Friday, 31 January 2014

Winter therapy

The Umaro blanket is finished!  It was actually finished on Sunday, but I haven't had a chance to post until now.

I'm really happy with how it turned out, now I just have to block it.  I don't know how well it will block due to the high acrylic content of the yarn, but I'm hoping the 20% wool part of the yarn will listen to what I want it to do and whip the rest of it into shape.  And if not, well, it still looks pretty great.

It was a lot of cream though, and as much as I love cream (the colour and the food), I was ready for a bit of a change.  I've been reading Yarn Harlot's posts about how winter partly seems so long because it's all one colour, and how knitting bright colours (as opposed to cream) can help you feel better.

January was a tough month, as it usually is, but it felt like there was more to make January tough than usual this time around.  I'm not going to blame Umaro because frankly I loved every second that I was knitting it (except when the cat wouldn't leave me alone and it was too big to heave out of the way quickly).

We decided to say goodbye to our old 1997 Toyota Camry after it screwed us over just one too many times.  It was a great car, but it was squeezing more out of us than we were getting out of it, so it was time for an upgrade.  We now have a shiny new-ish 2011 Hyundai Sonata.  That was a good change, but stressful nonetheless.

We also had to replace the locks on our house because the cheap last-minute locks we'd bought a few years ago when we replaced the doors finally had enough of the cold.  Not only did the back door constantly freeze shut, but the handle eventually just broke and stopped letting us through altogether.  Now we've got super heavy duty locks that (hopefully) aren't going to be foiled by a mere bit of -40 (F or C, take your pick) degree weather.  So, another good change, but again, a stressful one.

Aside from that, work has been a pain, and we all know that this winter has been kind of nuts, like the winters of olde.  I keep telling myself that I like winter, and I do, but there's a huge difference between -20 C (which in my opinion is the perfect temperature for winter, since it's cold enough that it won't melt or snow too much, but not so cold that you feel like your face/fingers/legs are going to fall off) and -40 C/F (which is certainly cold enough for the face/fingers/legs to fall off, if you are outside too long).  I have to say that I think it is absolute crap that as adults, we are no longer entitled to snow/cold days.  I get that I'm old enough to know to dress warmly and not stay outside long enough to cause injury to myself, so I'm not saying the rules should be the same for kids attending school and the rest of the population.  Really though, there should be a law stating that if there is a blizzard going on, or it's going to be colder than -45 C with windchill, everyone gets to stay home!

Fine, I know it would never work, but I don't really care.  The point is, I miss snow days.  If I could still have snow days, there would be more time for me to stay home, and I'd be able to start knitting this.

This is the anti-winter colour therapy that is waiting for me.  It will be knit up into another pair of Hermione's Everyday Socks, this time for myself.  I told myself that I'm not casting on until I've finished the pair I'm working on for the Enabler, but we'll see.  It might be that my willpower cracks and they get cast on sooner than that.  I could just quickly finish up his pair, but I have other knitting distracting me now, too.  So much to knit, and not nearly enough time.  Winter may be long, but the days and weeks are just slipping by.  Can you believe January is already over?

Thank goodness for that.  Bring it on, February, I'm ready!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Umaro, Umaro, I love you, Umaro!

One of my dear friends is getting married in August, and she and her hubby-to-be are throwing a social* at the end of March.  As soon as I knew they were having a social, I volunteered to knit something to be included in one of the prize baskets.  The other bridesmaids and I discussed and it was decided that I would knit a blanket and they would chip in to get an e-book, gift cards, and other various things to fill out a "snuggle up and read" prize package.

I had a few ideas for the blanket, but at the top of the list was Umaro by Jared Flood, for a few reasons:

1. I'd been wanting to knit this pattern for a long time.
2. The yarn called for is super bulky and knits up quickly, so the prospect of knitting a blanket didn't seem quite as crazy.

I've knit blankets before, but I have quite a lot of knitting planned this year and some of it has deadlines, so I didn't want to knit one that was going to take multiple months to do.

Immediately I knew that I had to pick a yarn that was machine washable, because as smart and lovely as I'm sure the social-goers will be, I didn't want to inflict a hand wash-only blanket on a random stranger.  Truthfully, I can't fathom even making a hand wash-only blanket for myself.  I'm even getting fed up with hand wash-only yarn for certain other projects, but that's a topic for another post.

I scoured the internet to find a machine washable super bulky yarn that was also affordable.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was going to have to relax my yarn snob ways for this project.  I wasn't about to make the blanket out of Madelinetosh ASAP (as amazing as it would be), because that would essentially mean that I wouldn't be able to afford to go to the social, let alone buy groceries or heat my house for a month.

I decided on Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, which meant a trip to Michael's.  I stalked the flyer and waited until I knew the yarn would be on sale (the 40% off one item coupon only goes so far when you're buying a blanket's worth of yarn).  Luckily they were on a decent sale for Boxing Week (it's the only Boxing Week shopping that I did, actually), and also luckily they had whole boxes of the off-white colour that this blanket looks so beautiful in.

16 balls of the yarn were now mine.  I bought more than I needed, just in case, with the thought that I could return them if I didn't need them.  I totally wasn't thinking that I could just keep the leftover balls and use them to make something else, because that could be considered cheating on my yarn diet.  I don't think it's cheating, because I still MIGHT use all of the yarn, I don't know for sure that I won't… I could decide to make the blanket longer… you never know!  Regardless, once I'm done, it might be that it's not worth it to return the rest of it because of the time it would take and the gas I'd have to use driving to the store and back, so I might as well just keep it.

