If they ever make Needles and Artifice into a movie

Christopher Walken knittingFor those of you who haven’t heard, Needles and Artifice is a book by The Ladies of Mischief. It’s an adventurous knitting story laced with Victorian/steampunk knitting patterns. I think the book should be adapted into a screenplay featuring Christopher Walken. He’s a natural.

A bit more about the book: the patterns are influenced by punk but even a slightly conservative grandma such as myself can find designs to love. The Revolution Shrug will find its way onto my needles soon, as will the chemise and bloomers (for bedroom only) and the bed jacket (in silk, of course). I love the brimmed cap, and the details of the overbust corset are too delicious not to knit — picot edge and cables up the front, oh my. How to accentuate the positive! The Gossip Stole will certainly get them talking, exquisite!

If what you’re after is some ideas for a great steampunk Halloween costume, you’ve come to the right place. Check out the Deviation Capelet and the Eccentricity stockings. Oh…and read the story while you’re at it. You’ll never look at knitting quite the same again.

“I certainly hope our trip to Shanghai is smooth from here. One crash landing was quite enough–”

Anna launched across the table and clapped her hand over Kristoff’s mouth, scattering her knitting and her teacup in the process. “Don’t!” she hissed, eyes darting from side to side as she scanned the dirigible’s galley for danger….

So begins the adventure.

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240 Days until Christmas

ugly Christmas sweater

Avoid mistakes like this ugly Christmas sweater.

It’s never too early – plan ahead because, trust me, no one wants a Christmas sweater like the one pictured above. No one. Ok, maybe to wear to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party and be in the running for 1st prize. Then all your hard work will be burned or sent to a thrift store. Where they will sell it as a dart board.

How to begin your Christmas gift knitting – gathering free patterns, of course. I’ve been gathering like crazy, downloading, bookmarking, filing away neatly. I’ll share some of my favorite places to browse:

1. Ravelry – mostly knitting patterns, but some crochet. Here is the place knitting designers can post their free patterns and links to patterns on their websites. There’s also an ample supply of patterns you can purchase. And if you crochet, there are all of the above there for you as well, just not in such abundance. Plenty to keep us all busy forever.

2. Knitting Daily – Sign up and receive access to free knitting patterns from Interweave; you also can subscribe to their email list and get knitting tips, notifications of workshops and all the goings on at Interweave Press, and more. Free knitting patterns and PDFs, knitting books, etc.

3. Paradise Fibers – This is an affiliate link, which, if you use it and ever buy something, it helps incrementally to support my yarn/knitting addiction. No, I’ll never join a 12-Step program, so you don’t need to feel guilty. I love these folks because they’re just folks – this is a family-run business in my home state. They’re quirky and knowledgeable because they do it all, raising animals, making spinning wheels, and just being happy yarn people. Yarn, knitting tools and supplies, spinning supplies, etc.

4. Knit Picks – Another Pacific Northwest yarn and accessories company who’s yarns are well known as reliable standards as well as always having a few delicious surprises. KP operates ethically and responsibly on an international scale while keeping prices reasonable. Knitting yarn and books.

5. Classic Elite – Their newsletter arrives with free patterns, can’t beat that for easy. Their patterns are usually uncomplicated, making them perfect for beginning knitters, and serve as a great springboard for creative experienced knitters. And they have yarn, of course.

6. Tahki Stacy Charles – Stylish and quirky, these patterns don’t always appeal to my more conservative tastes, but I love the accessories – scarves, knitted jewelry, slippers – they take me out of my comfort zone where you never know what inspiration may strike! Yarn and patterns.

7. Quince & Co. – Alright, these patterns are not free, but they are some of my absolute favorites, and the yarn is beautiful too. (See my Knit Kimono where I used Owl yarn from Q & C.) Since knitted gifts need to be fast and beg to be attractive too, these simple basic patterns satisfy both. Yarn and patterns.

8. Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Then head over to Janice Phelps Williams’s blog. Be sure you’ve got a pot of your favorite beverage and plenty of time to kill, her list is incredible!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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How to Knit All Day and Impress the Boss

knitting-cat-badgeWho’s the boss in your family? In other words, who do you need or want to impress with your accomplishments when they come home from work or school? Do you have a hard time saying you sat on the couch all day knitting?

I can hear you already…you finished 6″ on your afghan and you are proud of yourself. Or you knit that pair of booties and a hat for the latest newborn grandchild, or the first of a pair of socks for yourself or Mr.

Unfortunately, Mr. may not be impressed, or you may still feel a bit guilty for having neglected housework or thrown together a meal at the last minute. So I’ve come up with an easy plan for knitting for hours while still getting a lot of other things done. It’s all about:

1. Studying your “flight pattern” in your house and planning efficiently;

2. Having food staples on hand at all times;

3. Having fun with your day.

My house is very small, maybe 1200 sq. feet, so planning my day is super easy. I also don’t have a large family to take care of, it’s just me and my partner. He works part time, so this schedule is for one of his work days.

He has gotten up before me, made coffee, and left the house by the time I get up.

