26 February 2014

WIP: Orchid Cowl

It feels like forever since I had a real project on the needles. I've had this one planned for a while, but I kept putting it off. First it was because I had to finish my mother's mittens, then it was because I didn't have the right needles, then it was because I had lost the right size crochet hook for the provisional cast-on... Excuses excuses! I finally just decided to cast this one on for the RRG2014 on Ravelry (TEAM MEEN REPRESENT), hoping to at least get halfway through the pattern before the end of the Olympics but alas, no dice. I didn't even make it through the first lace section! I did, however, learn to do a provisional cast-on flawlessly. Casting on 3 times before making it through even the first repeat without mistakes will do that to you.

The lace part of the pattern is really easy to memorise, but despite that I keep messing up! Sad, really. I can't even pay attention to a pattern for 42 stitches a row. I blame the speed skating. Was way too exciting. I'm now done with the first lace section and can begin the stockinette and garter stitch sections now. So I should be able to speed things up a bit now! 

The yarn I'm using is Cascade 220 Heritage in maroon. It's soft, squishy, nicely saturated, smooth, and doesn't seem like it's splitty at all! I originally bought it, along with two skeins in black, for a cardigan to wear at my wedding, but that plan sort of fell by the wayside as 8 weeks was a little short on time for me to learn how to knit lace, not to mention a garment with armhole shaping, waist shaping and buttonholes, all things I hadn't (and still haven't) done before. So the yarn has been in my stash ever since, and I've been trying to come up with plans to use it for different projects. This should take exactly one skein, so one down, two to go!

3 February 2014

And this is why I don't run very fast.

This little lake is right around the corner of my house. It used to be a location I dreaded during my teenage years (over a decade ago, I'm getting old!), because the path around it (all 4.6 km of it) was the backdrop for a lot of PE-induced anguish. We had to run around the lake for a grade. Oh, how I hated it! I always got a 5.5 out of 10, the lowest possible score for a passing grade, because I figured out exactly how fast to walk to make it to the finish line just before the time ran out. I ran as little as possible, because ugh, running!

It's an eerie place in the dark, this lake. Most of the surrounding grounds are wooded areas with a thick undergrowth of brambly tangles and pointy branches that you do not want to fall into (trust me on that one). The cycling path between the lake and the canal was the fastest route home from the train station, and when it was dark I used to speed up until I was almost out of breath just to get through it quicker. One time, in the midst of winter, I ran a flat tire just as I left the path and while I was waiting for my mother to pick me up, I huddled up in the middle of the deserted path, despite the wind blowing right through my coat and the snow coming down in thick clumps, because I was too scared to find shelter near the tree line, where the gnarled stumps were all overblown with snow and ice hung from the branches instead of leaves. In the right light, it must have been beautiful, but in the dark, with just the light from the occasional passing car and the distant street lights, it was actually terrifying.

In the past few years though, I've come to realise that this little lake and its surrounding paths can be quite beautiful and peaceful. When I took the panorama above, it was drizzling quietly and the only sound I could hear was the soft hiss of the rain falling on the lake's surface, and the occasional quack from ducks that swam over to see if I had anything to eat. It won't surprise you that on a nice Sunday morning, this path is full of people going for a walk, runners, cyclists, and people walking their dogs or their kids.

The past few weeks, this path has also become my running route. I'm back to running outside and I love it! I bought some cold weather running gear (soft, thick leggings and a shirt and a wind and rain-proof running jacket), so I'm well prepared for the cold temperatures. Or, well, I say 'well prepared', I think I'm well prepared, but the cold that hits me when I first step out the door is still a bit of a shocker. Brrrr... And to think, it's not even below freezing temperatures here! But as soon as I start running, and turn the corner on my route that takes me towards the lake, I no longer feel the cold. I feel the thrill of running instead! If only I had experienced that 10 years ago, I would have started running a lot sooner!

21 January 2014

FO: mittens galore

That was some Christmas season... It kind of flew by without me noticing too much that it was actually Christmas. We had a busy few weeks at work, and things got a bit stressful at home too, and before I knew it, it was 2014 and I had used up what few days I had taken off doing absolutely nothing but catching up on sleep. Things are slowing down now, thankfully, so hopefully I can get back to blogging more regularly!

I finished my mother's mittens back in December, a few days after I started them because the yarn was nice and chunky and the needles were big. The motif was easily done too, and I think they turned out cute! I'm not too fond of the sewn up side, though, but that's a minor detail. My mother was happy with them. Not that she actually was in need of mittens, seeing as the coldest weather we've had so far was around 5°C, but hey. Details. I'm hoping she'll still get some use out of them this season, you never know, last few years we've had crazy snow storms in February, I remember going to work and walking 15 minutes through deep layers of snow when it was -13°C, and I can vividly remember building snowmen on my dad's birthday on March 2nd in 2005. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed. In style.