What I'm trying to say, is that this yarn is great.  I think my yarn snob ways will be permanently relaxed with regard to this yarn.  It is 80% acrylic and 20% wool, so it's machine washable but still has a lot of the softness and warmth of wool.  I'd wait to buy it on sale again though.  If I'm going to buy cheap yarn I'm going to wait until it's even cheaper.

I began knitting the blanket on New Year's Day.  I had to make my own stitch markers out of loops of yarn since the 10 mm needles are far too thick for all of the stitch markers I do have.

It grew quickly, and pretty soon it was long enough to keep me warm while I was knitting it, which has been especially nice for this insanely cold winter we've been having.

I do have to take breaks every few days now because it's quite heavy.  I'm nearly done the 10th ball out of the 12 balls I estimate it's going to take, and each ball is 170 grams.  That's already 1.7 kilos that I'm having to heave around and flip over every time I finish a row.  It doesn't sound like a lot, but for knitting that's a lot, considering much of the weight is held up by your wrists.

It is a really enjoyable knit though, and I'm liking it so much that I'm planning to make another one (and possibly another one after that).

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the 6th and final repeat of the pattern, so it looks like my goal of having this finished by the end of January is going to be achieved.  Then I have to weave in a million ends (give or take a few), and try to wash it as well as I can to get the (black) cat hair out of it.

Funny thing about knitting with cream coloured yarn is that it's a black cat magnet.  The next one of these is going to have to be a colour that doesn't show cat hair so well.  Either that or I'll have to get rid of the cat.

For those of you that aren't from Manitoba, a social is a big fundraising party where people buy tickets to get in, buy drinks, and buy tickets to win prizes.  Meanwhile, there's music playing and people dancing, and there's always a great spread of food available late in the evening.  All of the proceeds go to the people who put on the fundraiser, which is usually to raise money to help pay for a wedding.

Further to that, if you want a chance to win this blanket, get in touch with me and I'll sell you tickets to the social!  :)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Warm and Cozy

I've been looking forward to writing this post for a long time.  So much so, that I finally stopped procrastinating and wrote up the pattern for a couple of gifts that I made for this past Christmas.  This means I can stop looking forward to writing the post because now I'm actually writing it!  Yay!

The last two gifts that I have to show off are hot water bottle covers that I designed for a couple of friends.  I'm not sure what made me decide on hot water bottle covers specifically, other than that I had been wanting to knit hot water bottle covers for some time.  I was partially inspired by the My Favourite Things infinity scarf.  I really liked the idea of making a personalized cover for each of my friends, using a few cute motifs for each one.  A hot water bottle doesn't have a lot of room, though, and when searching for colorwork motifs that reminded me of my friends I couldn't find what I was looking for.  This finally led me to get out my markers and graph paper, and I started doodling.

After I had figured out a few motifs that I was happy with, I realized that what I was designing had a "things that keep you warm" sort of theme, which was kind of perfect, considering that the finished product would also be something to keep you warm.  I hauled out my entire stash of leftover balls of wool worsted weight yarn (mostly Cascade 220 and Berocco Vintage), and started knitting.  I picked groups of six or seven colours that sort of went together for each one, and I'm really pleased with the finished product.

So here they are!  The link to download the pattern is here.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Gift Wrap 2013 (Part 2)

As promised, here is the second round of the Christmas knitting.

First is the Water Dancer Cowl which I actually knit way back in April but didn't sew the buttons on until just before it was sent to its new home.  At the time I started it I wasn't intending to give it away, partly because I didn't know what it was.  This was the Game of Thrones mystery knit along that I participated in.  After it was finished I didn't think it was something I would wear, but I kept it around because I knew it would be a great gift!  It can be worn a few different ways.  Either as a hood...

...or a cowl.  And the sides can be unbuttoned as well for a different look.  The recipient sent me lovely pictures of herself wearing it but I forgot to ask for permission to post them so you get to look at my shifty face again instead.

One of the great things about the gift knitting this year was that I discovered a couple of great sock patterns that are still really simple and easy to memorize, but are a step up from the basic top down sock.  First are the Old Joe socks which I really wanted to keep for myself.  I can see myself making these socks over and over again.  I already have a pair planned for the Enabler but I have some other socks to finish for him first so they'll have to wait.

Next are Hermione's Everyday Socks which I cast on and bound off while watching the Harry Potter movies, because what else would I watch while knitting them?  I completely fell in love with this pattern and with the yarn too, actually.  Since I was trying to keep to my goal of knitting gifts just from yarn in my stash I came across this yarn which had been there for over two years and decided to knit these socks with it.  It was a perfect combination and the resulting socks were very hard to give away.  This picture does not even come close to doing the colours justice.

Luckily I have some very yummy variegated yarn in my stash that would be a perfect combination with this pattern, so as soon as I finish a few other projects I will be making some of these lovelies for myself.

The last item for today is not a gift that I gave.  A friend commissioned me to make a cat ornament for him to give to his girlfriend.  A couple of hours and I had this to show for it (pattern is here).

This is just way too adorable.  I really want to make some more of these for my own tree, but I have some time now before that has to happen.  Our tree is going to come down soon, probably this weekend, which means I have almost a whole year to make some and start planning for next Christmas.  I know, I know, every year there is a different ornament pattern that I am determined to make a bunch of in time for next Christmas, but it never seems to actually happen.  However, I'm sure that this year will totally be different.