Your Flight Pattern

I go from bed to bathroom, past the laundry area, and back to the bedroom in just a few steps. This is what I can accomplish in my first half hour out of bed:

I dump a load of dirty laundry on the dryer on my way to the shower, tidy up the bathroom (swish around the toilet bowl, wipe the sink and faucet, wipe the mirror, that sort of thing — just one or two things that need a spot clean and can be done quickly) — and put the laundry in the washing machine on the way by. I sort the whites and colored in two different baskets as they become dirty, so no sorting is needed.

I get dressed and make the bed. Ta Da. Look what I did on my way to the coffee maker for my first cup ;-) But even before that coffee, I have a glass of water. Whether you know it or not, you got dehydrated overnight.

Food Staples + Online Favorite Recipes = Easy Meals

Then I sit down at my computer and decide what I’m going to fix for dinner. If anything needs to defrost, I get it out now. Here is my list of “almost always have them all” staples: olive oil, beans, potatoes, pasta, rice, bacon, sausage, Parmigiano cheese, eggs, tomato sauce, garlic, onions, and lemons. With these on hand, I can cook up a storm even during a storm.

I’ve spent some time looking for recipes online, and continue to do so. I bookmark them and sort them according to types of recipes (desserts, casseroles, condiments and sauces, etc.) or by ingredients (chicken, pork, seafood). I rotate them in my mind — we had fish last night and pork the night before, tonight is chicken night — and also the starches/carbs: rice, potatoes, pasta, repeat.

I’ve got my favorite places to visit online so maybe I do a quick search for something new *chocolate cake, Smitten Kitchen* or *quick meal Food Wishes*. I did that for tonight and here’s what I’m making: Black Bean Soup and, thanks to Marie Callender, yummy “just add water” cornbread. I’ll tweak the soup recipe just a bit because I often don’t have exactly what is needed.

While I’m sipping that first cup of coffee, I’m checking my emails and doing my daily 10 minutes of online work. Ten minutes a day earns me $50 a month, which I spend on yarn, of course.

Now off I go to knit for 45 minutes. Why 45? Because it’s good to get up and move for 15 minutes out of every hour. What do I do for those 15 minutes?

Here Comes the Fun

My house is small and open plan, so I can hear the oven timer loud and clear throughout the house. I set the timer for 15 minutes, and in 8 hours I can get these things done, in 15 minute increments. The timer makes it fun – I see how much I can do before the signal goes off that it’s time to knit again. I can be a wiping whirlwind or a dusting diva for 15 minutes. Procrastination is a thing of the past — I can do anything for 15 minutes, if I get to sit down and knit again for 45.

* yoga

*vacuuming

*sweeping

*dusting

*wiping countertops

*mopping

*emptying the dishwasher

*mix up some No Knead Bread: so easy a 4-yr old can make it!

Don’t forget the laundry in the washer; when I have to go to the bathroom is when I’m passing by and remember to toss it in the dryer. And of course fold it and put it away when it’s dry.

That’s just what I thought of off the top of my head. Maybe there’s a closet you need to clean, maybe there is clutter that needs to be put away, and so on. You can’t vacuum your entire house in 15 minutes? No problem. Do some today, more tomorrow.

As spring approaches, there’s more to do if you have a yard, garden, patio, or balcony. And you can finally wash the outsides of those windows. Don’t be overwhelmed, don’t procrastinate, and by all means still spend most of your time serenely knitting.

 

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Busting down the stash

There’s nothing like knitting with super bulky yarn on big needles to make that stash fly off the shelves. A skein of super bulky takes up a lot of real estate, but it knits up oh so fast.

I’m knitting a throw rug for the foot of the bed in the master bedroom. I cast on 120 sts. and it’s working out to being about 44″ wide and so far, 16″ long. The width of the rug will lie along the width of the bed.

Here is the pattern I’m using, 2 simple rows that you can remember instantly.

Row 1 (wrong side): Knit across

Row 2: (Slip 1, knit 1) across.

I’m alternating stripes in 4 colors in various widths, being sure to change colors on the same side, an odd row in this case.

Do a small swatch first, both to check your gauge and to see which side you want to be the right/wrong side. The stripes look well defined on my “wrong side”, you may want to switch.

Since I have more white than any other color, I’m making wider white stripes. My stripes are 2, 4, 6, 8, and 14 rows. For each pattern repeat of 50 rows, my smallest amount of yarn is used for 6 rows, the next is 10 rows, then 14 rows, and then 20 rows of white.

I like irregular stripe patterns so I worked out my design on a piece of paper in 10-row sections, plus one 20-row section. So the colors go something like 2-8, 4-6, 2-2-6, 14-2-4, etc.

When I ran out of gray, I started using cranberry instead. I’ll stop when I either run out of colors that match the room, or when the rug is as big as will fit in the space.

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Kimono and Doll Clothing

[I found this post as a draft. Oh my. Forgotten since some time in early October. I'm bad.]

