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Monday, May 16, 2011

Knitty Gal??

Published by Erica at 8:55 AM

I went to Atlanta a few weeks ago to visit family and friends over our Spring Break. While I was there, we went to Stitches South, an annual knitting (but also everything yarn-related) expo that goes on in various regions across the United States.

While there, my best friend and I decided (on an impulse) to sign up for a free Learn to Knit course. My husband (who DID want to come with us, no one forced him) very kindly took my daughter around to look at everything while we sat there in the class, fiddling about with two sticks.

Here are my very first knit stitches, ever. I dropped that one knitting needle so many times. Lost loops off the needle. Couldn't figure out how to hold my hands...

...and yet, the bug took hold of me. I bought some pretty yarn (Wisdom "Poems," bought from the Stitches booth manned by my local Charlotte yarn store - buying local even while traveling! How cool is that?) and just kept trying.

Here is me, working in basic stockinette stitch. This little project kept my attention on the long drive back home from Atlanta.

By the way, the best thing I did for myself was to purchase some circular knitting needles. These are so much easier to work with (for me) than straights.

Of course, when I got back home, I immediately went to Ravelry to find some interesting new-knitter patterns. The Noro Striped Scarf was an obvious choice for me, since it involved learning a new stitch (knit 1 - purl 1 to create ribbing that doesn't curl up at the edges), AND learning how to change yarns in a project. Actually, this works pretty much just like crochet.

Here is the scarf in its early stages...

...and here it is as of last Friday, though I keep working on it. I have become fairly quick at it. It turns out I am a continental knitter, which means I keep the yarn flowing through the fingers of my left hand. We learned to knit English style, but that never felt natural to me. As I have kept up with my knitting practice, the yarn sort of found its way over to the left hand (as with crochet) and my knitting dexterity has increased commensurately.

If you mainly come here for crochet, don't worry. I'm still crocheting like crazy, and can't wait to show you what I've been working on during my lunch hours. But there may be a good bit of knitting talk as well, while I continue to advance in this new skill! You CAN teach an old dog new tricks, I tell you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Published by Erica at 10:30 AM

Well, we did have our English Tea this weekend.

I found a recipe for cucumber sandwiches; those are more involved than I had expected, but they were delicious. Also made little lemon curd tarts using phyllo dough. It turns out that I am not a fan of working with phyllo. Not at all. Too fiddly.

I had a mishap while making the tarts. I made the whipped cream from scratch and folded in a small jar of lemon curd. I was putting the bowl in the refrigerator to set, when I jarred the bowl of cucumber slices (soaking in a faint vinegar solution), splashing water everywhere. In my hurry to mop up all that water, I failed to notice that I had set the bowl of lemon curd filling on the floor... until I heard the sound of sneaky, fuzzy black lips sampling it.

These lips.

Fortunately, Olive only got the tiniest taste before I snatched the bowl away. Upon examination, I saw no dog hair nor any other indication that she had her tongue in the filling... so I put it back in the fridge to set. If that makes me disgusting, so be it, but we all ate the tarts and no one became ill. :-) Just remember this about me, if you're ever invited for tea.

Also, as neither I nor my daughter care for hot tea, we just brewed some strong iced tea. So I suppose we didn't have a "proper" tea, but it was fancy enough for us. It was her choice to watch Father Ted while we supped. I pointed out that this is technically an Irish comedy, but she countered with the fact that the redoubtable Mrs. Doyle is a Tea Maven, so Father Ted it was.

On a yarnier note, I wanted to show you this neat little linen cabinet that I recently got from IKEA. Our bedroom furniture was "vintage" (not the durable 1960s vintage, but the cheap particle-board 1990s vintage), and it was time for an update. I loved this for being the only red article of furniture in the store that was not made of plastic.

It's got two glass-paned doors that open out. You can see one row of my British Telly collection (with still more tucked away behind that). The other end of that shelf is home to my husband's DVDs.

The main thing to show you about it is the top shelf inside, loaded (not quite to the gills) with wool. This is mostly Wool of the Andes, but the little balls along the front are my hand-dyed wool. I will eventually turn all of this yarn into a lovely Realta afghan, as designed by The Gingerbread Lady.

Here are my first few motifs. This is a super pattern - not too difficult for a newer crocheter, and not tedious for a more experienced crocheter. I love the possibilities of this pattern. My goal is "no two alike" and with 50 different colors in my arsenal, that won't be a problem.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

Published by Erica at 7:33 AM

(I LOVE today's Google front page!)

