Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our Yard in October

Here are some photos from our yard on what I feel was the peak fall foliage day in my area.

This year the foliage has been long lasting, due to the fact that we had many rain-less days and hardly any wind. We've had moderate, sunny calm days and cold nights . That is a recipe for long-lasting bright fall foliage. The burnt oranges, browns and purples came out after the nights dropped close to freezing.

All photos taken by ChristineMM on October 12, 2008 in Fairfield Couny, Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Knitted a Green Hat for Me

I finished this hat in the car at night, with the little reading light on. I was so happy that I had my husband take this photo of me wearing the finished hat, even though it was late and I was exhausted. This is not the most flattering photo of me by any means.

I purchased this handpainted wool yarn and the mohair boucle from a vendor, Handmade in the Hills, at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck New York on October 19. I started the hat on October 20th and finished it on October 25, 2008.

The yarn was a complete impulse buy after seeing the vendor's booth which really struck me as pure eye candy. I just had to buy something from them as I felt so inspired by the gorgeous handpainted yarns!

The hat was inspired by a hat that the vendor, Handmade in the Hills had on display. Deb Schildt's display hat had a wavy look to the yarn. I asked which yarn it was that looked that way and she said that it was two strands together. I had already picked out the base yarn and she helped me select a complimentary color mohair boucle. I was trying not to just buy yarn that didn't have a planned project. I was wearing my green-tealish colored wool toggle coat at the Festival and these colors were lovely with the coat. So right then and there I hatched the idea to knit a hat to match that coat, because I have no hat (or scarf or mittens) to go with that coat and usually wear plain black ones because that is what I already owned.

This was the first time that I knit using two strands together. It was also my first time knitting with boucle which I found slow going and annoying. My needles would often catch in the little circles and pull in a not-good way.

The hat pattern is the same as the other two I made for women, it is from a book called "Spin to Knit" by Shannon Okey and is the "Power Station Hat" on page 89. Although most of the stitches in the hat itself are up to the knitter becuase the pattern says to basically make up the stitches as you go and to change it every inch to inch and a half, then to start decreasing when it reaches a certain height.

With the leftover yarn I hope to knit mittens. I was thinking of using the boucle as an accent at the wrists or something like that.

Gauge! Gauge! I Get It Already!

I finished my third hat using the same pattern. The pattern was written for hand spun wool.

I thought by substituting it with an Aran store bought factory made yarn would be alright. That yarn is said to be knitted on #9 needles. The first hat I made using that pattern and #9 with Noro Kochoran is large. It is also loose. My husband says it gives it a classy look. It is supposed to be more of a tight winter hat but it is baggy and has a bit of a shape to it. It is not supposed to look that way.

For hat #2 with same pattern and another Aran yarn by Noro (Iro) I downsized to #8 needles. I thought the length was okay but when it was done, it fit like a tight winter hat and my earlobes are exposed.

For hat #3 I used a worsted weight handpainted wool yarn by a cottage industry from Pennsylvania. I also knit in two strands, the second being a mohair boucle with #8 needles. The result is a tightly knit winter hat that is tight to my head and does cover my ears. This is the tightest hat so far.

I have come to the conclusion that this is a gauge issue.

I am a non-conformist and resent being told in a pattern which exact yarn to use. I want to pick the yarn I want and then find a look I like and have it turn out right. I've been reading "Knitting Rules" by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The chapter on gauge has been eye-opening. Now I just need to be sure to use a pattern that explains the gauge and to knit a swatch and figure it out from there.

This is on my mind as I contemplate jumping in to knit my first sweater. I have all the yarn ready to go (purchased at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival a couple of weeks ago).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #86 Has Been Published

The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #86 was published on October 21 at Heaven’s Homemaking Haven. Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch.

Consider submitting to this blog carnival if you make things from scratch. It can be anything from cooking and baking to sewing and crafts.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good Advice

This goes along with my word of the year, "content".

I thought of this recent post at Mental Multivitamin when I saw this old mug at a thrift shop the other day.

I had never heard this diddy sung by Burle Ives until I saw the link at the MMV blog, it was released before my time. However I could not get this song out of my head for days after hearing it just once.

Love It

Notes by Mo Willems made while listening to a lecture.

I loved hearing Mo Willems speak at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature yesterday.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Hat for a Friend (or I May Keep It If She Remains Too Busy To Connect With Me!)

