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Am rethinking my blog for a while.

First, let me wish you all a much belated Happy New Year. Yeah, I know I’m over a month late, but the wishes are still genuine. Hope your 2008 got off to a grand start and has continued on whatever path you’ve set for it. Mine started in an all too familiar and unwelcome way. For the third year in a row, I started the new year off by getting sick. I had a nasty head cold that hung around for nearly two weeks and made me miserable and cranky. Needless to say, this is not a tradition that I wish to continue. The good news is that I’m over it and have spent the last couple of weeks making up for lost crafting time.

Now, where should I start… Oh, I know! How about a look at my new sewing machine? I was in Target one day and came across several sewing machines that were marked down for clearance. I’d been wanting an electronic machine for some time, and they had this one marked down 50% from $300.00 to $150.00. It had most of the features that made me want an electronic machine to start with: needle up/down button, multiple needle positions, mirror image function, one-step buttonholes, and 400 stitch patterns including 3 styles of lettering. I had heard the Shark/Euro-Pro name before, but had no clue about it’s reputation, so I decided to wait until I’d done some investigating. I spent the next few days thinking about it and looking up reviews on-line. As expected, the reviews were mixed and didn’t really help all that much in my decision. On the fourth day, I made up my mind to go back to the store and if the machine was still there, I would buy it. I checked with customer service on Target’s return policy on clearance items without the original packaging (they told me they don’t keep the packaging on demo items) and was reassured that I had 90 days to return the machine if I wasn’t satisfied. That was enough to squash any lingering doubts, so I bought the machine and brought her home.

Shark Euro-Pro 9110 electronic sewing machine   Knitting project bags    

I just have to say that this is one of the most satisfying purchases I’ve ever made. The machine runs great and I’ve already put some of the above mentioned features to good use. I also love the fact that I don’t even have to use the foot pedal if I don’t want to, because it has a start/stop button. It also has a variable speed slide that lets me go as fast or as slow as I prefer and the ability to program multiple stitch patterns into memory. I’ve made a couple of fabric bags for small knitting projects from the instructions found here, as well as satisfied an itch to do some patchwork.

Russet 'Album' quilt block   Russt 'Chrun Dash' quilt block

These two blocks were made from some fat quarters I picked up last time I was at JoAnn’s. My ability to choose coordinating/complementary colors is marginal at best (and that’s being VERY generous), so I usually agonize and stress over it to the point that most of the time I walk out of the store without buying anything at all. This last time, I made up my mind that I was not even going to think about it; I was just going to grab four different prints that I really liked in a similar color family and take them home with me. So that’s what I did, and boy am I pleased with how they turned out! I couldn’t have done a better job of choosing a mix of light, medium and dark fabrics, not to mention the color harmony, if I’d spent hours browsing the fabric aisles. The piecing is not perfect and the photography is horrible as usual (the ‘Album’ block on top is much truer to the real colors), but I’m proud as punch anyway. I have to go back to JoAnn’s and pick up another fat quarter of each of these three fabrics to make two more matching blocks. I plan on setting them into an alternating four-block wall quilt using the fourth fabric I grabbed as sashing strips. I’ll post of photo of the mini-quilt as soon as I finish it.

7 inch garter stitch blanket squares   Seed stitch washcloth in Bernat Handicrafter cotton   Hidden In My Shoe socklets from SSK

Wool bed socks for hubby   Cables watchcap for DIL   Cables Tee

Lest you think that I’ve abandoned knitting for the sewing machine, here are some pictures of a few things I’ve been working on. After seeing some knitted blankets/throws/afghans on several blogs, I decided it would be a good way to use up some of the various skeins of acrylic yarn I have hanging around the house. I’m knitting 7” squares in garter stitch out of whatever worsted weight yarn strikes my fancy, which I will then attempt to arrange into a pleasing color pattern. There’s no rush to this stash busting project and it will probably not be completed for several months. I’m also working on some cotton washcloths using a beautiful variegated brown shade of Bernat’s Handicrafter Cotton. The color makes me think of both chocolate and coffee; I think they would make wonderful gifts when paired with chocolate and/or coffee scented handmade soaps. Very manly gifts for the gentlemen on my gift list next Christmas.

