September Update — Finishes, Starts, and WIPs

Where does all the time go? I can’t believe it’s September already, which means I’m two months behind in my half-year update, although I suppose that’s really right on schedule since I didn’t even post my year’s goals until the beginning of April. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m great about meeting goals in other parts of my life. I’m really very organized. Seriously. Anyway…

Update on Knitting WIPs and Goals for 2014

So, let’s see what I’ve gotten done since April’s reckoning. The progress bars in the right-hand sidebar will let you know how far along I am with my current projects. Here’s the list of knitting projects, some finished, some still in progress:

  • Baby Bobbi Bear and assorted outfits (a belated gift for my niece’s second birthday)   update: Baby Bobbi Bear was completed on 4/5/14 and the sweaters were completed on 6/29/14. Pictures and more details are below this bulleted list.
  • Winter Lace Afghan (a belated wedding gift — are you sensing a theme here?)  update: completed 5/16/14!
  • Breast Cancer Ribbin’ Scarf (seriously, all this needs is some kitchenering. Is that a verb?)
  • Felted Sashiko Cover (this is a little something I’m working on as a freebie pattern to accompany the sashiko-style cross stitch I’m designing for Wordsmith Designs — see below)
  • Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts (you know, because it’s so cold here in Los Angeles in springtime) update: completed 5/22/14!
  • Swedish Thora (a belated gift for my beautiful and patient Aunt Janet — there’s a point where gifts become so belated, there’s no point in rushing anymore. Sigh.)

And here’s Baby Bobbi Bear in all his glory:

And here are his fabulous sweaters:

There’s more info about all the yarns I used and the various crochet patterns on my Ravelry site (it would take too long to list them all here). The scarf is a simple 10-stitch 2 X 2 rib knitted with self-striping Adriafil Knitcol (color 46) on size 5 needles. Pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.

Last April, I also stated “plans to make some Easter knits for the girls, including the Fiesta Tea Set by Annie Modesitt (knitted with Tahki Cotton Classic in yummy Fiestaware colors like lemongrass, peacock, plum, scarlet, shamrock, sunflower and tangerine).” Update: Done and done! Finished sometime in late June or early July. Here are some photos:

And here’s a picture of my niece Ella playing with her new tea set:

Ella Playing with Fiesta Tea Set
Ella Playing with Fiesta Tea Set

These were not part of my goals, but I also started a pair of the “The Wallpaper Had It Coming (Again)” mittens as part of a Sherlock-related challenge with the West Hollywood (WeHo) Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group, and the Spring Kerchief by Sachiko Uemura. I’m about halfway through the first glove, but I’ve only just cast on for the kerchief.

Needlework WIPs and Goals for 2014

As of April my current cross stitch WIPs were as follows (oldest to newest):

  • “Ewe and Eye Needlecase” by Maureen Appleton/Heart’s Content
  • “Celtic Band Samplar” by Homespun Samplar
  • “Union Jack,” an original design of the Union Jack flag which I will be “releasing” as a Wordsmith Designs freebie soon update: completed 04/06/14!

Since I’m being brutally honest, I will admit that I haven’t completed a single stitch on the Needlecase or the “Celtic Band Samplar.” They’ve been on hiatus for a few years now.

I had four other cross stitch goals for 2014:

  1. A set of four Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Stockings for my brother, sister-in-law and The Two Most Adorable Nieces in the World.™ Update: I’m happy to say I’m making terrific progress with these, and will have photos soon.
  2. The Mirabilia “In a Garden” series. Update: I’ve barely started the “Summer” version. Seriously, only a few stitches completed, and it’s “due” September 21st. My stitching time lately has gone to the Christmas stockings; I’d like to have those completed by the beginning of October so they can be finished professionally before Christmas.
  3. The 2014 Smalls Stitch-Along (the handy-dandy icon is in the right-hand sidebar). Update: I completed my smalls for April, May, June, and August, and I’m still working on July. Here’s the gallery so far:

Goals for Wordsmith Designs

For Wordsmith Designs, my first three design priorities for release are (in this order):

  1.  A sashiko-based design that I don’t want to go into too much detail about right now
  2.  A Celtic alphabet design that’s already designed and stitched but still needs some “polishing”
  3.  A design called “Memento Mori” and that’s all the detail you’ll get for now
  4.  A design called “A Rose is a Rose” and that’s all the detail you’ll get for now

Update: I haven’t met any of my designing goals for Wordsmith Designs. I’ve done some work on the sashiko design, but it still needs a lot more work. 