I purchased two skeins of Noro Iro colorway 41, it is 75% wool and 25% silk. The main color is black with strands of blues, browns and some pink. (Later I realized there is a good amount of purple in it also.)

I bought the skeins with the intent of making at least a hat for myself and possibly a scarf and mittens. I have a black ski jacket and also a long black dress coat. I had hoped that the hat made of this yarn would be warm to wear when sledding with the kids in my sporty coat and nice enough looking to wear with my nice dress coat.

Then I got the idea to use this yarn to make a hat for my friend as a birthday gift first. I can always make my own hat later if I wanted one!

I decided to fashion the hat based on the same pattern that I made my Noro Kochoran hat, using the general pattern found in "Spin to Knit" by Shannon Okey. Since my Noro Kochoran hat with #9 needles was loose I decided to make this one using #8 needles and see how it panned out. I would have liked this one just a bit longer as it doesn't quite cover my earlobes. It fits much snugger than the hat I knit with #9 needles. (Of course I have no clue how this will fit my friend!)

As I began to knit I realized that just when the ribbing at the edge was done, the color variagation was changing. The general gist of this hat is to make up your stitches as you go along, doing an inch or so of one stitch/pattern before changing it to whatever you feel like doing until it is time to start the decreases.

As I knitted I decided to make the switches where the color changes. So this looks a bit like a striped hat but truly it is one variagated yarn. I also loved how the top was coming out with the crown being all shades of dark blue, going to pure black.

It is hard to capture the essence of Noro yarns with photographs. Below is one photo with the flash on and one with the flash off. I'm trying my best to capture this yarn's beauty...

I started this hat on October 15 and finished it on October 16, 2008. I took a little more than four hours to knit.

Some of my notes on the yarn are:

I worry this is a bit too scratchy for a scarf. After loving the softness of the Noro Kochoran scarf and hat that I made (Kochoran has angora in it), I don't think I'd want this Noro Iro next to my neck, even though it LOOKS great. However if I want some kind of set perhaps some mittens of this Noro Iro, especially if I line them with something softer, would be GREAT.

After working with the Noro Kochoran with the angora in it this felt more stiff and scratchy.

One of my favorite things about working with Noro yarns is just watching and appreciating the beauty of the unique strands of color, as the variagation changes, it can't really be described. I didn't know this about knitting until I started knitting myself, that part of the fun is just handling the yarn as I work with it and really enjoying the beauty of the yarn as I watch it change. For this sheer aesthetic appreciation I don't know if I'd like working with a very plain, flat color! I'm getting spoiled by working with such lucious yarns!

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Woodsy Hat for Younger Son

Here is the latest knitted finished project of mine.

Younger son with his new hat, watching a llama and alpaca show at the 2008 New York Sheep and Wool Festival.

Younger son wearing the hat, happily watching a presentation with live reptiles at the Festival.

Younger son complained that the wool hat (Lopi bulky yarn) that I knit for him is too scratchy. The main intent of having the wool hat was to wear at his outdoor six hour long class where he hikes all day. I wanted wool because I knew of wool's warmth properties and that it also breathes when the person is hot, and that when wet it is still warm. I figured wool was best for warmth all around. It also was to be used when on Cub Scout camping trips especially when in cold weather and they need to wear a comfortable and warm hat to bed.

I already had this acrylic yarn on hand. I purchased it in August with this project in mind. The yarn S.R. Kertzer Northern, worsted. It is variagated and is a bit of a forest type camoflauge versus old militray green camo or desert military camo. The story with this yarn is I was in a local yarn shop looking for a camo yarn in wool and the shop owner talked me into buying this yarn as she said that acrylic would be good enough for young boys mostly as all kids, teenagers and even adults who don't fully appreciate hand-knit gifts from loved ones or friends, some of whom wreck said hand-knitted gifts. I was swayed by the opinionated woman (you would not believe the rest of our exchange if I told you, she was so brutal that my husband was upset by her, he was with me you see, and he thought I should have chosen to refuse to patronize her store, but I did, as I was out of state on vacation and desperate for yarn to knit with and thought I'd start the hat that very week ), so I bought it. Thinking back, I don't know why I had not brought back to mind the base fact that I wanted wool for its warmth for the hats for my boys and stated that to the shopowner to get her off my back about buying this acrylic yarn.