The brown ‘socklets’ are the Dec./Jan. pattern from the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo! group. The pattern is called Hidden In My Shoe and they were knit from some vintage Columbia-Minerva Featherweight 100% wool. They would have worked up super quick had not the aforementioned head cold sidetracked me. As is was, I finished the first sock in less than 2 days and completed the second sock a week later. This is the first time I have ever knit socks toe-up and I had a little trouble grasping the instructions (some of it I’m sure was due to being ill), but I just trusted that the pattern designer knew what she was doing and I came out the other side with these cute little socks! This pattern is a definite keeper for those quick last minute gifts. The gray sock is #1 of a pair of bed socks for my hubby; he wore out the last pair I made him. These are made from some wool I recycled from a thrift store sweater and worked up very quickly on size 4 DPNs, which is a good thing seeing we only have a few more weeks of cold weather this season. Finally, the little cable project is a hat for my daughter-in-law Kim. I made one of my sons a cabled hat for Christmas 2006; she really liked it and let me know that she would love one like it. I’m just now getting around to making her one. Oh well, better late than never.

The final picture is a mid-assembly photo of a project that I began in 2004! I used to be a member of the now-defunct Ample Knitters list and this Cabled Tee was their final knitalong project. I finished knitting the pieces in a couple of months, but was so inexperienced in assembling knitted garments that I succumbed to my very bad habit of procrastination and put it in a drawer where I promptly forgot about it. I’ve thought about it over the last few years, but not enough to make me pull it out. Last week I decided that it had languished long enough. After several less than satisfactory attempts to sew in the sleeve, I finally managed to complete the job with a barely passable seam. The garment was knit from a medium weight cotton/acrylic blend yarn and is very heavy, i.e. bulky seams. It’s also very baggy as I have lost some weight since it was originally knit. I’m hoping that a nice warm wash and a turn in the dryer will help to shape it up. If not, I’ll chalk it up to experience and donate it to a local charity.

There’s lots of other stuff going on in my life that has kept me from blogging, but I am going to try to make time to update at least weekly from now on. I can’t always promise you that there will be something new on the needles or an exciting sewing/quilting project to share, but I hope you will continue to stop by and see what I’ve been up to. There’s just no telling what might capture my imagination next. Till next time, God bless you and yours.

Merry 8 days before Christmas everyone. Yes, I’m still alive, still knitting, and like most of you, still preparing for Christmas. I know it’s been over a month since my last post, but it has been a month full of changes and challenges. On November 18th, hubby and I were voted in as the new pastors of the church where we have been assisting for the last several months. The former pastor has been there for 37 years and has been in decreasing health for the last 8–10 or so of those years. He was trying to hold off on retiring for another year for personal reasons, but finally reached the point where he recognized that now was the time. We had gotten to know and love the people and they all stated they felt the same way about us, so they were in agreement to receive the former pastor’s retirement and vote on us becoming the new pastors; we felt particularly blessed when we received 100% of the vote. The former pastor has stayed on as Pastor Emeritus and all in all, it’s been a smooth transition. Because of the former pastor’s failing health, the church has become somewhat disorganized, so we have slowly and cautiously made minor organizational changes so as not to startle the flock. We have been praying very hard for wisdom and guidance, and God has assured us that we only need to do 2 things to bring blessing and growth to the church: let HIM lead and agree to follow. If we will do that, all things are possible!

