Monday, February 28, 2011

February Finishing Frenzy

Episode III: Attack of the Feline

Capricha downright insisted on taking part in the photos for my latest project. What a beautiful grand dame!

I started this blanket way back in May in the midst of preparations for our big move. Crochet is downright soothing to my senses, so it was just the ticket. The crochet part didn't take too long -- that was done in July.  Weaving in the ends, however... Let's just say this blanket hibernated in a cozy corner of the rec room, waiting for hints of spring.

pattern: stripy dog blanket, by Nikki Trench
source: The Cool Girl's Guide to Crochet (terrible title, but some really cute patterns)
dusty sage, dusty blue, strawberry, blueberry, almond, walnut, & pistachio
hook: Clover Soft Touch ~ "J"

Clearly this is no dog blanket! The foundation chain had 166 sts, and I should have used a larger hook for this, as it's a little tight. The pattern's essentially just half double crochet, changing colors every row. It’s super soft and cozy. The yarn is so fluffy that it’s almost like working with cotton balls, and curling up with the blanket is like snuggling with a cloud.

I kept running out of yarn and buying more. In the end it took something like 42 skeins (or maybe 49, but let's not go there). Just thinking about the quantity of yarn makes me shudder. It does, however, fit our queen-size bed. And I love it.

Capricha clearly loves it, too. 

P.S. Think Charlie Sheen seems nuts lately?  Me too! See cats quote Charlie Sheen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

February Finishing Frenzy

Episode II: Revenge of the Crochet Hook

Not one, but two long-term crochet projects are done and dusted! I've been weaving in ends like a crazy person for the past couple of weeks (yep, I save the "best" for last). I'll just share one today:
pattern: basic granny square afghan
yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky
hook: Clover Soft Touch J Hook

I started this large-ish baby blanket to use up scraps from my beloved giant granny (best. project. ever.). As is the case with essentially all of my stashbusting endeavors, I soon ran out of yarn. Oddly enough, Cashmerino Chunky isn't that easy to find anymore, so I ended up buying bits and bobs from kind Ravelers to finish up this project. Gotta love the interwebs!

The blog Attic 24 features the loveliest and most colorful crochet projects and patterns. I followed her instructions for joining granny squares -- crochet them together using slip stitch.  Fabulous and not at all difficult!  Certainly far superior to sewing the squares together, imho. 

I wanted to work a granny square border around the whole darn thing, and the areas by the joins were giving me headaches. The border was crinkly and floppy and looked terrible. After ripping it out, I did some "research" (AKA googling) and found this mini-tutorial. Worked like a charm, plus I learned something new to boot -- dc2tog (crochet double decrease). I'd love to add a contrasting scalloped edging, but alas, I'm out of yarn again, so I'm deeming this one good to go.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

to pom or not to pom?

I did go with the pom after all!
My new thing is to make custom cards to accompany handknit gifts. This one has a little image and a personal message on the front and care instructions on the back. The scalloped-edge cards are from Target, and I just print them out on my el cheapo HP color inkjet printer.

I enjoyed knitting Melissa Burt's baby sheep hat pattern so much that I cast on for a wee sheep yoke baby cardigan, too. 

Seriously fun to knit. This is definitely going to be a go-to baby shower gift.  I'm already dreaming up other color combinations. Stranded colorwork is one of my 2011 resolutions, and so far it's going swimmingly. Surprisingly enough the hard part is the duplicate stitching. Double ugh! If anyone has any suggestions, let me know, as I can use all the help I can get.
in the kitchen

Mmmm... Dorie Greenspan's world peace (AKA Korova) cookies. Super delicious, with a sandy texture and lots of chocolately goodness. Especially great served warm with a very large glass of milk. I used fancy Sirius Icelandic bittersweet chocolate, which was a good move, and Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder (not the best choice -- I'd use better cocoa powder next time, but that's what was in the pantry). 

People are obsessed with these cookies.  They're yummy, but I wouldn't go that far...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a handknit valentine

Here's my Valentine for Paul. Knit Picks was sold out of the colors I wanted for the longest time, so the yarn arrived just last week. Not enough time to knit a long garter stitch scarf... That's fine -- this way Paul can pick the length. Lucky for me he wants it to be wearable, not authentic!
Kylie Cat truly is feeling much better.  Can you spot her in the photo below?
Yep, she's the lump under the down throw. She's back to moderate jumping, and she's getting feisty enough that getting the liquid medicine down her gullet has become quite the struggle!  Kylie's now very sticky, so I'm going to try giving her a sponge bath. I hope to jebus it doesn't come to a full-on bath or (the horror!) shaving her chest and chin.
on the tube

Bored to Death is slow to start (the first two episodes are almost painful to watch) but quickly becomes pretty awesome. Jason Schwartzman plays a struggling novelist who procrastinates writing by placing an ad on Craigslist as an unlicensed private detective. He's clearly working off knowledge gleaned from old detective novels. Ted Danson is a hoot as his editor ("What's a Subaru?").

Friday, February 11, 2011

my heart belongs to the snow

There's a distinct possibility that I've been the happiest person in Chicago for the past two weeks.  The cold and the snow are delightful, and they remind me of my Minnesota childhood. Blue skies, the sun reflecting off the frozen tundra, steaming mugs of hot coffee... perfect.

my new coffee mug from Jennie the Potter

I credit my mother with my love of winter. She strapped me into ice skates when I was 2-1/2, took me sledding, helped me build snow forts, and always had hot cocoa waiting when I came into the warm house with my rosy cheeks. Mom grew up ice skating even on week nights; she was especially enamored of the aqua skating costume my grandmother made for her -- complete with her initials embroidered with pink pearl beads!