This was my first experience knitting with acrylic and I didn't enjoy it. It slipped and slid on my bamboo needles like wool never has, for me. I had a hard time keeping the row of stitches from twisting as I worked. Also my needle kept splitting the yarn and then it would fray and I'd have to deal with backtracking the needle to fix that and it just was sloppy to work with. I also had a had time with the tension. And acrylic yarn is so stiff and unforgiving!

I decided to use the 'pattern' that I used for my own hat. That is, after casting on, knitting a one inch rib with K2, P2. Then making up whatever stitch you want for about an inch, then changing it, so on and so forth. I winged it and did whatever I felt like doing until it was time to start decreasing for the crown.

I began this hat last Friday night and finished it on Saturday night. It took less than four hours for me to make. I knitted as my younger son and I watched two movies.

My younger son loves the hat so much he went to bed wearing it on Saturday night and wore it all day Sunday at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival even when it was warm and sunny enough to no longer require the wearning of a hat!

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My First Knitted Scarf

Last week I knitted my first scarf. It is to match my hat. It is knitted with Noro Kochoran colorway 31 dye lot D2. This blend is 50% wool, 30% angora, and 20% silk.

I modified a pattern used in the book "Spin to Knit: The Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn" by Shannon Okey. The original scarf in the book casted on 200 stitches and used different yarns to make long vertical stripes in garter stitch. So what I decided to do was cast on 200 stitches with a #8 needle (I use circulars) and to use this yarn which is variagated so it would have the effect of the long stripes rather than short stripes going the other direction, which seems to be a more common scarf design technique. I started by knitting up the rest of the leftover yarn from that first skein that the hat came from then added in the next new skein when that ran out. I kept going in garter stitch until the scarf was almost 5 inches wide. I stopped when I got worried that the skein may run out. So with two skeins of this Noro Kochoran I made the hat and this scarf with a little bit of yarn left over.

The scarf is super soft and it is so warm! I love it!

Because this scarf is only using the knit stitch, cast on and binding off, this is a PERFECT project for a beginner knitter.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Started a Kids Hat with Acrylic Yarn

Last night I began knitting a hat for my son in an acrylic yarn. I continued on it today while I sat in a meeting and I will continue it tonight while I watch a movie.

A local yarn shop talked me into using acrylic for hats for kids as the shopkeeper said the kids never appreciate handmade stuff and it gets wrecked.

I don't want to sound like a yarn snob but I am really NOT enjoying this.

The yarn is splitting, meaning that when I move the needles I accidentially split the yarn. I have to remove the needle and restart. The yarn is so inflexibile that it is so much different than wool yarn to work with. I find it stiff and hard to hold. Also for some reason it is slipping all over my bamboo needles and I am having a hard time holding the stitches in place to prevent it from twisting.

I am bound and determined to finish this hat. I'm not enjoying this experience.

I also realized the other day while finishing hat #5 (yet to be photographed, sorry), that part of what I enjoy about knitting is the yarn. I like holding it and I like seeing it as I work with it. I love the Noro variagated yarns as the different colors are spun together in a way that no two strands are the same. I enjoy seeing the colors change. Also that Noro Kochoran which has wool, silk and angora was so soft in my hands it was lovely to work with.

Wish me luck while I hopefully finish this acrylic hat tonight.

Today I visited a local yarn shop that I'd not been in before, "A Stitch in Time" in Bethel Connecticut. I was looking for double pointed needles in size 2.5 but they don't sell them there. I am considering learning to knit with the magic loop or doing two socks at once. I don't know what to do. In the mean time I guess I'll keep knitting hats.

I am looking forward to tomorrow when I will be going to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinbeck New York with a friend. We are each bringing our younger sons along so the kids can pal around together while their moms shop for yarn.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wrong Size Needles

I wanted to make socks. I was reading they often are knit on size 2 or 3 needles.

I had to go to Joanne's for some fabric and picked up a set of double pointed needles in size 2 and size 3. I thought I was all set.

I went to the local yarn shop and bought a skein of Opal sock yarn. I thought I was all set. I had looked at a lot of sock yarn and a lot of labels and finally just grabbed one and bought it.

When I got home I realized the entire label is written in German. Great. The visual key shows knitting needles and a crochet hook and says "2, 5". What the heck does that mean? Does that mean size 2 needle or is there a 2.5 needle? Joanne's carried Clover brand bamboo needles and there was no 2.5 size.

