Monday, January 30, 2012

On Schedule

So far, so good. I'm actually a little ahead of my self-imposed 2012 knitting goals. I completed two projects in the month of January and started two projects. I hope at least one of those new projects is fully completed before the end of February.

My number one project for the year was a cowl kit that I requested and received for Christmas. I had seen the kit on the Hill Country Weavers website, had visited the store and looked at it longingly and ultimately decided it was a little too expensive for my budget. I figured it would only be a matter of time before I decided the heck with the budget, but then when it got close to Christmas and little brother and sis-in-law asked what I might want, I offered the longed for Paintbrush Lace Cowl kit as a possibility. Santa came through and then once I had it in hand, I began to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was determined to tackle it right away and prove that I still knew how to knit lace.

There were a few bobbles along the way, but nothing that caused me to have to rip it out and start over. Knitting lace is really not hard, so long as you pay attention to what you are doing.

The cowl is knitted with two strands of very different yarn held together, one a mohair and one a straw-like lace-weight yarn. When I felt the Silken Straw, I had my doubts about how the finished product would feel around my neck but I forged on. The colors were selected from the color palette of the Indian Paintbrush, one of my favorite wildflowers, and I enjoyed watching them shift through my fingers. And, as scratchy as the Silken Straw feels in the skein, when it combined with the mohair, it became soft and luxurious.

Yesterday afternoon I reached the end of my January project and after weaving in the yarn ends and steam-blocking, I had my own Paintbrush Lace Cowl. I defy anybody, including me, to find the few errors hiding in the lace.

I really had not expected the cowl to move as quickly as it did, so I had started another project to be sure that I would finish something in January. Lo and behold, I completed both the cowl and the Flounce scarf over the weekend.

The scarf was an impulse project. I had visited Yarnorama in Paige on my way back home from an antiques run to Giddings and had seen a sample scarf hanging in the store. I was intrigued with the very odd "yarn", which is actually a mesh fabric. You knit into the edge of the mesh and fluff out the mesh as you progress, which results in a soft ruffled scarf. I'm not sure what else you could use the yarn for, but it makes a really nice scarf. You can vary the number of stitches to produce a narrow or wide scarf. I chose to make a scarf 5 stitches wide and ended up with enough scarf to be able to drape it twice around my neck. (I've since bought a second skein of Flounce and think I will start another one of these little scarves soon. I've also made another foray to Hill Country Weavers and have purchased yarn for a second cowl in a version that calls for mohair only. I am itching to get that one on the needles, too.)

Coco did not protest at all when I asked her to model the scarf and posed like she is aspiring to be a model. Mojo took exception to the attention she was getting and made it clear that he wanted to be a part of the photo party.

I try to always make my kiddoes happy. And, it seems natural that they should be included in the progress report. Mojo sat beside me and kept me company for every stitch that went into these scarves.

The heathen cats were absolutely no help at all. My next project is another scarf that involves very unique yarns of boucle, mohair and a hairy yarn that Dixie thinks is a wonderful cat toy. I've had to rewind the yarn three times because she steals it out of my knitting bag and runs like crazy, trailing yarn behind her. I've had to resort to using a zippered bag to store this particular work in progress.

We'll see if cat slobber has any effect on the feel of the completed object. It should be showing up here in the not too distant future. I already have a couple of inches completed.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Reviewing the Stash

The best part about the Christmas season for me is that I usually have enough vacation saved back that I can take the week between Christmas and New Year's and spend it at home. At that point I have gotten thoroughly sick of shopping, just about everybody has gone to visit family and the neighborhood is nice and quiet and conducive to taking it easy.

After a day spent cleaning the house, I was free to putter as the spirit moved. I decided to give myself a break from the seemingly never to end scanning project and spend some time on my other two hobbies - miniatures and knitting.

One day was spent unpacking miniatures that had been swiftly stripped out of various dollhouses and removed to Austin in the post-fire period. The dollhouses were long overdue for a good cleaning, so I removed all the remaining minis and dusted and proceeded to overhaul the three largest dollhouses. The Melissa & Doug dollhouse I moved into the guest bedroom and it is in the process of being turned into a better Pink Lady Bed & Breakfast which will be presented here when some items that have been ordered to complete the effect make it here from Georgia.