Goals for Moon & Sixpence Knits

For Moon & Sixpence, I am working on three free patterns:

  • an update of my (very basic) Michael Nesmith hat pattern, one that is more historically accurate and includes the four-button variation Nesmith wore sometimes
  • a scarf and cowl with a breast cancer ribbon-style cable pattern (I’m debating whether to charge a nominal fee so the proceeds could go to breast cancer research)
  • a small cabled heart design based on a Christmas ornament that IKEA was selling a couple years ago

Update: Apparently, design-work is not my top priority, which is sad because it’s a way of generating at least some income. As I stated in April: “I would love to have the breast cancer ribbon-style scarf completed by October, which the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” That seems like a goal that could still be met. Stay tuned.

Check back on December 31st! And wish me good luck and good motivation!



Two Beginnings, Three Finishes, Two WIPs (featuring my entries for the May 2014 Smalls SAL)

I’ve had a productive week or two here at Casa “The Lyf So Short” with projects finished and projects started. As the song says, “Every new beginning is some other beginning’s end.” Or, if you want to be slightly more literary, my former undergraduate mentor used to quote this line from Great Expectations all the time: “Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together…” Perhaps the equivalent for a knitting blog would be something like: “life is made of so many bind-offs knitted together….” So, in the spirit of beginnings and endings and middles…

Beginnings: I’ve cast on for the Sherlock-themed challenge sponsored by my local Stitch n Bitch group, the West Hollywood chapter. I’m making a pair of “The Wallpaper Had it Coming (Again)” mittens by ampersand designs, a pattern based on the wallpaper in the living room of 221B Baker Street in the BBC Sherlock series (I first mentioned these mittens here). I’ve also cast on for Spring Kerchief by Sachiko Uemura in a beautiful silvery gray Colinton Lace yarn from my LYS, Unwind, courtesy of a gift certificate from my generous godfather. Do I “need” either of these projects? No. Will they help me reach my knitting goals for 2014? No. What was my point again?

Endings: I’ve finally cast off on the Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts that I started in January, and now I have a photo to share, at last:

Suzie Rogers' Reading Mitts, Relaxing in a Bowl
Suzie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, Relaxing in a Bowl (love that picot edging!)

Don’t let the length of time between casting on and casting off fool you, this is actually quite a quick project, especially considering that it’s knitted in a relatively small gauge. I used Blue Sky Alpacas’ Sport Weight in a lovely periwinkle blue, and it knit up like a dream. I wish I had taken “before and after” photos of the blocking process, though, since it made a huge difference in how evenly and consistently the stitches lie. I tend to be a fairly consistent knitter with not a lot of variety in my stitch sizes as I knit, but even my knitting looked a little “lumpy” in places before blocking. I think this had to do with the nature of the yarn itself which has a bit of twist to it.

So I’m doubly pleased with the result, and I highly recommend this pattern to anyone, especially if it’s your first time working a simple thumbhole. The sizing runs the gamut from willowy maiden to beefy-armed serving wench (my size). These mitts are my favorite kind of knitting — a simple but elegant design that packs a lot of punch. Go ahead and check out the pattern’s Ravelry page and all the beautiful photos of the completed projects. You won’t be disappointed.

2014 Smalls Stitchalong Logo
2014 Smalls Stitchalong (SAL) Logo

And continuing with the finishes… I’ve finally finished my Smalls SAL entries for May. I’ve stitched two “free-bees” (their spelling, not mine) from La-D-Da, one called “A Rose is a Rose” and one called “Fallen Leaf” (both designs are available for download here, along with some other lovelies. I’m currently drooling over their new “Spring Hare” design). I’ve had my eye on the “A Rose is a Rose” design for quite a while now, ever since I decided I wanted to design my own “A Rose is a Rose is a Rose” design and went searching the Interwebs (which John Oliver has hilariously taken to calling “the Electronic Cat Database”) for other cross stitch designs featuring that famous saying.