I just read on an online yarn shop site that other Opal sock yarns require a size 1 needle.

I have no clue what this yarn needs but if it is a size 1 or size 2.5 double pointed needle I don't have what I need.


My set of circular needles starts at size 6 and goes up to size 13.

Just had to share that.

(I finished knitting a hat last night for a gift for a friend. I am ready to start a new project and need to figure something else to knit tonight while I watch a movie at home with my younger son.)

One last thing this exact question is perfect for asking on I have been searching to see what others are saying about knitting socks with Opal yarn but so far am not learning much.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Hat for Me!

Here's the full story on my hat #4.

My kids were in a history class for homeschoolers in Westport one day last week. I had time to kill so went to their wonderful public library and scanned the knitting shelf. I sat down at a gigantic table (all alone) with a stack of knitting books spread before me. I then sat in silence and poured over the books for a couple of hours. Let me tell you that experience was pure bliss. What a wonderful way to spend a morning!!

One book that I was inspired by was "Spin to Knit: The Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn" by Shannon Okey. At this time I do not spin. However I did buy an inexpensive drop spindle at a homeschooling conference and figured it might be a fun thing to do for a history-related craft project with my kids.

I also have roving on hand so if I do figure out how to spin with the drop spindle I already have what I need to make a bit of yarn.

I borrowed the book from the library.

I then went to the yarn shop to buy some yarn but they were closed! So two days later when I was in that town again I swung by the LYS to get yarn for my husband's hat and picked up two kinds of yarn to make myself hats with. One color will match my winter coats well. The other color I thought would look nice with my skin and hair color.

I liked one hat in the book "Spin to Knit" which I'll call a semi-pattern. I say that because the intention is to use over-spun hand spun yarn and the fact that it is over-spun gives it a different visual effect. The fact that the yarn is hand spun doesn't make it an easy match to substitute for store-bought yarn so I wasn't quite sure if the gauge of my yarn was right or not. Also the only true parts to the pattern are the cast-on, the first inch of ribbing then the decreasing. For the rest it says to basically use all different stitches in a random manner, using one stitch for about an inch or an inch and a half. So we are to improvise and make up our own pattern. The pattern is called "Power Station Hat" by Shannon Okey and is on page 89. The hat in the book has a more solid color striped look to it (shade of brown and white) and the hat I was making was using a multi-colored yarn where the strand may have two or three colors in it and changes colors throughout the skein.

So I made the hat but did not use hand spun yarn, and did not use over-spun yarn either. I just used a lovely new yarn that I bought the other day. It is
a super soft blend of 50% wool, 20% silk and 30% angora (Noro Kochoran colorway 31 dye lot D2, handpainted and made in Japan).

This is my first all-finished, ready to use knitted project I made for ME!

I did a tiny bit of work on Thursday night before bed, continued Friday night before bed, and finished it this morning. I didn't time myself, I think that I spent six or seven hours on this.

This was also the first time I ever knitting with stockinette stitch other than in small swatches to practice. It was the very first time that I knitted in moss stitch. The hat has combinations of garter stitch, stockinette stitch, moss stitch and some random striping going from knitting in knit stitch then switching to some in purl stitch.

I really like the hat even though it is a bit longer than I had hoped for (even though I stopped knitting when it reached seven inches as the pattern said). It fits a bit on the loose side also.

I love the colors and it is so soft and warm!

One last note about the book, it is so inspiring. I have the urge to learn to spin! I want to hand dye my own yarn! I really like the creating part of making stuff. I'm not so much into following someone else's directions and just making projects. I like figuring out what to make, adapting things to suit my own tastes and also creating stuff from nothing into something that involves my own creative process. To me so much of the fun is in the creating part not just enjoying using the finished project.

My Third Hat

Third Hat with flash on camera

Third Hat with camera's flash shut off

My husband asked me to knit him a simple hat to use while camping, especially to wear to sleep while camping in the cold weather.

After he tried the first hat made out of Lopi wool yarn he asked if I could find something a bit less scratchy.

I took a trip to a local yarn shop and found a wool and merino wool blend (85% wool, 15% mohair Lamb's Pride Bulky color M-82 Blue Flannel Dyelot 0192). Husband asked for navy blue. I bought the darkest blue I could find.