The Southwestern dollhouse store, The Turquoise Moon, is still in pieces as I mull over new arrangement possibilities and work on some new display pedestals for the art room.

I did complete the renovations on my knitting store, Woolgathering. So many new pieces had been acquired in recent years that it needed a complete reorganization, beginning with a new little boy and dog waiting on the front porch for Mom to complete her shopping.

The upstairs apartment was divided into two distinct living areas. In my policy to always include an animal in every miniatures scene I construct, I really went overboard here. In addition to the little dog on the front porch, there is an animal in this dollhouse to represent each of my real pets. In this view you can see "Boo" taking a bath on the sofa and "Coco" supervising. Just to the right and out of sight is "Scout" taking a nap on the piano (which she does regularly in real life) and "Dixie" curled up in a pet bed beside the piano. "Mojo" is downstairs keeping an eye on his Mommy. Where I am, Mojo is not but a few inches away.

The store area has had numerous new knitted and crocheted items added in, and a new display/checkout counter which displays the tiny little baby items that have always been lost amongst the larger items.

This is the knitting store I always wanted in real life. A little bit of everything, from canvas for needlepoint, to ribbon and buttons, to project bags to yarn winders to luxury yarns to a group of contented knitters visiting while they knit. (What you can't see in these photos are the two tea cups, labeled "Nettie" and "Lucinda" to represent me and my mother. Believe it or not I found those two cups ready made. I don't think I've ever seen any other personalized objects that included our very unusual names in the available choices.)

Working on the knitting dollhouse inspired me to spend a day rummaging in my knitting stash. I knew I had a lot of nice yarn tucked away for a rainy day, but I was surprised to find how much of it there was. I had a lot of WIPs (works in progress) and a lot of yarn that I had tagged for specific patterns but not yet started. I decided it was time that I started working on these long neglected projects and I set myself a New Year's goal (not a resolution) to try and get one of the backlog projects finished every month of 2012. A lofty goal, but if I get even half-way there, I will feel pretty good about the situation.

On the list of WIPs, I have the red crocheted shawl I almost finished last summer but got tired of when I was just a row or two from completing, the purple mohair scarf and my third Noro scarf that is just straight knitting with a color change every two rows. The fourth scarf in the picture is one I just started last weekend when I could not resist a really unusual yarn that creates automatic ruffles as you knit. That last scarf is working up really fast, so it may be the project that gets finished for January. I would like to think I could get the shawl completed as well, but the problem is I'm not a crocheter as much as I'm a knitter and every time I go back to the shawl I have to relearn the stitches and figure out where I am. The remaining two scarves are no-brainers and will probably take up residence at the office for the odd minute of knitting here and there when I need a small break.

I was feeling pretty good about that start, but then I began building project bags for the projects hiding in my stash. I rustled up a supply of knitting bags and began isolating the yarns, the patterns and the needles that would be needed for each project. The pile grew to 8 bags with projects varying from scarves to a vest to gloves to a shawl to a very complicated afghan. The afghan I've started once and had to frog (rip it, rip it) due to a cable needle that broke losing me 5 inches worth of progress.

The pile is daunting, but I plan to forge on and see just what can be accomplished in the next year. I expect to see scarves and other small projects. I don't expect to see that afghan for awhile.

This is but a small portion of my knitter's stash. There are many more skeins of lovely yarn waiting for their turn. And you would think that having just been through the process of choosing yarns out of my stash and building project bags that I would stand firm and refuse to buy more yarn for awhile.

But you would be wrong. While I was out on an antiquing run during my Christmas vacation, I stopped by Yarnorama, a terrific yarn shop in tiny little Paige, and picked up another scarf kit and 3 skeins of a silky, faded pink ribbon yarn. Then I got an email from Hill Country Weavers last week regarding their annual inventory reduction sale. This afternoon found me digging into their bins and selecting a complimentary yarn for the pink ribbon (thinking of a shawl there), a skein of dark teal mohair (a scarf) and a fiesta colored cotton yarn that I just couldn't resist but have no idea where it will be used.

A knitter is happiest with a big yarn stash. The question right now is, just how much of a dent can I make in that stash by the end of the year?

And speaking of stashes, I also have a stash of dollhouse projects and a goal to get some of those completed this year as well. We'll talk about that later.

Genealogy, knitting and dollhouses. I never have a problem with what to do with my free time.