"A Rose is a Rose" Freebee by La-D-Da
“A Rose is a Rose” Freebee by La-D-Da

I changed the floss colors; the most obvious effects were to make the rose more purple than the red/mauve that was called for and to make the stem darker. Here are the substitutions I made:

  • For Gentle Arts Sampler Threads “Chamomile” (the center of the rose), I substituted  GAST “Woodrose”
  • For GAST “Old Red Paint” (the main color for the rose itself), I substituted GAST “Briar Rose” (for some reason, I really liked how the two colors for the rose had the word “rose” in their names — it’s like Shakespearean word-play for the cross stitch set!)
  • For GAST “Dried Thyme” (the leaves), I substituted GAST “Evergreen”
  • For GAST “Old Hickory” (the stem and thorns), I substituted Weeks Dye Works “Bark”
  • For GAST “Dark Chocolate” (the lettering and border, I substituted WDW “Chestnut (honestly, I can’t imagine this last change made much of a difference)

And here’s the second La-D-Da free-bee I completed, “Fallen Leaf”:

"Fallen Leaf Free-bee" by La-D-Da
“Fallen Leaf Free-bee” by La-D-Da

For this design, I substituted Weeks Dye Works “Bark” (lettering) and Gentle Arts Sampler Threads “Autumn Leaves” (leaves and border) for GAST “Pine Woods” and “Cinnamon” respectively. I also added another little design element in the middle of the “W” in the word “wave,” fleshed out the leaves a little bit, and changed the “a’s” to a font I liked better. To each her own…

Middles: I’m also continuing to chug away at the presents for my nieces. For Ella, I am working on Annie Modesitt’s Fiesta Tea Set. For Lauren (as I’ve mentioned before), I’ve completed the Baby Bobbi Bear by Blue Sky Alpacas, and this week I’m going to finish some sweaters for him to wear about town. ‘Cause he’s fancy… Photos to follow soon. Fingers crossed!


Hurrah! A Big Finish!

Asia and Trey's Afghan 001
An afghan blanket for Asia and Trey’s wedding

This past weekend (nearly a week ago now),  I finally cast off on the “Winter Lace Afghan” I was knitting for my roommate’s niece, Asia, and her new husband, Trey. Well, he’s relatively new; they were married last September over Labor Day weekend in a beautiful wedding at a historical lodge in Oklahoma. I started the afghan in early August, thinking it would be a quick knit, since I had some time on my hands that month. I was sorely disillusioned when the knitting gods knocked me down for my hubris. However, I think, according to Emily Post or Martha Stewart or somebody, you have one year to give newlyweds their wedding gifts and still be considered “on time.” [Update: I have since learned that the “one year’s grace period” is a wish-fulfillment myth invented by procrastinators like me. Uh-oh.]

In spite of the unexpectedly long production time, the results are beautiful and I would certainly do this pattern again. However, I would time my knitting so I was only working on the afghan during the winter months. Los Angeles in summer (and this is one of the hottest Mays on record) is no place to be knitting a chunky, wool-blend afghan that weighs half-a-ton. Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick ‘n’ Quick is great, versatile bulky yarn, but it doesn’t exactly “breathe.” Phew!

But, as I said, the results were worth it, and I hope Asia and Trey enjoy their wedding gift for years to come. To the bride and groom!

The same afghan, folded, still beautiful
Another view of the afghan — again, pardon the lighting…

April Smalls SAL Check-in: “Union Jack Freebie”

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…

In celebration of actually completing this month’s (by which I mean April’s) 2014 Smalls SAL challenge, I’m letting my inner Anglophile out to play. To be truthful, my inner Anglophile isn’t exactly usually inside the house practicing her violin and doing her math homework. She’s usually out cavorting around for everyone to see — watching BBC America, reading nineteenth-century English novels, eating lemon curd, indulging in a mild fascination with Prince Harry, driving on the left side of the road (OK, maybe not that last one).

I charted and stitched “Union Jack Freebie” (last seen as a work-in-progress here) for my fledgling — very fledgling — cross stitch design company, Wordsmith Designs, and the charted design will be up on the web site soon. However, it’s already available on this blog here as a free pattern.

Union Jack Freebie by Wordsmith Designs
Though she be but little, she is fierce!