As far as the knitting goes, several factors have conspired to totally demolish my Christmas knitting plans. Firstly, there is the business of guiding the church through the transition (so far, so good). Secondly, I was wiped out by a nasty head cold for over a week. I didn’t feel like doing anything, including knitting. Thirdly, I am in charge, by default I might add, of all things Christmas around here. If it’s going to be decorated, shopped for, or cooked, I am the one who will be doing it. All that stuff seriously eats into knitting time. To be honest, I should be out shopping for last minute presents instead of blogging, but I’ll be off to do that shortly. Shopping was on my agenda for last Thursday, but that got waylaid by grandma baby-sitting duties. Then, I was going to force hubby to help me with the shopping duties last Saturday when my best friend called and said she had the flu and asked could I baby-sit her infinitely-adorable-and-precious-5–month-old-daughter-that-I-love-madly while her husband worked, and of course I said yes. So that is why my last minute Christmas shopping is still not done. In lieu of all that’s been going on, I have decided that I’m not going to drive myself crazy fretting over hand knitted Christmas gifts that no-one is expecting anyway. I will give what I have already completed and be satisfied with that. On that thought, here is a picture of the Waving Lace socks from the Interweave Knits book Favorite Socks.

Waving Lace Socks

These were knit on size US 0/2.00mm dpns with KnitPicks Bare Merino Wool I hand-dyed in a rose/purple color-way. For more info on these socks, you can check out my post to the Favorite Socks KAL blog. I made these for my sister. I’m really pleased with the way these turned out and I think she will be, too. I wanted to do something special for her because she’s a great sister and I love her dearly. She’s had a rough life and is now working a full-time job, helping to tend to her two granddaughters (10 and 12 years old), supporting both our elderly mother who is exhibiting signs of early Alzheimer’s and our disabled brother who is not in the best of health. I wish I could do more, but things are the way they are and my Mom and brother are too settled into her home to even consider coming to live with me; I’ve tried, but no go. So the only thing I know to do is to let her know how much I love her and that I’m willing to do whatever I can to make it easier on her.

I am currently working onNavy blue mittens for G a pair of mittens for my 6 year old grandson. When he was over at my house last Thursday he asked me when I was going to make his mittens. I had totally forgotten that he’d asked for a pair when he saw the ones I’d given my daughter-in-law for her birthday last October. Needless to say, mittens went on the needles as soon as he went home. I’m not using a pattern for these, just making them up as I go. I’ve done a slip-stitch pattern on the back for a little interest and am using some vintage yarn I had in my stash: some navy blue Fireside Double Knitting. I don’t know anything about this yarn (can’t even remember where it came from; probably the thrift store), but when he said that dark blue was his favorite color (used to be orange) it was kind of a no brainer. The first one turned out pretty well and I’m about a third of the way through the second one, so these should be off the needles tonight or tomorrow. I’ll probably use some orange wool I have in my stash to make his 4 year old brother a pair since orange is now his favorite color! And that’s probably it for the Christmas knitting this year. I’m definitely planning on spreading my Christmas knitting out over the entire year in 2008; I just don’t need the last-minute hassles!

On a final note: I treated myself this morning to a luscious cup of hot cocoa in my favorite Christmas mug. It has a picture of what appears to be a burly Santa-like lumberjack knitting socks with a basket of yarn by his left foot. On his right stands a moose in a red scarf with a polar bear covered by a sweater, all presumably knit by their friend, the lumberjack. It makes me smile to look at it.

Lumberjack mug  Lumberjack's friends   Hot cocoa!  Asiago cheese bagel w/ Honey Walnut spread

An asiago cheese bagel with honey walnut cream cheese from one of my favorite places, Panera Bread, made a nice accompaniment to the hot cocoa. Ahhhh… life doesn’t get much better than this on a chilly Monday morning. Now if only that last minute shopping would take care of itself. Hope your week is off to a grand start and you complete all your Christmas tasks with time to spare. God bless you and have a wonderful Christmas. See you in the New Year!

