Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Back from Paradise

I flew back from Florida a few hours ago and am a little sad it's over. I had a wonderful time in the sun but now I'm back to cold, snowy reality.

I went to Florida last Tuesday to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon (13.1 miles).  I've been training since last July and my goal for the race was to run as much as I could and then be in good enough shape to enjoy my day after the race.  I was able to run just over 11 miles (I was thinking I wouldn't make it over 6 so I'm thrilled), finished 52 minutes faster than my last half marathon, went back after the race to shower and then headed to the parks.  My mom and dad went with me and we stayed there until the parks closed and managed to fit in MGM, Epcot and Magic Kingdom.  I couldn't have been happier with how the day went.  I did start crying at mile 12, and again on the bus back to the hotel after the race.  I wasn't hurting terribly, I was just experiencing another form of Post Project Depression.  Normally I get this after finishing a really big lace project that I've been working on for months, but this was different.  This time I set a really challenging goal for myself, overcame obstacles, and performed better than anticipated. And this race that's been on my mind for the past 8 months is finally over and I'm free.
Here's a few of the pictures from the run.  They aren't great, but that's because I was running and trying to take a picture at the same time.

So that's that. 

I did spend 8 days in Florida though, and only 2 were devoted to the race.  Which means there were 6 lovely days of walks on the beach, hanging out in the yarn shop, fine dining and wine-ing, shopping and of course, crafting. 

One of the highlights (and a rather silly one at that) was the trip to the Amish area of Sarasota.  If you've never been to Sarasota, you're probably thinking that I'm crazy because the Amish don't live in Sarasota.  But they have to retire somewhere!  There's a really nice Dutch Amish area in Sarasota that's got farmers markets, restaurants, little shops, bakeries, and my real goal- a quilt shop. 
So I took in my $20 bill that I was going to use on fat quarters and leave after that.  Yeah right- as if I could stop at $20.  I didn't go crazy, but it's really easy to rack up a bit of a bill when the fat quarters are $1 more than you're used to and your mom is there going "get this one too!". They had some really nice and subtle colors and they had some fabulous things like honeycombs and Peeps fabric.  Couldn't walk away without those!  So I got a few for my quilt that I'll be starting eventually, and I got 4 patriotic fat quarters to turn in to something for Rob's mom who has a huge 4th of July party every year and collects flag stuff all year round.  That will surely get me some brownie points, right?
I really wanted to take a picture of the inside of the shop because it's amazing and there's about 8 giant frames set up with little Amish ladies at each one of them, hand quilting.  But the Amish don't like having their picture taken (my mom swears the pictures won't even turn out) so we took the picture outside the shop, waiting patiently until the Amish ladies were out of the picture. 

I did take a few knitting projects with me but was pretty monogamous while I was down there.  I've had a baby blanket going in Good For Ewe Chord since July or August and I've been carrying around the first 5 inches for months.  I'm tired of looking at it so I grabbed a bag of white yarn and thought I'd work on it a bit.  I ended up working only on the blanket and went from 5 inches to 17, which should mean that this part of the blanket is just over halfway done. It's lovely to work on, it's just not the most appropriate purse project because it's getting a bit big.  I also took a sock down (made 1 inch of ribbing) and a hat down (made 1 inch of ribbing).  But it's the blanket's turn to be done so I'm getting there. 
So the trip knitting was pretty boring.  But I'd really like to get this blanket done and the pattern written up soon.

So I did come home to a little Christmas Cactus start has gone from "surviving" to "growing" and has 2 new little sections growing!  (The awkward yellow/green thing towards the bottom of the biggest leaf and the teeny tiny pink star dot right next to the dirt at the base of the plant) So excited! These things are hard to start! 
I did bring back lemon seeds and kumquat seeds too, so I'll see if I can get those to grow this time- I've been studying up on how to grow citrus plants from seed. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wrapping up

I do love deadlines.  I get a strange sort of enjoyment on seeing just how much I can accomplish under pressure.  I'm more productive when I'm working and I'm way more productive when I'm crafting.  I still have 2 more projects I'd like to finish before I leave town Tuesday morning, but I think it's going to happen.