To give you some idea of the scale of this design, the entire frame is only 6″ X 4 1/2″/15 X 11.5 cm, and the design size itself is 2.52” X 1.4”/6.4 X 3.55 cm. I stitched this Union Jack on 25-count beige Jobelan, which is my current favorite fabric for doing one-over-one designs;  the stitch definition is fantastic and it’s not too tiny (and exasperating) to work with considering my middle-aged eyes. The threads I chose were Gentle Arts Sampler Threads in Midnight (blue), Schoolhouse Red (red) and Oatmeal (ecru/white), although the pattern comes with some alternative suggestions (DMC, Anchor, Crescent Colours and Weeks Dye Works).

I’ve tried to be as accurate to the real Union Jack flag as possible. The tricky parts were the diagonal red lines which do not quite line up in the original, although many reproductions “cheat” by having simple diagonal lines.

The frame is a standard 2″ X 3″/5 X 7.5 cm frame I found at (I believe) Target several years ago. The cracks at the joins don’t appear so alarming in real life as they appear in this photo. It’s funny how photographs magnify even minor flaws. I’ve noticed this phenomenon when photographing knits before; the slightest imperfection — a knot in the wrong place, a stitch that sticks out, a stray cat hair — shows up like it’s got a huge neon arrow pointed at it.

Photography issues aside, I hope you enjoy this quick and easy pattern. I’d love to see any pictures of completed projects.

Hat and Booties for Baby Lewis Finished!

Hat for Grand-goddaughterIn my excitement to finish the hat and booties for Baby McKerrow (see here for the beginning of that journey), I had set aside my goal of making a hat and a pair of booties for my goddaughter’s baby girl. [Note to self: Does that make me a grand-godmother?] This little one wasn’t due until early May, whereas Baby McKerrow is due in about a week, so I prioritized.

Well, my Grand-goddaughter (my goddaughter’s daughter) has her own plans and it looks like she’s coming early, maybe as soon as the 20th, so I figured I’d better get going. I have had my eye on this simple picot-edge pattern from Louisa Harding’s book, Natural Knits for Babies and Moms, for some time now, but there’s no time like the present! One skein of Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere (in ivory), one skein of Suss Love (in taupe–it may not be organic, but it’s vegan!), a couple pairs of knitting needles, and a few Law & Order reruns later and we have this beautiful set:

Hat and Booties for Grand-goddaughterAlthough the mission statement of the book, as expressed in the subtitle “Beautiful Designs Using Organic Yarns,” seems a perfect fit for my nature-loving goddaughter, I must admit that I used the available yarn in my stash instead.  If you like neutrals and natural fibers (especially cotton) for babies and moms pre- and post-partum, this is the perfect book for you. The patterns call for basic to intermediate level skills–nothing too arduous–and are very classic. Anything you make from this book will stand the test of time.

I did make some minor modifications to the original pattern for the booties, however. The pattern called for several lazy daisy stitches but I opted for just one, and the pattern called for a ribbon tie but I crocheted a couple of ties. The biggest change I made was on the cuff of the booties; Harding’s pattern calls for a ribbed cuff, but I thought that a picot-edge cuff matching the picot-edge of the hat would be cuter and would tie the hat and the booties together better.

If you want to do a picot-edge cuff like I’ve done, it’s very easy to modify Harding’s pattern. Just work a picot cast-on as you did for the hat until you have 27 stitches total (9 X 3). Then work four rows in garter stitch (just as you did for the hat pattern) and proceed from row 4 as called for in Harding’s pattern.

This is the first pair of booties I’ve ever worked from the cuff down, and I must admit I found working the instep a little uncomfortable, but the results are hard to argue with! I also love how the neutral colors take away from the potentially cloying girliness of this pattern.

Bootielicious Finish!

Newborn SetI just finished  the booties and hat  for little baby McKerrow, and just in time since he/she is due in  less than a month.  BFF and husband have chosen not to know the sex of the baby before it’s born–as my grandma used to say, “They’re going to take what they get!” The baby nursery is being decorated in neutrals, so the cream color should be perfect. The yarn, Suss Love, is unbelievably soft and easy to work with. It’s also washable, which I consider essential for baby items.

Also, because it is comprised of several individual strands of the same color, the pompoms become extra fluffy when the strands start to separate. In the rush to get done, I left off the small pompoms on the ends of the bootie laces and the hat ties, and just did one small pompom for each bootie and one larger one for the top of the hat. Done and done, as Homer Simpson would say!

Update 01/25/11: Suss Love yarn has been discontinued, unfortunately.