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Still Plugging Away

I can hardly believe it’s been over 2 weeks since my last post; where does the time go? As per the title of this post, I am still plugging away at Christmas knitting. My latest project is a pair of Waving Lace socks for my sister from the book Favorite Sock: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave. I am using some well aged Knit Picks Bare Merino Fingering (bought in Dec., 2005 not long after it was introduced) that I hand-dyed in a variegated pink and purple colorway. I wasn’t too crazy about the color to start with because the purple has a grayish undertone, but the color has grown on me and it’s really looking awesome in the Waving Lace pattern, even if I do say so myself! I bought 10 skeins of the KP Bare Merino back in Dec. 2005, but have been too chicken to delve into dyeing it until recently. I gotta tell ya, I LOVE THIS YARN! It is really soft and works up like a dream. I think my Sis is going to love these socks.WavingLace WLCloseup

Once this project is finished, I’m going to dye up another skein of the KP yarn in an orange colorway to knit my BFF Vickie a pair of socks for Christmas. Why orange you ask? Well, she’s a BIG Florida Gators fan, so it’s kind of a no brainer. I may play around with some waste yarn and attempt to tackle a blue/orange colorway, although I just might end up with an ugly brown mess. Or I could dye 2 batches: one in blue and one in orange and do a colorwork sock. Hmmm… that just might be the most interesting way to go. So many choices and so little time to decide because Christmas is only 40 days away!

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She’s baaaack….

and she’s been trying to post for a week, but life keeps interrupting. So here’s what I’ve been up to for the three weeks since my last post:

  • Ravelry. I think Ann of Crossroad Knits said it best in this post; this site WILL consume your life if you don’t know when to say whoa. I’ve spent a lot of time at Ravelry and have barely begun to tame my knitting monster. Of course, that could be because I’m always feeding it, so it’s always growing. I’ve fed it several new books, magazines, and more yarn over the last couple of weeks and now it’s grown so much I need to knit it a new sweater. Sigh… it’s a never ending cycle.
  • Took a trip to visit friends while Mr. Perfect was out of town on business. As I loaded the car and headed out, it occurred to me that this was the first time I had ever traveled alone. Yep, you heard me right, I’m 49 years old and I’d never traveled alone before. Never. Ever. Oh I’ve done plenty of traveling: I’ve been to or through 30 of the 50 states, I’ve seen both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans up close and personal, I’ve spent 3 days crossing Texas, I’ve even been to both Disneyland AND Disneyworld for heaven’s sake, but there has always been someone with me; my mom, my brother(s), my sister, my husband, one or more of my kids, a friend, or some combination of the above. This time it was just me, alone, all by myself, and I have to confess, I was a little nervous. I thought about all the things that could happen. Like, what if I ran off the road into a heavily wooded area where no one could see my car and I was trapped inside and couldn’t reach my cell phone. Or what if I stopped for gas and an escaped mental patient car-jacked me and took me to some secluded spot and…. well, you can fill in the rest. Yeah, I know, but those kind of things DO happen, and way too often to unsuspecting women on their own. So if you’re one of those brave women who have packed up your life and set off to move to a new city, or new state, or maybe even a new country, I humbly and sincerely applaud you!
  • Celebrated my Mom’s 73rd birthday. She’s getting old and is exhibiting the early stages of Alzhiemer’s, so she may not have very many birthdays left, or at least one’s she’ll remember.
  • Celebrated the 9th and 12th birthdays of two of our grandchildren.
  • Finished the second mitten of the pair I made to match the Coronet hat I knit in September so I could give the set to my DIL Pam for her birthday (which happens to be the same day as my Mom’s). I had originally intended to give the hat to my DIL Kim for Christmas, but after I finished the first mitten I decided that the set suited Pam better. The mittens are knit with six repeats of the Coronet cable pattern for the cuff, then like the hat, I picked up stitches along the side of the cable band and knit the hand using a generic mitten pattern from the knitter’s handy book of Patterns by Ann Budd. The mittens turned out very nice, although I’m not crazy about the decreases used for the top; it was a little too pointy. I prefer a more rounded mitten. I didn’t get a picture of the set before I gave it to her, but here is a picture of her wearing them:

Coronet hat and mittens for Pam's birhtday 2007 She really likes them as you can tell by the smile on her face. The cute guy standing next to her is our third son, and her husband, Daniel. Don’t they make a cute couple? They started dating when she was 15 and he was 16, married 3 years later and will celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in March. She is such a sweetheart and we love her dearly. In fact, we love all three of our daughter-in-laws; they have been such a blessing to our family and we’re so very proud to call them “our girls”!