Anyway, here's a wintry mix to cheer you up. It's bookended by the Decemberists, with a little hint of spring at the end.

I would have included the Fairways' "Winter Song," too, but I couldn't find it on Grooveshark.

P.S. Apparently the jonquils are beginning to come up in London, as reported by a friend who's in the UK on holiday right now.
Many of my fellow grad students at the university come from warmer climes, and they're miserable when winter hits. I think a lot of it has to do with not having proper winter gear (especially warm coats -- a cute wool coat from J. Crew just won't cut it, nor will cheap acrylic gloves).  This post has some great ideas for how to keep warm; I would add a few things:

buckskin or elkskin chopper mittens
L.L. Bean carries some very posh choppers, but you can buy them at a substantial discount at almost any farm & fleet in the upper Midwest. Mine are 20 years old and still going strong.

down throws
So warm and cozy! We have some in pretty much every room in the house. The cats love snuggling up in them, too, and they're machine washable.

warm boots
Bogs and Sorels are my favorites. My Bogs are completely waterproof and warm, and the fit is great.  The Sorels have great traction and are also toasty warm! Plus you can buy replacement liners if they wear out -- or just keep a spare pair to switch out.

P.S. I'd also add an automotive category: good tires, a decent battery, a real snow shovel to put in the trunk, a winter emergency kit, a big snow brush, and a serious ice scraper. In terms of more expensive investments, 4WD or AWD make life so much easier, as do antilock brakes and ESC/traction control. These aren't just silly add-ons dreamed up by greedy car company execs. Heated seats, while delightful, are an added bonus.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

constant as a northern star

The Packers' Super Bowl victory saw much rejoicing around here.  We woke up to yet another winter wonderland scene on Sunday:

We donned Packers gear, braved the snow, and headed north to Milwaukee to watch the game with Paul's family.  It was intense!
I'm not the biggest sports fan, but I love how the Packers are owned by the community, not by rich fancy-pants big wigs, and the enthusiasm from Green Bay fans is just amazing.
Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so I'm listening to this:
The Magnetic Fields' alternately bittersweet and incongruous 3-disc magnum opus, 69 Love Songs.
I'm knitting a Hap Blanket as a sample for Sarah. The yarn is just lovely -- The Plucky Knitter MCN Aran.  It's light, lofty, and soft, and the colors are gorgeous. What more can you ask for?

The weekend wasn't just filled with football (and plumbing problems, but this is not the place for woes). I spent Friday night at the Riviera Theatre with one of my favorite bands:
Great show, aside from a maddening avant-garde extended riff on "Chimbley Sweep"! Many songs from the new album, The King is Dead. For me the highlights were hauntingly spare versions of "January Hymn," and Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

snow day

My wish for a snow day was most certainly granted! We saw about 20" of fluffy white stuff overnight on Tuesday, plus gale-force winds. 
Home was delightfully warm and cozy. Paul and I braved the snow yesterday to dig out our Jeeps and go for a walk.  I even made a snow angel! We also managed to find a pizzeria that was open (Frasca) and met up with a friend for a yummy dinner.
Being snowed in has made for plenty of knitting time. On the February Finishing Frenzy front, here's a little Tomten jacket that I started back in May 2010. I had run out of yarn (par for the course chez Caffeinated Yarn) and hadn't bothered to pick it back up after more Knit Picks Swish DK arrived.  One sleeve to go!
In addition to my virtuous work on the Tomten jacket, I also knit a wee little baby cap:

pattern: Baby Sheep Hat, by Melissa Burt of Indigo Mouse
yarn: Elann Peruvian Luxury Merino Superwash (DK)
needles: Clover US 5 bamboo 16" circs

Easy, cute little pattern!  This was my first time actually completing a colorwork project (don't remind me about the two or three forlorn mitten projects languishing in a knitting basket somewhere), and my first time doing duplicate stitch. Surprisingly the colorwork wasn't bad at all (perhaps because I wasn't knitting at a tight gauge on DPNs as with the mittens?); the duplicate stitch was more of a challenge.  Now to decide whether or not to add a fluffy white pompom!  Note to self: use size 6 needles next time, as it truly is a tiny little hat. I most definitely want to knit a coordinating sheep yoke baby cardigan.
in other news...

- The spring issue of Knitcircus is up! I was especially impressed by the book reviews.

- Use the force, Luke:

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

February Finishing Frenzy, part I

The Chicago forecast calls for some serious snow!  I'm hoping for a snow day tomorrow -- sipping hot cocoa, snuggling with kitties, and going for a walk across the Chicago River sound like just the ticket.

I hereby declare this month February Finishing Frenzy -- time to finish up languishing projects, weave in ends, sew on buttons, and clear out the knitting basket. I'm in the mood to be productive and revel in small victories.

February Finishing Frenzy, project #1

pattern: High Tide Baby Blanket (free!), by Heather Dixon
yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Worsted
needles: US 9 Knit Picks Harmony interchangeable circular

The pattern was very fun to knit, as the chevron pattern is a great way to play with colors. It went quickly due to lots of knitting time in the car and while "watching" football. Weaving in all the ends was a huge pain and took a lot of time, so I'm not sure I'd knit it again.

The yarn was fine -- it's fairly soft and it's not as fragile as the organic cotton from Blue Sky Alpacas or Lion Brand. Simply Cotton falls on the thin side of worsted, unlike the other two. I used maybe 2/3 of each skein of yarn. Here are the colors:
  • marshmallow
  • dogwood heather
  • green tea heather
  • wave heather
  • golden heather
  • haze heather