Because I'm a doofus and can't math, I ended up with a shitload of the blue yarn from my mum's mittens left over. Because you don't need 2 balls of contrast yarn when you're only using it for a motif. Who knew?! I contemplated making a hat with it, but I decided against it, my mother's not really a hat-wearing person anyway.

I had enough purple left over to add some fun dashes of colour (and they look like tiny tiny hearts, d'awww), but because I didn't know how much yarn I would use up for the mittens, I made them a little shorter than I would have liked. They are nice and warm, though. And I got to knit these in the round, also a plus, because, like almost any knitter I know, I hate purling...

So here's to you, 2014! I'm waving you hello with my toasty toasty hands!

18 December 2013

WIP: Snowflake mittens

So, last week, I had to stop halfway through a knitting project because I was lacking in the yarn department. Don't you just hate it when that happens? You're working away, got a bit of a groove going, you can see the project take form before your eyes as your needles are flying... And then, BAM, grinding halt, because you're out of yarn!

Now imagine that, only with mystery stash yarn.

Terrifying, isn't it? I mean, you can always buy more if you run out of freshly bought yarn, but mystery stash yarn? Who knows what it is, where it came from, how old it is, or whether it's even still available! Now, I partially blame myself in this, because I just grabbed a ball and went with it, but I also definitely blame my kitchen scales for lying to me. Damned thing told me I had more grams in my hands than I actually had... About halfway through the mitten I started to get suspicious. So I weighed, and weighed, and weighed... And when the first mitten was done, I was 12 grams of yarn short for the second one.

I know, right?!

But it was a learning process and I'm glad I was at least able to finish the first mitten as it taught me how to knit a thumb gusset, and how to properly knit with the magic loop technique (it. is. GENIUS. GENIUS I TELL YOU.), techniques I was going to need for my next ambitious project! See, I was given the pattern for the Pixie Farts mittens by a lovely lovely lady on Ravelry in the spirit of the holidays! Aren't they adorable?! With those little puffs of pixie fart colourwork all around the mitten? But they're pretty damned ambitious for someone who has only done a tiny bit of colourwork in the round when I was making Christmas ornaments for my mother last year, and nothing since. So I decided I needed some more practice first. And since I promised the finished product of my test mittens to my mother, I asked her to pick what colour or colours and any details she wanted.

Luckily, she asked for mittens with colourwork! Two birds, one stone. She wanted dark purple mittens with a light blue snowflake on the back of her hands. So, yarn-shopping I went, and this is what I got: it's Phildar Phil'harmony in the colourways Myrtille and Jean Bleached. From what I can gather from the French Phildar website, this yarn is replacing Sport'laine. It's a wool-acrylic blend, super-soft on the hands, nice and warm, with amazing stitch definition and little to no fly-away fuzzies!

I couldn't wait to cast on, and to my delight the yarn is absolutely lovely to work with. This was about 75% into the k1p1-ribbing pattern, but look at the stitch definition! It's what you want when you want to add colourwork, right? And speaking of, the stranded colourwork section is very easy! I was afraid it would throw me for a bit of a loop as the pattern is worked flat and then seamed, so I had to do colourwork on the purl rows too, but that's ridiculously easy. Just follow the recipe!

And speaking of the pattern: After some deliberation I chose to use the Snowflake Mitts pattern by Elizabeth Lovick, but I changed the snowflake pattern slightly, to this:

It's a tiny alteration but I like it more. I also opted to alter the thumb slightly from a worked-in thumb where you work up to the thumb, work the thumb flat, cut the yarn, sew up the thumb seam, and then continue on the hand, to transferring the thumb stitches to scrap yarn and finishing the hand first before making the thumb. It made more sense to me to do it that way, as the pattern tells you to make the thumb while you're only halfway through the colourwork section. Plus, I got to use the magic loop again. I'm getting good at that.

One mitten took me roughly one evening, as it's a fairly quick pattern worked in thick yarn on 5 mm needles. I'll show you the finished project as soon as I can, which, hopefully, will be this week!

26 October 2013

FO: Cheshire Cat Scoodie

"Oh, you can't help that", said the cat. "We're all mad here!"

Done! Well in time, too! My sister and her Cheshire Cat costume are well on their way to having a mad time at her Halloween party tonight!
Sis was extremely happy with the end result, she loved the stripes and the full hood!

The only thing that gave me issues was, as was expected, the ears and the placement. As you can see, for some reason, the left ear is flopping to the side and leaning forward. Oddly enough, though, when I put it down on the table, the ears are perfectly aligned. I don't get it. It's silly. A silly scoodie.

Or should I say, a 'mat hat'? *badump-tshhhh*

I also did her make-up tonight (before she made the drive over to her friend and the party, so we were almost hoping she'd get stuck in traffic so she could flash her grin at unsuspecting drivers). Isn't it awesome? I think it turned out pretty good! All in all, sis was very happy with her costume and promised me home made baked goods as a thank you in my near future!