Fall finally arrived in NW Florida, so I took a break from Christmas knitting to make my youngest son a watch-cap. I used brioche rib for the hat, and let me tell you, there is no neat way to do decreases in brioche rib. I ripped the crown of the hat 4 times trying to maintain the brioche rib pattern, but in the end I gave up and switched to standard 1×1 ribbing for the crown. It looks OK on the right side, but the pattern change is very obvious on the wrong side. No pictures because 19 year DS is never home long enough to snap his photo.

In other knitting news, I have finally started assembling and finishing a sweater I began last Fall. I completed knitting the pieces last February or March, but put it aside when it came time for blocking and assembling. “Why” you may ask? Well, the truth is I don’t have very much confidence in my finishing skills, so I took some time to peruse several of my knitting books and really study the art of assemblage. That was one of the best things I could have ever done, because when I decided it was time, the things I learned while studying those books helped me successfully complete the task. Here is a photo of one very neat sleeve seam. Now all I have to do is sew one more side/underarm seam, pick up and knit the collar, sew on the the buttons and my sweater will be finished!Successful sleeve seam

Hope you’ve been as successful with your knitting endeavors and have enjoyed them to boot. I’m off to browse a few knitting books from my collection and see what catches my eye. Or maybe I’ll go ahead and set to work finishing that sweater. I could also work on the Dressy Jacket. Or maybe post more stash info on Ravelry. Isn’t it great to have choices? Till next time, knit and blog on!

Update: My Ravelry invitation came Friday evening, 10/12/2007. Set up my account right away and have been exploring ever since. If I’m AWOL for a while, you’ll know where to find me. BTW, I’m ‘joezgal‘ at Ravelry, too!

Woohoo! Here’s my Ravelry waitlist standing as of today. Yesterday there were more than 2,400 people ahead of me in line; at this rate, I should be receiving my Ravelry invitation within the next few days! I’m really curious to see firsthand what everyone has been blogging about, but mostly it will be nice to be able to access all the links and references that bloggers have been posting about. I would have already been on Ravelry long ago if I had signed up when I first heard about it several months ago. I went to the website and checked it out, but didn’t find it too interesting so I skipped the sign-up. In retrospect, one of those slap-your-forehead-call-yourself-stupid moments. Who knew? Oh well, you can’t change the past, you can only roll your eyes and wonder what’s taking the future so long to get here.

  

  

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A Pair of Monkeys

I finally finished the Pink Monkey socks for my BFF Mel for Christmas and they turned out great. They are not as red as they look in the photo, but a more coral pink color. Cooke A.’s pattern was a fun and easy knit, and now I understand why it’s been all over the knitting net for the last few months. Although I was slow to jump on the Monkey bandwagon, I will be knitting this pattern again. I have seen some interesting mods around the net and may try some of them in the future. Thanks Cookie for the great pattern!

Pink Monkeys

Have any of you guys checked out the web site Knitting Friends? If you like reading knitting blogs (I do!, I do!), then you will love this web site. I found out about it from a post at SavannahChik’s blog. I enjoy Knitting Friends so much I have made it one of my home page tabs in IE7 and visit it several times a day. I’ve already discovered some knitting blogs that I’d never visited and have added a couple to my regular reads. Although I don’t need any more reasons to sit at the computer, I can’t resist reading about other knitter’s projects, getting a sense of what’s currently hot in the knitting universe and connecting virtually with the knitting community. So, to all you awesome knitting bloggers out there, knit and blog on!!!

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