This week I finished the pair of sport weight socks...
The yarn is by Lunabud Knits- a dyer/spinner in Kentucky that I met on my travels around the midwest to sell yarn.  It knitting up very quickly when I actually worked on.  Have worn them twice since I finished them this week. Love them.
I finished up a doily that was meant to be finished in October but wasn't even started until after Christmas.  And then it lived in my purse for a month and a half with the Lunabud socks, not actually getting any of my attention. I dug it out for Downtown Abbey last week and I was halfway through the 3rd letter and by the time Downton was over (yay 2 hour episodes!) I was on the last letter.  After my dork show and Castle on Monday night I was halfway through the border and then it sat for a couple more days until I had a rather grumpy day and sat down and finished it so I could get back to work without the bad attitude.  Sometimes you just need a little knit-break in the middle of the day.
I still haven't ironed/starched it yet and I'll pick up a frame when I'm in Castleton on Monday and I'll mat it myself- it saves about $150 to do that and I'm super frugal right now.

I have still been cutting fabric for my king sized quilt and working from a twin sized pattern.  So on Thursday morning (Valentine's Day) I sat down with my calculator and did some math to figure out just how much fabric I'm going to need for the background of the quilt top.  I also learned that I don't have nearly enough fat quarters, and I'm going to need around 10 yards of the main color.  So after I dropped off Rob's surprise Valentine's Day cake at his office on Thursday, I went to the quilt shop on Michigan which I've driven by a thousand times and never gone in.  And oh. my. god. It is amazing.  And HUGE! I asked a lady there about buying a whole bolt of fabric and explained the project.  She listened to me talk about my process and how much fabric I've already got cut up and how I'm altering the pattern from a twin to a king, how I know I'm going to need a lot and I don't want to spend a fortune but I don't want to run out and have to change dye-lots and finally she asked...

"You're new at this, aren't you?"

Ummm....yes.  And I'm so glad I went to a proper quilt shop and not a big box fabric/craft store.  She pulled out a handy chart saying how much fabric you ACTUALLY need to make a quilt top in all these different sizes.  She also recommended this one brand of fabric that is well known for it's consistent dye lots.  She then showed me a quilt that she was working on that had 8 different dye lots of the same fabric in it, from scraps of other projects.  And it was perfect and I couldn't tell and I'm feeling much more relaxed about my quilt project now. So I got a few fat quarters while I was there and I'll get a few more when I visit the Amish quilt shop in Sarasota next week. And then I'll finish cutting my colored fabrics into little squares and little triangles and then I'll finish a few more knitting projects before I buy the main color.

I also told her that I'd already bought fabric for the main color and the back before I changed my mind on the size so I was going to need a lot of backing fabric too.  "No you don't- just piece the old front and the old back together into another quilt top and use that on the bottom!" BRILLIANT!  Seriously- I would have never thought of that.  So I was thinking about pooling my coupons to go and buy a bunch of fabric from JoAnn, but it will probably end up being cheaper and better to go to a proper quilt shop and only get as much as I really need, a couple yards at a time. What a crazy idea.

Here are the fat quarters and fat eights I got at the quilt shop....and then what the quilt looks like after a couple hours of cutting squares into triangles.  I'm kind of over the cutting part.  Unfortunately, I've still got at least an hour of color cutting and a couple weeks of plain white cutting once I get that fabric.

And now back to knitting.  I did start a new project yesterday and that's because Good For Ewe is having a trunk show on March 2nd in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  And I'm going to be out of town the whole week before the trunk show, getting back in time to pack, drop off the cat and head up there. I had a couple more patterns that I wanted to finish before the show and then one of my designers sent over a couple more patterns! Yay!  Except I don't get the models for these patterns.  Oh well, I could always knit them myself.  I definitely don't have time to make a sweater in sport weight yarn, but I can totally squeeze in a worsted weight cowl, right?

I started yesterday and I'm already about halfway done. I'd really love to get it done and blocking before I leave for Florida.  And if that happens I just need to narrow down the other 3 projects that I'd like to finish before the trunk show...

So what do you think?  Should I take the sock yarn shawlette with the beads?  The cabled hat in the yarn I haven't picked out yet?  Or attempt to finish a baby blanket in Chord that I've been ignoring for months?  Decisions, decisions. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

You win some, you give some away

I am leaving for Florida in 8 days to run the Princess Half Marathon. I'm not as ready as I'd like to be thanks to getting sick and taking a month and a half off of training, but I'll be able to finish, and I'm hoping to run more than half of it.

In the meanwhile, I'm trying to finish up a few more projects!  I've had a serious new project bug for a couple weeks and I finally succumbed to it yesterday, but not completely.  I have been really wanting to start my next quilt for a while and having all of these fantastic fat quarters taunting me in my office for the past 6 or so months has been driving me nuts.  Okay, I'll start a new quilt, but I need to finish my first quilt and a dress I've had in progress since last June.