Okay, okay, it has been over a month since I wrote. Life has been a tornado of activity, but today I was inspired to write again! Hello, and thanks for still being out there, if you are. :-)

This morning, I awoke at my customary 5:00am (which is 10am in the UK) and promptly turned on the TV to catch the Royal Wedding hoopla. After about 10 seconds of cringing at the U.S. commentators, I switched over to the BBC and from there, enjoyed a more sedate and dry perspective. One of my favorite moments was when Simon Schama (a brilliant historian and writer) commented that the Queen's cousins riding along in the little coaches (luxurious mini-buses) could be a team of footballers heading off to a match, to all appearances.

I got my daughter up at about 6am so she could see Kate coming down the aisle. We ooohed and aahed at some of the ENORMOUS hats (and others that resembled a jellyfish coming gently to rest atop one's immaculate coiffure)

We watched until William and Kate went back to sign the register, and then we had to go to work and school, respectively.

Almost 30 years ago, three days before my 10th birthday, my grandfather let me stay home from summer camp and watch the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana. That was the start of my abiding and unseemly interest in the Windsors, which over the years developed into a more appropriate and deeper interest in English history and culture, in general.

This morning, for my daughter, I described the way Diana rode to St. Paul's Cathedral in a horse-drawn coach, the big poofy dress, the unbelievably long train... how they left the wedding in an open carriage, went off to breakfast, and kissed on the palace balcony. Leaving out the sad details of the rest of that marriage, I told her that almost a year later, she had a baby boy, and that's who was getting married today.

So today was fun. William and Kate seem to be a genuine loving partnership, and I wish them all the best! We intend to have a mini high tea this weekend, with cucumber sandwiches and perhaps a lemon curd tart. (Any Monty Python fans want to bite on this one? "Damn your lemon curd tart!") Or at least Lionel Hardcastle's favorite, a standard custard tart.

And for a bit of crochet, I did finish my Union Jack pillow (pattern from the Royal Sisters) last weekend, so it was right there on the sofa with us as we watched.

There's a LOT to catch you all up on, so I'll be back very soon!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Irish Crochet

Published by Erica at 8:25 AM

Once again, I have allowed many days to elaspe since my last blog posting. Thank you to anyone still coming around to see me, such an unreliable reporter. :-) And thanks always for the comments. I receive them via email, and often respond, but am never sure if anyone gets my reply... so may start responding in the comments, themselves.

Now then. I have been crocheting like mad, all the time, turning out a number of smaller, instant-gratification-type projects, but also putting dents in larger ones. I even took some pictures this weekend, since the weather was beautiful and the light was perfect for photography... and I left the photo card at home.

Still, I have something to share today. On Ravelry, there was a thread about "Gorgeous Crochet," and this little number turned up for consideration...

Wow. I mean, WOW. That entire creation is crocheted. The technique is called Irish Crochet, and after looking on YouTube to see how it's done, I'm verrry interested in giving this a try someday. And also have a body that would look good in such a dress, but I digress. One step at a time.

Link to the Ravelry page of this amazing designer / crocheter. She has other things upon which to feast your eyes.

Link to some YouTube videos on the Irish Crochet technique. Obviously, largely a freeform method, which looks like it requires some courageous thinking.

Ravelry link to Irish Crochet pattern library.

Generally accessible link to Irish Crochet patterns.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Reveal

Published by Erica at 7:55 AM

Do you remember my lovely, large order of yarn from earlier this year? The one that nearly covered my kitchen table?

This one?

I'm deep in thought about how best to use that rainbow of wool in the foreground, there. But in the meantime, I have been very much enjoying the Chroma Worsted yarn (in the red box).

I tried to get a good picture of its colors this weekend. I've already used a ball of the "Galapagos" colorway (blues and greens) for a scarf for my sister-in-law, and now a hat for someone else. Here is the lone remaining ball. You can't really appreciate the colors in this picture...

But I think you can get a good idea of them in THIS picture.

Such a soft, lovely yarn to use, with long color runs, so that it looks as though you used many different colors, instead of one ball of yarn. Truly magical. I've read comments on Ravelry that people worry this yarn will pill a bit once it's in use... that may turn out to be true, but it may also depend on how you're using it.

Here is the other colorway, called "Lollipop." Perfect colors for a six year-old girl, don't you think?

And here is her finished hat.

Again, it looks like I used a bunch of different yarns, but that is all just one uninterrupted ball of Chroma.

What I like most about Chroma (and Noro varieties) is the long color runs that blend smoothly into the next, as compared with the shorter, abruptly ending colors in other variegated yarns. Here's an example (not mine) using Red Heart variegated - the hat is cute, it's just a very different result.

