lost my damn mind. What little I still had left. Still, it's a gorgeous sweater. The first time I saw it, I remember audibly gasping. And, I LOVE fingering weight sweaters. They are just right for in the office, work great as a jacket on warmer spring and fall days, and look a bit less casual than heavier weight sweaters. I'm in love.

This is definitely going to be a challenge. But, that's what NaKniSweMo is all about, right? Fortunately, November is an ideal month for this. Thanks to Thanksgiving, we have a short work week. And thanks to my mother-in-law, who is hosting our family Thanksgiving this year, the short work week means four days that I can dedicate almost exclusively to knitting. So, wish me luck! It's time to cast on!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Unexpected sadness

Our family has had a tough day today. This morning, our beloved cat Buddy had a stroke. We took him to the Purdue Animal Hospital emergency clinic, but ultimately made the decision to have him put down. One of the hardest decisions I've made. We took the kids out of school so they could say goodbye. Buddy was part of our family for 13 years. We got him when Tori turned 2. Aaron is 11, so he's never known a home without Buddy. One of our friends always referred to him as "America's Favorite Kitty." 

He was a huge cat, tipping the scales at 25 pounds. But that didn't keep him from wanting to snuggle on your lap every chance he got.

If you were home sick, he was a constant companion.

The only thing he maybe loved more than a warm lap was laying in the sunshine streaming through the patio door.

He was also quite fond of laying wherever you didn't want him to:
on projects,

on the bed while you we're tying to make it,

on newspapers, magazines, books, or even your face, especially if you were trying to read.

He also loved snuggling with Diego, another of our cats, who I fear is really going to miss Buddy a lot.

Rest in peace, Buddy. You will be sorely missed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

And, we're back

September is a blur. The first 11 days of October are too. Several highlights:

I did not paint my kitchen cabinets Labor Day weekend. Instead, I knit and cooked and slept in every morning. I can't complain. It was fun. I managed to put away some 20 freezer meals, so that was nice.

September 16 was my mom's 59th birthday. I made her this:

Pattern: Haruni. Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in the colorway Piedras. She absolutely LOVED it!

September 22 was my hubby's 20th class reunion. Here we are:
Yes, I made my little shrug. More on that another day. :)

Many Friday evenings this fall have been spent at the high school because Tori is in marching band.
On October 6, the Harrison Militia Marching Band went to ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association) band contest where they took Gold with Double Distinction (for music AND visuals). It's the first time in school history they have accomplished that feat! AND, the band is 45% freshmen! Go Band!!!

Saturdays this fall have been filled with College Football. Boiler Up! Miss Tori also enjoyed Band Day at Purdue, which is a fun event where Purdue hosts numerous high school bands, and they all get to play at halftime. This year was the largest one in more than a decade. It was a blast.

As for crafting/knitting/organizing, I have to admit that I haven't done a ton of it so far this fall. Life has just been too busy. I mean, I have been knitting because I can carry it around with me and sneak in a few stitches here and there, and I knit a LOT during football games. But it's all been pretty mindless stuff. Mostly socks.

That said, I do have plans for this weekend. I know I said I was going to wait to paint the wall in the dining area until AFTER I painted my cabinets, but I can't wait any longer. I have to paint something. And that wall will be an easy, quick project that will make a huge difference and make me feel like I've really accomplished something. So, Wednesday, I took my curtain fabric to Menards and started looking at colors. I came home with a few swatches, and made a decision within about 10 minutes.
Some of you are bound to wonder what's wrong with the lovely, soft sage green that's on the wall now. Well, as you may recall, I painted the living room this summer. It used to be that soft sage green as well. Our kitchen, dining area, and living room are really just one long, big great room. And this remaining vestige of the old color choice has been driving me batty. It looks terrible with the new, much more vibrant green. So, it's definitely time for a change!

I took the picture above with my phone, so it doesn't reproduce the colors quite perfectly. The top color (Wool Tweed) is too green and looks really awful with the Amanda Signature Green in the living room. The bottom color is too peachy; not at all the look I'm going for. The second from the bottom (Warm Wassail) is quite nice, but too red. The second from the top (Ginger) is just perfect! Brown with just a hint of orange, the perfect warm compliment to my favorite vibrant green.

So that's what I'll be doing Saturday morning. What are your weekend plans?

Friday, August 31, 2012

The best-laid plans

In May, I had some big plans. I was going to paint my kitchen cabinets on Memorial Day weekend. Three days, I figured, would at least get me a good start. But, no. Family plans arose, and we ended up spending the weekend out of town with my in-laws. No problem, I thought. There's always Labor Day weekend. As the summer progressed, the promise of freshly painted cabinets became more appealing. Every time I walked into or looked over at my kitchen, I'd envision the final product. I couldn't wait for Labor Day!

Last weekend, I reminded everyone of my plans. I don't care what YOU do with your Labor Day weekend, but I'm not leaving the house! You can go to the football game, visit family, go out to eat....whatever. But I AM painting the kitchen cabinets. All week this week, every evening, I have reiterated my intentions.

Then, last night, my husband, very calmly and kindly said, "Have you looked at the forecast for this weekend?"

 While my house is air conditioned, the garage (where I will be painting the cabinet doors) is not. And I'm really not convinced that doing it in high humidity is a good idea. So, I'm keeping an eye on the weather. If it rains, my plans will once again be foiled.