My kimono is done; knit with Owl Yarn from Quince & Co., I can’t tell you how much I love this. The pattern from Vicki Square’s “Knit Komono” was flawless, the yarn I chose was a perfect substitution, and I love the feel, the drape. It’s a bit heavy – those big sleeves take some getting used to and the entire garment is “oversized” by Western standards, but it is lovely. Pictures of me wearing it follow, I promise.

knit kimono

Here it is, the finished kimono

The two American Girl doll garments were also finished on time for the birthday girls, sorry but they left quickly, no chance to take pictures.

And a log cabin baby blanket was started and then abandoned. I just wasn’t clever enough to reconcile the various weights of yarn from my stash. The beauty of a log cabin design is in the perfect geometry of it, and this was so far from perfect, it’s embarrassing. Failures keep one humble.

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New Years resolutions

I don’t normally do resolutions this time of year, but since I also can’t do photo recaps of all my glorious knitting accomplishments I’d better at least start the year with good intentions, right?

Ok, here we go. I already joined a 2014 Stashdown project with my Ravelry/Goodreads group, so I’ll be doubly encouraged by repeating it here.

1. Keep track of my 128 skeins of yarn, bringing my stash down by half while knitting Christmas presents and a couple things for myself and my home. This mainly means using up my most unwanted yarns (super bulky and bulky wool for felting, acrylics for household items such as small rugs.)

2. Replacing those unwanted yarns with dearly loved yarn for specific projects: I want to dive into sock knitting this year, plus knit myself a hooded jacket.

3. Document all my knitting with photographs and blog posts.

4. Buy some books I’ve been holding off on until I had the money — thanks to an inheritance, this year is the year for yarn and knitting books!

5. Buy and learn to use a spinning wheel.

That’s it. Simple and doable.

Part of #1 means that almost half of my Christmas knitting for next year is completed already. How can that be? Well, my Toasty Toes felted slipper enterprise was a failure of sorts. I experimented with changing the original (perfect) pattern by knitting multicolor tops to the slippers, which for the most part made them impossible to put on. The tops felted more than the single-color bottoms. Ugh.

So I had the brilliant idea of turning them into Christmas stockings instead. I’ll fill them mostly with “Cuties”, those deliciously sweet little baby oranges that are in season in December. I’ll add toys, sachets, etc. and whatever comes out of my kitchen that time of year to top them off. I’ll need 17 of them, counting all the children and adults on my list; 8 are already made. This will use up all my bulky and super bulky yarns, plus some acrylics for the toys, sachets, and other little items.

I actually can’t wait to get started! Imagine that. Just when I’m recovering from such a hectic time of year, I’m full of energy to begin all over again.

knitted felted stockings

The Gang – can you see the stocking that isn’t felted yet?

And here’s the part of my stash that I want to use up:

bulky yarn stash

Bulky and super bulky yarns, minus that top section which is worsted yarns.

Have a happy, healthy, prosperous, and productive New Year!

What’s in your stash resolutions?

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Cubic Cats

knitted cubic cat

knitted cat cube

How can a little square be so cute?

Perhaps you have a granddaughter or daughter or niece like my granddaughter. She likes those little plastic critters that, to my eye, don’t look like anything real. Big eyes, some have bobble heads, and various appendages that I think makes them look like monsters, each and every one, but A. will come to me and say, “I can’t find Bubbly” (or whatever). I ask her, who’s Bubbly? and she’ll say, “he’s a dog.”

We go to her room and there on the floor is a mass of plastic blobs, dozens and dozens. Poking through them, I cannot find anything resembling a dog. A. is looking under her bed; “there he is!” and pulls out a purple and white…blob…with big eyes and something that must be ears, I guess.

Well…

I have yet to knit in plastic, but there has to be something out there in the knitting world that will appeal to her sense of cute – small, compact, and amorphous (leaves much to the imagination.)…

I found them. Cubic Cats. Think of how much fun it would be to have a whole herd of cats – you could stack them, line them up nose to tail. You can make them any color, striped, spotted, and so on and on.

Find the pattern here.

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Knitted Toy Elephant

knitted toy elephant pattern

knitted toy elephant

Elefante” is quite possibly the cutest knitted toy ever. This is a great project for using up some of your stash because so little is needed of each color, and almost any colors will do. The one I knit for my granddaughter is so adorable I’m including 2 pictures. On the designer’s website you can find the pattern and other pictures that show more accurately how big this toy really is — look for the one with Elefante standing on a book.

Elefante from the front

Knitted toy elephant from the front

You can make a lot of these by Christmas, please consider knitting up some for charity as well as your own gift giving.

Also, be sure to choose fiberfill for stuffing this little guy if knitting for an infant. I used wool fleece because it is so cuddly and warm, even when stuffed inside a toy.

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Knitted Felted Purse

fulled Lopi tote

Fulled Lopi tote (knitted with Lopi yarn and felted)

What I’d like for Christmas, Santa — a Lopi fulled bag!

I’m out of bags! My miscellaneous works-in-progress, finished objects, mending…the list goes on!…are finding themselves being stored in plastic shopping bags – how rude!

If no one gifts me with one of these, then I’m knitting one myself. Or two, or twelve. I will substitute whatever yarn I have, and knit one for a gift. And one for myself too.

Thanks to Hello Yarn blog for this free pattern: Fulled Lopi Tote

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