So Saturday I took down the dress.  I think it's really cool!  The fabric is fair trade and from Ghana and I LOVE the print.  I was working on it pretty well until a cat peed on it a few months ago and I washed it and then put it away, and if you know anything about my crafting then you'll know that if it's out of sight, it's out of mind and that's why it takes me forever to finish things. When I started Saturday morning it was here...
I had to add 6 more pleats to the skirt to make the fabric match up, assembled it all, added a zipper to the back and a solid red contrast fabric to the top to give it a nice finished look.
I tried it on to figure out where to tack the straps in at the back and's about 3 sizes too big.  So if you live in the Indianapolis area and have a 36"-38" bust and would like to have a dress with fabric from Ghana, let me know.  If not, then I'll learn to alter. Bleh. 

Sunday I took the quilt in progress to my knitting group where I stitched diligently for about 3 hours.  I made it about 2 feet across in my binding.  I still have around 15 feet of hand sewing to do before I can officially start my new quilt. 
 Yesterday I was only going to wash the fabric for the new one and maybe iron it...and then put it away until a few more projects were done.  As you can see, I'm lacking a bit in the self control department.  I have decided that I won't go any farther than cutting the fat quarters before I finish a few more projects though.  This is going to be a little harder to ignore because I don't have the background fabric yet.
*I actually do have 4.5 yards of the background fabric washed and ironed upstairs.  But then I got to looking at the quilt pattern.  It calls for 18 fat quarters and 4.5 yards of background fabric for a TWIN bed sized quilt.  I was aiming for a queen sized quilt that covers at least a foot of the bed on each side- maybe a king size quilt just to be safe.  So I have 27 fat quarters that I've been buying one or two at a time for a year or so and once they're all cut up I'll go and buy around 8 or 9 yards of an off-white fabric to use as the background. The 4.5 yards I have is not enough and a little more taupe than I had intended to buy- don't buy fabric in poor lighting peeps! I'm sure it will work for a future project though- fabric doesn't go bad.

**Prewashing your fat quarters is a giant pain in the butt.  But from here on out I'm washing all my fabrics before I start cutting and sewing, I don't want any more surprises like I had on Emery's baby quilt.  A few of the articles I read said to surge the ends, a few said to pink the ends with pinking shears, and one or two said to put stay stitches along all four sides.  So I thought about it and the fact that I have a bit more fabric than I'll probably need and just threw them in the wash with one of those color catchers.  They unraveled a bit at the sides but I probably saved myself a few hours of pinking/surging/stay-stitching and I'm pleased with my decision.  Having more fabric than you need is a real treat- you're so much less stressed about unraveling, miss-cuts and losing a piece.  Not to mention that some fat quarters can be a little on the skinny side if they're coming from a quilt shop trying to finish up a bolt of fabric.

I did finish one more project since my last post, and that's Rob's Valentine's Day hat.  It blocked out beautifully and he seems to really like it.  I made him try it on for pictures and he asked if he really had to wait another week to have it.  I can't say no and he's got his Valentine's Day gift early.  Here he is getting his Zoolander on, plus a cat in the hat.
I do have a few more little things I'd like to finish up before I go, including a doily for a wedding that Rob and I went to in October (whoops!).  I'm on the penultimate letter and between my 2 shows tonight I'm hoping to finish the doily and get the border on there.

I'd also like to finish a pair of socks in sport weight yarn.  I'm just past the gusset on the second one. Probably doable.

I'd like to finish a fair-isle cowl that needs to have the bottom 2 inches ripped out and redone.

I NEED to finish a cupcake hat for a 1 year old by Friday. I would like to knit one for a newborn and get pictures of the two next to each other and start working on the pattern.  I've had enough complements on the cupcakes and sales of the finished products that I'm going to be publishing the pattern and selling it for $3 on Ravelry.  I do need to get it photographed and written up and figure out how that whole Ravelry shop thing works.  If you have a pattern for sale in your Ravelry shop and want to give me some pointers, that would be pretty awesome.  I'm particularly interested in licensing so that people can make and sell the cupcake hats and how I go about selling licenses for that sort of thing. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

the hat

There's this funny little song by Ingrid Michaelson called "the hat" and it's about this guy that she likes and she knitted him a hat to show him how much she cares.  A couple of the lines are "I knitted you a hat of blue and gold/to keep your ears warm from the bitter cold/it was my first one and it was too small/it didn't fit you at all/but you wore it just the same".

