Inspiration: Thanksgiving Dinner

Happy early Thanksgiving, everyone!  If you’re in the US, you’re probably already prepping for the big meal tomorrow.  (I know I am!) My whole family is coming into town first thing tomorrow, and my husband and I are doing the whole spread- turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pie, the works.  (I’m actually roasting some pumpkin for the pie and making some candied pecans right now… my house smells very good this morning.)

I’m actually vegetarian, so I don’t really care about the turkey (that’s my husband’s thing, but I’ve been told he makes a mean turkey).  For me, the whole point of Thanksgiving dinner is the sides.  So, let’s talk about my favorite sides (with some knitting, because that’s what I do).

Stuffing might be my favorite savory side.  I use the same recipe that my dad used when I was a kid, it’s full of sage and thyme, apple bits and big, juicy raisins.  So good!  The first time I made it, I was shocked because it starts by melting a whole cup of butter, then sauteing a bunch of celery and onion, basically making butter soup.  No wonder everyone likes it!

Stuffed Mittens by TECHknitterMashed potatoes are a staple in our house- I probably make a batch of them every couple weeks (I’m from the Midwest, after all).  My usual mashed potatoes are pretty chill- un-peeled potatoes, a little butter, a little of whatever milk I have in the fridge, and salt and pepper.  For Thanksgiving, I pull out all the stops- I put in the effort to peel all the potatoes, and step up my game with sour cream and whole milk, the whole nine yards.  So creamy and tasty!

Mash Potato Socks by Verena Cohrs

One side that most people keep strictly to Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce.  I am not most people.  I’m a cranberry fiend.  The moment fresh cranberries come into season, I stock up.  I make cranberry muffins, cranberry pancakes, and generally have a bowl of home-made cranberry sauce in my fridge.  I love it on cheese sandwiches (I realize this is weird), with mashed potatoes, or just plain, eaten with a spoon.  My favorite!

Cranberry Sauce by Brittany Tyler SimmondsBut the best part of Thanksgiving might be dessert.  Specifically pumpkin pie.  I gotta say, I make a mean pumpkin pie.  I go fully from scratch- make my own crust, roast my own pumpkins (though this year I’m using Blue Hubbard Squash, because my grocery store was out of sugar pie pumpkins!  The horror!) and garnish with homemade candied pecans and bourbon whipped cream.  I mean what’s not to love?

Pumpkin-Pie by jo columbineDo you celebrate Thanksgiving?  What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods?

A New Project Appears

OK, so I didn’t quite behave myself, like I promised myself I was going to.  I haven’t spent the weekend powering through my Papaya Sweater.  And I didn’t finish off any of my other hibernating projects, either.

But, I also didn’t go to the yarn store (though I was sorely tempted).  So we’ll call it a win.

I did decide to start a new project.  Something small, quick, satisfying and fun.  Something that would get my knitting juices flowing again.  And something that I could make entirely from my stash.

There’s one project that I can think of that fits those requirements.

A baby sweater.

Baby Sweaters are fun and complex, just like a grown-up sweater, but they’re tiny enough that I can get one finished pretty quickly.  Plus, since it’s small, it was a good bet that I have enough spare yarn laying around that I could just pick up a skein and get to work.

And, wouldn’t you know it!?  I found a perfect, unopened skein of Berroco Vintage (in Peppercorn) that was left over from a sweater I made for my father-in-law last year.  It’s machine washable, soft and super tough- perfect for a baby sweater.Then I just had to figure out which sweater I should make.   My usual “I’m bored with my knitting so I think I’ll make a baby sweater” sweater is Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket, but that usually looks better with thinner yarn. (Pro tip:  If you have a handful of leftover balls of sock yarn, you can make a really cute, easy striped sweater using the BSJ pattern.  I’ve probably made a dozen of them over the years.)  My Berroco Vintage is a lovely squishy worsted, though, so I decided to do something else.

So, after cruising around Ravelry, I happened upon the Baby Sophisticate sweater, a really cute “little old man” cardigan with a great shawl collar.  I made a couple of these before, years ago, for a friend’s twins, and they turned out really great.  It’s an easy, satisfying pattern (and a good excuse to pull out the button collection).I’m ready to go, and very excited!  I bet I’ll get this little guy done before you can say “procrastination.”

What do you knit “just for fun?”

Knitter’s Block

You guys have all heard of writer’s block, right?  When a writer simply can’t bring themself to keep writing, or maybe they just can’t figure out what to write next.