I started the hat before going to bed one night. The next day I knitted in public, knitting my way through a Boy Scout Court of Honor ceremony. I continued before going to bed and finished it up the next morning.

Pattern Info: I used a pattern in the book "Stitch 'N Bitch" by Debbie Stoller. The pattern is called "Hot Head" and was designed by Alex Zorn, although the original was striped using different yarns in hot flame colors and I used one variagated yarn instead. It is on page 162 in the book.

My First and Second Hats

I taught myself to knit using circular needles using directions in a book.

After two failed attempts which were frogged, I finally "got it" and so hat #1 was in progress one evening last week. I was so excited about it that I finished the hat the next morning before I even got out of bed.

Hat #1 (flash used on camera):

Hat #1 was made in size medium. I was not sure which kid it would fit. It was a perfect fit for my older son (age 11). It is a simple ribbed hat. The yarn is Lopi Jungle Green variagated #9980.

I do admit that some errors were made and it is imperfect. The dark color and variagation hides the errors which might not be noticed by a non-knitter.

That afternoon while watching a college football game on TV I started hat #2 in size small for my younger son. I finished it before bedtime that night.

This second hat has just one error in it, I believe. My son hasn't noticed yet.


Hat #2 (no flash used on camera):

The bad news is that despite them loving the color they feel the yarn is a bit too itchy and they want new hats that are softer.

And yesterday the kids had misplaced their hats. Ugh. So much for them taking good care of a handmade item. Then last night I got bad news when I found one laying on the garage floor. What an insult!

Future blog posts will contain the next projects.

I really like Lopi yarn! It is bulky and knits up fast. I made the two hats out of one skein and have more yarn left over from the skein.

here is more info on the Lopi yarn I used:

Brand: Reynolds

Yarn name: Lopi

Fiber: 100% Icelandic Wool

Weight: 100g

Yardage: 110yds

Needle size: US 10 - 10 1/2

Gauge: 3 1/4 - 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 - rows per 1"

Care: Hand Wash

Pattern Info: I used a pattern in the book "Stitch 'N Bitch" by Debbie Stoller. The pattern is called "Hot Head" and was designed by Alex Zorn, although the original was striped using different yarns in hot flame colors and I used one variagated yarn instead. It is on page 162 in the book.

Time spent: Each of these hats took me 3.5 hours to complete.

Practicing Purl

Here is evidence that I was practicing the purl stitch.

A homeschool mom friend re-taught me the purl stitch at a homeschool park day two weeks ago.

This was my first practice, done about two weeks ago.

The skein of yarn by the Brown Sheep Company was purchased at a charity thrift shop on Cape Cod for a quarter. It is 50% cotton and 50% wool. It is odd getting used to working with a cotton blend because the cotton has a stiffness to it that is different than 100% wool. I chose to work with this because when I first tried using a variagated yarn in dark colors I realized I could not see the stitches well. Working in a lighter colored solid was much easier for me, to learn the new stitch and to be able to see what the yarn was doing more clearly.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How Much?

I had not purchased new yarn in a yarn shop in over two months.

I went in to the local yarn shop to buy a soft wool yarn (one skein) to make a hat for my husband.

Noro makes my favorite yarns. The colors are to die for.

I want to make a hat for myself out of a Noro yarn. It cost $20 for one skein (160 meters).

I really, really want a Noro sweater. Today while online I figued out that Noro sells patterns. However to make a sweater with new Noro yarn will cost me $140-$200 in yarn alone.

I feel as if I've been tortured.

Do people really spend over $100 on skeins of yarn to make one sweater?

I think I have been spoiled by the prices of factory made sweaters sold in stores.


If you don't know what the Noro yarns look like here is a link to a site selling books of patterns. By clicking on each book you can see numerous photos of projects made with these Noro yarns.

I have been using "World of Nature" Kureyon, I just bought some Iro and Kochoran.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wise Words on Creativity and Finding Time for Creating

Today while doing work at the computer I was listening to the Creative Mom Podcast #111 “Slippage”.

I wish I could quote what Amy says starting at the 14:00 point, where she gives a quote from a show she had done a year prior. She is speaking of finding time to be creative and busy-ness and the importance of carving out time for ourselves.

It is brilliant.

I love the part about being gentle with ourselves.

Take a listen, even if you start the show and fast-forward it to the 14:00 point.