I wish I had the "first hat" excuse.  I knitted Rob a hat for Valentine's Day out of some sock yarn that I've had for years and it's too pretty for my feet.  I started, made about 3 inches and Rob tried it on and said it was a bit snug.  So I added 16 more stitches and tried again.  He said it was still a bit snug when he tried it on when it was around 4" long and I told him that was because it was still on the cable needle and it wouldn't really stretch out until it was farther along.  I mean, I added about 3 inches to the "slightly snug" hat- surely that would cover it? (Here it is having a soak before I find something head-sized to block in on)
And I bound off this morning and I'm not sure it's big enough.  It fits me- might be a little loose on me for that matter.  But it's blocking now and when I see Rob I'll make him try it on and see.  It's finished, so if it's too small then I have a new hat (or someone I know has a new hat) and I'll try again for Rob in a different yarn.  I just don't understand why after 18 years of knitting, I can't make a hat that flippin' fits!

In better news, I finished my mom's mermaid.  She has a head full of hair and is in a big box, headed to Florida.  She has no mouth (I tried 3 times and they kept getting worse) but I'm otherwise very pleased. Hopefully my mom (who embroiders- or at least used to) can figure out how to make her a mouth that doesn't look like she's had a stroke (mouth 1 & 2) or look like a blow-up doll (mouth 3). She does at least have eyes and a belly button.  Here she is at the Sunday Starbucks knitting group!
And I know this last bit isn't about knitting...but I've had a very needy cat lately.  When my parents left to go back to Florida after Christmas break, they took their little cheetah-devil with them, and it's been the first time in Madeline's life that she's been an "only child". She was really clingy after I got back from Florida after New Year's, and the clinginess might be getting worse.  She has also been really fussy for the past few days and gets cranky when I don't drop everything and hold her.  It's adorable...for a while- but I have stuff to do!  Any suggestions?  And getting another animal is not an option right now- I think Rob and my parents would be doing rock-paper-scissors over who gets to kill me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Salmon Llama and a helpful Possum

I am still going strong in my finishing spree!  In the next couple weeks you can expect to see a finished pair of socks (sport weight so it's not that big of a project), a doily, a fair-isle cowl, and finally- the mermaid.  I'm actually having a little completion anxiety with the mermaid- she's been in my brain or on my needles for a couple years now and I'm a little worried to see her leave my hands as a finished project.

I'm sure  I'll get over it.

But for now, a little tiny finished project, some handspun.  It's around 72 yards, a smidge over 2 ounces in some lovely salmon-colored llama.  It's got a little wool, a little silk, a little glitz, a little everything.  Love it, still not sure what to do with it.  I have so much handspun in about this weight, I might just have to do a fantastic handspun striped afghan someday to use some of it up. So here is the yarn...

And this is the reason that it takes me absolutely forever to get any spinning done... (if this goes right, the third picture is actually a video- click the arrow to play) 
And I did start a new project last night even though I still have loads of projects that need to be finished.  But Valentine's Day is 2 weeks away, and I was going to make Rob a hat since he dearly loves the first hat I made him. Here it is so far...
It's Sheepytime Knits sock yarn, held doubled.  I've had this color forever and I just thought it was too pretty to put on my feet.  

So the hat...Rob and I were looking briefly at hat patterns a week or so ago and he kept pointing out his favorites, and they were all cabled.  Fine.  I'll suck it up enough for a hat for a guy that spoils me rotten.  I looked through the patterns and I don't have any appropriate yarn for the hat, or I can't get gauge.  So I'll just solve this problem by making up my own darn pattern.  And I like it- it's simple, tidy and this is what I got done in about 3 hours (watching me cable is like watching grass grow).  I was chugging along on it and's a tad small.  It fits me, and since it's still on a circular needle I can't really tell how far it will stretch.  Oh, and I've miscrossed 2 cables.  Crapola.   So when I see Rob (hopefully tonight but grad school comes first. Gag) I will blindfold him and put the hat on his head.  If he thinks it's too tight, then I'll frog it and start again.  If he doesn't think it's too tight, I'll rip back to the badly crossed cables and start from there.  So I'm panicking a little about it...but that's a bit silly considering how far I got in 1 day and the fact that I still have 13 days left before it needs to be done.  He will understand if it's not done for Valentine's Day,  but this hat WILL be done.  And so will my mom's mermaid (her gift) and my pair of socks (my gift to me!) and a cowl for Good For Ewe and maybe the doily.  And then I'll unearth a few more WIPS to drive myself crazy.