I propose that I am currently experiencing the knitter’s version of writer’s block.  Knitter’s block.

Since I finished my super secret vampire project, I’ve been kind of at loose ends.  I’ve got a bunch of knitting I should be doing.  And, if I’m being honest, I’ve been working on it a bit.  I’ve added a couple dozen rows to my Papaya Sweater, and I’ve knit up a handful of Christmas Balls over the last couple weeks. I even added a couple inches to my last Mother Bear of the year.

But, I gotta say, I’m not terribly inspired.I’ve been thinking, and right now, it seems I have a couple options:

  1.  Keep plugging away.  Pro: I get to finish the projects I’ve started.  Con: I’m boooooored.
  2. Dig out some other half-finished project and finish it.  Pro: They’ll be finished.  Also, I’ll get back the project bags and needles that have been sequestered (in some cases) for years.  Con: There’s a reason those projects ended up in my pile of hibernating WIPS.
  3. Start a new project.  Pro: New project!  A new excuse to go yarn shopping! Con: What about all the other projects?

Or, I could just continue to ignore the problem, make myself another cup of hot cocoa, and take Ollie on a walk.Options.

What do you do when you get bored with your knitting?

Inspiration: Stormy Weather

When we moved to Seattle, I knew what I signed up for.  Rain (often, but not a lot), cloudy skies (a good excuse to stay in the house and read), and cool weather (perfect for wearing sweaters).

This year, that has not been the case.

We had warm weather (in the sixties) almost all the way through September with sun (SUN!!) nearly every day.  Then the weekend before last, we had snow (SNOW!!) for several days in a row.  It didn’t really stick, but, still!  And the last three days we’ve had pouring rain and whipping winds.  (My yard is a disaster- leaves and branches everywhere!  But I figure I should wait to clean it up until the storms have passed, so I’m just sitting here looking out the window at the mess outside.) It’s like being back in the Midwest!  It’s bananas!

I guess there’s just one thing to do.  Knit.

(What, you can’t really be surprised that that’s my response?)

I love this cowl.  I know the lace pattern is supposed to be waves, but I think it looks like my big pine trees whipping back and forth in the wind.

Storm Water Cowl by Kim McBrien Evans

And this little pullover is too cute (and too cozy) for words.  It’s exactly what I’d want to wear on a stormy day if I was a cute little kid.  Ah, who am I kidding, I’d wear this today, if it was big enough!

Stormy Day Jacket by Hannah FettigAnd this shrug is so perfect- I might actually need it.  It would bring me one step closer to my goal of wearing nothing but blankets all day.

Stormy Shrug by Charm KnitsI’ll keep my fingers crossed that the weather breaks soon, but in case it doesn’t, at least I have some cute knitting to think about.

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

Tutorial: Closing Up

As you guys all know, I’ve been going to town on some Christmas Balls. (I think my last count stood above 20, but I could be wrong.  There’s so many it’s getting hard to keep track of them all these days.)

Knitting these bad boys is fun and (fairly) easy, though some of the colorwork is a little bit challenging to knit up without making the balls pucker too much.  The finishing isn’t too bad, either, just a little bit of a pain when you have to repeat it so many times.  You stuff the balls, weave in all the ends, close up the top and the bottom, and add a loop to hang  the balls from. Easy, right?

Well, closing up the top of the balls is easy enough- you just pass your tail through the remaining active loops and pull, just like the top of a hat.

But the bottom is a different matter- one that took me a couple tries to figure out how to do neatly.

Because you cast on at the bottom of the ball, you have a big old hole down there, waiting for you.  And, there’s no obvious way to get rid of that hole, since you can’t just pull a string and have it disappear (believe me, I tried).

Here’s what I’ve been doing, and I think it works pretty well.

So, you see the long-tail cast-on edge? There are little slanted “stitches” all the way around the edge.  I use a yarn needle to carefully pass my needle through those stitches, counter-clockwise, starting right next to the spot where my tail yarn comes out of the ball.And I keep going…Until I get all the way around the hole.Then, I pull the tail snug,And voila!  A lovely finished ball bottom that looks just as good as the top!  You could use this technique on top-down hats, fingers-to-cuffs mittens, or really any time you need to close up an opening created by a long-tail cast on.

Now, all I’ve got to do is repeat this on the rest of my Christmas Balls. Oof.

Do you have any favorite techniques you’ve been using lately?