Which means I need to come up with an alternate plans. If it rains, what should I work on instead? The wall in the dining area needs to be painted, but I don't want to pick a paint color until AFTER I do the kitchen cabinets. The master bedroom needs some serious attention; it tends to be the catch-all in our house. Not sure where to put it? Toss it in the bedroom. It's really getting on my nerves. Victoria has expressed interest in redecorating her room. We could put together a plan for that, along with some organizing solutions she will actually use. She's 14 years old. She says her room is "floorganized."

Ultimately, I really hope the rain doesn't happen! I desperately want to paint my cabinets. But, if it does? Well, I think I can find something else to fill my time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Where did summer go?

I'll be the first to admit that I don't love summer. I really don't. It's too hot (and boy howdy was it hot this summer!), too sunny, too allergy-inducing, and just too icky. The one and only redeeming quality about summer is its relaxed energy. I work for the Purdue Libraries, and much of what we do revolves around the school year. We are busy from mid-August to early May, and we treasure those few months in between. We have time to work on projects--like repurposing a little-used basement office into a reservable group study space or weeding duplicate books that haven't been used in 10 years or sending older issues of journals to repository storage. We have time for training staff how to use new resources. We have time to take vacations.

But this summer went too fast. Between cramming in a last-minute family vacation in June, my daughter's enrollment in Summer PE in July, and marching band camp the first week of August, our summer was eaten up in a flash.

My daughter started high school and my son started his last year of elementary school last week. This week, all the Purdue students are back. Don't get me wrong! I love fall! I love the energy the returning students bring with them. The sense of possibilities and potential is almost palpable. I love that my kids are back in school, learning and spending time with their friends. It just seemed to get here much more quickly than I was expecting.

I had a list of big things I wanted to accomplish this summer that just didn't get done.
  • Paint my kitchen cabinets
  • Build a sectional daybed thing for the front room (I know this sounds weird, but trust me: it's going to be way cool)
  • Learn how to use my knitting machine
  • Paint the dining area (really just an extension of the kitchen)
I'm hoping all of those things will be done by Christmas, in addition to my list of fall projects. We'll see.

So, sayonara summer. I hope when you return in May your stay will be more pleasant.

Hello, fall! Even though you're here sooner than I expected, your cooler temps and wonderful smells will be a welcome change!

In closing, check out the adorableness we discovered in our front shrubs Friday afternoon:

Sunday, August 12, 2012


This morning, I was surprised to find that Diana Gabaldon, the author of the amazing Outlander series of books, tweeted about MY Claire's Shawl!!!

Currently, the pattern can be purchased through the River Knits Yarns website. However, I'm hoping to have it available for sale through Ravelry very soon!

Ah! I'm so floored!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Crafty weekend fun

We had a good time at my house last weekend. All week, I had planned on taking the day Saturday to figure out my new-to-me knitting machine. I got it free from a lady who said, "I just want it out of my house." Okay. It's a Brother ElectroKnit KH-910. I'm very intimidated by this thing. It didn't have a manual, but I found one online.
Even so, I let the intimidation get the best of me. I told myself (and those around me) that the lack of sleep Thursday night was really affecting me on Saturday and my brain was too tired to learn something new. You see, my daughter and I went to the midnight premier of "The Dark Knight Rises." Learning something new just wasn't possible in my sleep-deprived state. In my heart, though, I know it was intimidation. I won't let the knitting machine get the best of me. As soon as Ravellenics (formerly Knitting Olympics) is over, it's going down! I'm going to conquer that thing!

My avoidance did have some productive results, though. I made a few draw-string project bags to go with my purse. Yes, I had some small drawstring project bags already, but they were quite small and didn't match my bag. So, I did some thinking and looking around at other project bags. I knew the bags I already had were great for socks or other very small projects. But for a shawl, scarf, or larger project, I needed something a little bigger. Maybe just taller. I also didn't like that I had to guess what was inside the bag, or open it first. An excellent solution can be found in Tom Bihn's Yarn Stuff Sack. Clear vinyl bottom? I can do that! At least, I think I can....I've never sewn with vinyl before. Let's try it out!

Look at that! I CAN sew with vinyl! So, I decided to try my luck with zippers too.
That's the Boxy Little Pouch from Three Bears. It measures about 5" x 3" x 3." Perfect for my little knitting implements--like scissors, stitch markers, tape measure, and sewing-up needles.And this method for sewing in a zipper is super easy!

I also cut out all the pieces for a fall version of my purse. I assembled most of the pieces, but realized I only had one magnetic snap. So, the lining and the outside are done, just waiting on the snap so I can put it all together. Maybe I'll have time one evening this week.

Then, last night, I whipped this together:

It's a little pouch for my earbuds. Tutorial available from Dog Under My Desk. Mine is far from perfect. Sewing a curve is tough. I need to practice.

Seriously? I never knew sewing was this fun! If you had told me six months ago that I would enjoy sewing, I'd have called you crazy. I blame Pinterest. And not in a bad way! It's just piqued my interest in things I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.

Speaking of which, my daughter, Tori, who is 14 went into a Pinterest-induced cooking and crafting frenzy last weekend too! She made Chicken Taquitos (delicious!),Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pulls (potentially delicious with a few tweaks), Nutella Chip Cookies (om nom nom), and some string art for her bedroom wall (which I will have HER tell you about in a future post).

All in all, a very productive weekend at the Gill household!

Beginning tomorrow: Ravellenics (formerly Ravelympics or Knitting Olympics). I have my projects ready to cast on at 4pm EDT, at the moment Opening Ceremonies begin in London. Details tomorrow.