Anyway, the two hats I made are super-easy! The free pattern is here. I've actually made THREE of them so far. I'd say you could make one in under three hours, easily. It does require FPDC (front post double crochet) stitches, and a few BPDC (back post double crochet) around the edge, but those are easy once you get the hang of them. You can find plenty tutorials on Youtube.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day Already?

Published by Erica at 9:22 AM

Ugh. Only THREE posts in January?? I've really been a slipshod blogger! Thanks, as always, for visiting and for taking the time to say hello in the comments.

I AM busily crocheting over here. The problem is that I'm often behind on taking pictures, so though I might have plenty to tell you, I have nothing to show you.

January has been a big organizational month around our house. For the past few years, I've been working to simplify, reduce, pare down, scale back, etc. I shall be talking more about that in the very near future - possibly even in a second blog post this week!

In the meantime, here was a nasty little corner of my bedroom last weekend. Look at all that laundry. Look at those unwanted books that have been culled and need a new home (NOT the Michael Palin book atop the dirty laundry, that is very much wanted). Look at that Granny Stripe, languishing in its sadly incomplete state. Look at that other random box of yarn - what IS that, anyway?

I spent a good bit of time last weekend, taming that corner. The laundry is pretty much done, the books are gone, the Granny Stripe is... still looking just like that, but I'll get to it!

I also cleaned out my closet a good bit. Inside that closet was a big Rubbermaid tub of yarn. Two years ago, it contained pretty much my entire stash...

...which has since grown to fill a large corner of one room. The picture below is the newly repurposed dining room from last spring...

I need to take a current picture to share. Everything is still organized, and I'm not brimming over with yarn... but I have reached the point where I can safely say, "I Have Enough." And I think that's the key to any sane household or life - recognizing when one has Enough, be it yarn, dish soap, money, books or just general good health. It's vital to recognize and appreciate these things.

Off my (dish) soapbox for now. Anyway, I cleaned out that tub of yarn in my closet, making serious decisions about which yarn I'm never, ever going to use - don't know why I bought that ugly yarn, didn't like it when someone gave it to me, whatever - and I put it aside to donate.

Then I put all my pretty shiny acrylic yarn (specifically Caron Simply Soft and Bernat Satin) into a Space Bag. For those unfamiliar with these, it's basically a big Ziploc plastic bag with a valve on the front. Attach your vacuum hose, suck all the air out, and your big bag of smooshy blankets, towels, sweaters, or yarn becomes significantly flatter, allowing more storage space.



Tucked two bags of yarn away and had room to put more in the box, freeing up space in my closet.

Freshly inspired, I went on to tackle the hall linen closet. With four people and three different-sized beds in one house, there are many bed linens to deal with. I finally parted with the bedspread we bought right after we got married (15 years ago), since we haven't used it in years and it has just been sitting there. Said goodbye to Spongebob sheets that my seventh-grader no longer wants. Shoved other blankets and sheets into Space Bags - suuuuuuuuuuck with the vacuum - and voila - tidy, organized linen closet whose door will actually CLOSE with a resounding click!

Goodwill is tired of seeing us, and we are tired of seeing it, but I think we're nearly finished with the overall clear-out. More to come - possibly this week!! (But don't hold your breath.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Woot! Completed WIP

Published by Erica at 3:55 PM

Finally! At last! I have finished a pillow that I started A YEAR AGO. Pillows are pretty easy, you know? I started it and got about halfway done, then got sidetracked, and then sidetracked some more, and then blown way off-course... and before I knew it, a year had gone by.

Finally, I was looking over my Ravelry projects page, and I realized I was quite tired of looking at the same old projects, all in various stages of "progress." I was ruthlessly honest with myself, deleting / frogging projects I just know I'm never going to finish, or in which I have lost interest.

However, I resolved to FINISH one of them, dammit.

So I selected this pillow. And yes, I finished it over the weekend.

It all began with this box full of lovely, soft, shiny Naturally Caron Country yarn, a blend of acrylic and merino wool.

As usual with my projects, I was just playing around with color, and making Attic 24's little garden grannies, and decided to make a pillow for myself.

Things were going pretty well, until I ran out of the ivory color. That alone sidetracked me for a week or so, even though you can easily get this yarn at the big box stores!

And then school started, and Christmas appeared suddenly and any number of other excuses not to finish it... but this weekend, I persevered. The pillow has a split personality - cool sea colors on one side...

Colorful florals on the other!

I think I prefer the floral side, but I'm sure my husband likes the other side. So we both win. And I get to transfer yet another Unfinished Project to my Finished list. Yay!

What about you? Anything lingering endlessly on your to-do list that you could maybe knock out in a couple of days?