Papaya Sweater Update- Stockinette Upon Stockinette

I’ve been back at work with my Papaya Sweater. But I gotta tell you, it’s slow going.

Not because it’s a difficult pattern.  It’s super simple, relaxing knitting.  It’s great TV knitting (we’re slowly catching up on Stranger things- so good!).  I still like the color (though I’m still unsure why I purchased this tropical shade of pink-y orange-it’s so unlike my usual style).

The problem with this sweater is that it’s:

  1. Massive (Yes, I know I picked out an extra-long, extra-flowy sweater, so this one’s on me).
  2. Knit at a fairly small gauge (For a big ol’ sweater).
  3. Really big (I don’t think I can understate this).
  4. 100% stockinette (Like, that’s all it is!).
  5. Gigantic (For real, it’s just huge).

Don’t get me wrong, I like stockinette as much as the next lady.  It’s beautiful and simple, it’s easy to do and blocks up like a dream.  But, y’all, there’s so much of it.  I’m only a few inches past the armpits and I’m already daydreaming of the shoulder shaping again.  Maybe I should add a little bit of lace or some sort of texture along the fronts, or a small cable running down the “seams” under the arms.

Or (if I’m being honest) I’ll probably just keep moving right along, whining about all the stockinette, and working up a quick Christmas Ball or two when I get bored.

Anyway, I can always take a break from the body of the sweater to make up the arms, if the situation gets really dire.

What’s on your needles right now?

Vogue Knitting: The Damage

Woo!  What a weekend!

(Yes, I know it’s Wednesday.  My weekend went all the way through Monday, which is why I haven’t updated you on Vogue Knitting Live until now.)

The yarn show was amazing.  So much pretty yarn!  So many beautiful sweaters!  So many lovely people!

I visited the Knit Picks Booth and finally got to meet everyone I’ve been working with for the last couple years (we’ve been working via email and hadn’t met face-to-face yet).  And, I’m happy to report that everyone is just as lovely as I hoped.  (Although it was mega-weird for little ol’ introverted me to have people recognize my name, and pull out their WIPs of my projects!)

In fact, I had such a good time on Saturday, that I 100% forgot to take any pictures!  (I’m so bad at social media!)

I did, however drop a good bit of money on yarn, and yarn-adjacent accessories.  (I got mighty close to buying a $75 skein of alpaca, but just managed to control myself- it was just so pretty!)  Unfortunately for you guys, most of my purchases are earmarked to be Christmas gifts, and their recipients read this blog, so you won’t get to see those. (I promise, they’re super cool, though!)

Anyway, here’s my haul:Not too bad, if I say so myself!  (Sorry about the colors- it’s very overcast here (it is Seattle, after all), so I had a hell of a time taking pictures this morning.)  Two amazing skeins of sock yarn and an adorable set of buttons.

I got this skein of Country Yarns Presents Artistry, and when I showed it to my husband, and he said “Oh, it’s your colors.” Apparently my colors are teal, turquoise, blue and violet.  I can’t say he’s wrong.  This picture does not do this yarn justice- in real life it’s bright, vibrant, and very peacock-y.  I’m itching to start making some socks with it.

I’ve actually purchased Hazel Knits Artisan Sock before, and made a really lovely pair of broken rib socks in a beautiful, subtle charcoal/navy color.  I love those socks.

Unfortunately, my husband loves those socks, too.

So, I purchased this skein of electric-purple so I can have my own socks (since my husband won’t (probably) steal them).  We’ll have to see if it works.I forgot the name of the vendor that was selling these buttons- she had hundreds of resin buttons in every color in the rainbow.  Some were shiny, some were glittery, some had tiny flowers embedded inside them.  They were all beautiful.

I couldn’t pass up these little gorgeous guys.  They remind me of gumdrops or tiny hard candies.  I think they’d be fantastic on a little baby sweater, but they might end up on something for me, instead.  For now, they just look great hanging out on my desk.

I am so happy with my purchases, I can’t wait to get knitting with them!  Maybe I should put aside my Papaya Sweater again?  That thing’ll never get done at this rate!

Have you made any especially exciting purchases lately?

My Poor Needles

I have a favorite pair of needles.  I bet you do, too.  They’re my go-to needles for probably half the projects I work up.  If I’m designing a pattern, or making a gift for someone that doesn’t specifically require me to dig out a different pair of needles, they’re the ones I go for.  I’ve even switched them back and forth between two different WIPs, so that I could work on two different projects at the same time.

They’re my Knit Picks Interchangeable Size US8 needles in Caspian.

They’re part of a set of interchangeables that I love to death.  It’s so convenient to have such a wide range of needles at my fingertips.  They come with extra cables in a couple lengths, so I always have the perfect needle for whatever project I’m starting.  (And the blue-green colors of the wood are so pretty, I can’t say no to them.)

I’ve had these needles for a few years now, and use them almost exclusively.  I love knitting with wooden needles, and only ever use circulars any more (straight needles drive me up the wall), so they’re perfect for me.

In fact, I think I might have used my US8’s a little too much.After more than three years of nearly constant use, and especially after I just finished my massive vampire project (3+ hours of complicated knitting every day for over a month), my favorite needles are starting to show a little wear. I don’t know if you can really see it in the picture, but the tips are not as smooth as they used to be, and the finish is beginning to wear off.  But, after so many years of faithful service, I can’t really blame them.  They’re still usable, but they aren’t quite as smooth as they used to be.

It’s funny.  I’ve lost needles, broken needles, and my dog has eaten (or at least chewed up) needles, but I’ve never actually worn out needles like this.  I feel like I need to frame them, or play taps as I lay them to rest at the bottom of my stash.  Or I could try refinishing the tips (though with my dismal knowledge of woodworking, that would probably turn into a fiasco).

Whatever I end up doing with them, they have served me well, knitting (probably) miles of yarn into dozens and dozens of projects.

(But, honestly, I’ll probably keep using them, because I’m cheap enough to not want to buy new needles, and they’re still not that bad.)

Do you have a favorite pair of needles?

Vogue Knitting Live!

I’m so excited for this weekend, guys!  Vogue Knitting Live is coming to the PNW, and I get to go!  I’m driving across the lake with one of my best friends, and we’re going to spend the day petting yarn, talking knitting, and buying altogether too much yarn.

It’s going to be great!Now, when I go to a knitting show like this, I usually go in with no plan at all.  Maybe I’ll have a vague budget (“Allison, don’t spend more than a hundred bucks… unless you find something really pretty”), or maybe I’ll have a vague idea (“Let’s get a bunch of sock yarn this weekend”).  But, inevitably I end up going way above and beyond what I intend… not that that’s a bad thing.

When I buy a special skein of yarn at a yarn show, or even at a lys, I try to imagine what it might become- I generally try to think about how much I’ll need if I want to make a pair of socks (~100g), or a shawl or scarf (two or three skeins).  That way I won’t get halfway through a project in a couple months, and run out of no-longer-available yarn.  But that’s really my entire thought process.

My friend, however, has been planning out some patterns that she specifically wants yarn for.  She’s been sending me some very cute patterns that she’s planning on making with her Vogue Knitting yarn.  I love her foresight (as a very Type-A person, I love a good plan), but that seems like a lot of work.  I don’t see myself sitting down and coming up with a list of patterns before tomorrow, but that might be a good idea.  Maybe this evening I’ll make myself a cup of hot cocoa and go on a Ravelry bender (before going to bed early, so I have plenty of energy for shopping tomorrow!).

What’s your yarn-show strategy?

Inspiration: Candy Hangover

Happy “Half-Price Candy Day,” everybody!

I think yesterday’s Halloween celebrations were a success, at least in my neck of the woods.  I dressed up as a spooky witch for work, then put out candy and jack-o-lanterns for trick-or-treaters, and left to hang out with friends, watch spooky movies, and hand out candy (their neighborhood gets a lot more kids than mine.

I ate a bunch of candy (oops), a slice of delicious pumpkin cake, and more cheese and crackers than is strictly necessary.  It was all delicious.

But this morning I’m feeling a little like I need to spend my morning munching on something a little healthier.  And maybe my knitting should be a little healthier, too.

I’m not sure if it’s true, but “they” say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  This hat might not have any healing properties, but, dang it’s cute!

Lil’ Apple Hat by Iryna BoehlandAnd there’s nothing better for a nice healthy breakfast than a big bowl of fiber-rich oatmeal.

Oatmeal Pullover by Jane RichmondI’m not a huge fan of kale, but I make myself eat it anyway, since I know it’s super good for me.  I’d make this shawl in a heartbeat- what a pretty way to get your kale!

Baby Kale Shawl by Celeste YoungDid you overindulge last night, too?