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…

Well, it’s the beginning of April so it’s time to set some New Year’s goals for 2014!

[WARNING: This is quite a long post, and it’s generally all about my personal knitting/stitching goals. Alas, no Benedict Cumberbatch, nerdy knits, or penguin sweaters today.]

Boy, time sure flies when you become temporarily obsessed with the knitting on a certain TV show and then you catch the plague! I’ve been meaning for the past two-and-a-half months to write a post where I set out my knitting, stitching and crafting goals for the year, but it seems like something always got in the way. Sadly, goal-setting has never been one of my strengths, but I’m setting some goals to try to work on that in the future….

Knitting WIPs and Goals for 2014

Let’s start with what I have on the needles or in the hoop right now. 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 current knitting projects (in the sidebar, they are listed in order of the oldest to the newest project, but here I’m listing them in order of priority):

  • 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
  • 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.)

For my personal knitting goals, I will probably continue to emphasize making gifts, especially for my nieces. They are the only nieces (or nephews, for that matter) that I will ever have and they are only going to be small once. Soon, they will want to assert their own tastes (I can already see it happening) and they won’t be willing to wear whatever I make for them. As the old saying goes, you’ve got to get in while the gettin’s good. I have plans to make some Easter knits for the girls, including the Fiesta Tea Set by Annie Modesitt (all the Tahki Cotton Classic has been purchased, in yummy Fiestaware colors like lemongrass, peacock, plum, scarlet, shamrock, sunflower and tangerine). update: finished the Fiesta Tea Set in late June/early July 2014!

Needlework WIPs and Goals for 2014

My cross stitch WIPs are 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!

My cross stitch plans for the year have three parts. First, I plan on stitching a set of four Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Stockings for my brother, sister-in-law and The Two Most Adorable Nieces in the World.™ My favorites are Peter, Christian, Harry and Robert. My sister-in-law has approved of the choices, and she especially likes Peter and Harry. Fortunately, I already had the patterns for all of them except Harry, and I also have the charms for Peter. During Silver Needle’s recent Super Bowl mega-sale, I ordered the chart and charms for Harry, and they just arrived a couple weeks ago along with some other goodies. Maybe if I start now I can get them done by Christmas (I didn’t say Christmas of this year).

Second, over the next year (a year from today, not by New Year’s 2015), I’d like to complete the Mirabilia “In a Garden” series. You can read about the first time I blogged about this here. I want to stitch each piece during the season it depicts; I’ve decided to follow the dates of the solstices and equinoxes for my due dates, so each piece will be due on the last day before the next solstice/equinox. The dates for 2014 are: March 20 (spring equinox), June 21 (summer solstice), September 23 (fall equinox), and December 21 (winter solstice). I’m going to start stitching “Summer” on June 21. I can hardly wait — I’ve picked out the hand-dyed fabric and everything! More details to come.

Third, each month I will be participating in the 2014 Smalls Stitch-Along (the handy-dandy icon is in the right-hand sidebar). I’m already behind in my stitching for this challenge, but I plan on catching up this month. The “Union Jack” project is part of this “catching up” — all told, it measures 2.5 inches by 1.5 inches. That certainly qualifies as small!

In my copious free time (the discerning reader will note a hint of sarcasm here), if I have any stitching time leftover, I would like to finish the other two projects I have going already. I’d also like to make Bent Creek’s Holly Quaker Stocking pattern for me and Drawn Thread’s “Give Thanks.” I’ve been concentrating so much on knitting lately that my needleworking has fallen to the wayside. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the habit. The little bit of work I’ve done on the “Union Jack” small is reminding me how much I enjoy the feel of a needle and thread in my hands.

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

I want to have the first ready to go to the model stitcher and the second ready to release by the end of next month (April 30). Getting the sashiko-based design finished also means designing and knitting the sashiko cover (mentioned above in my knitting goals). The deadline for “Memento Mori” will be two months after that (June 30), and for “A Rose is a Rose,” it will be two months after that (August 31). If I get my behind into gear, these should be very reasonable goals. I’d better not dawdle. “Mackintosh Rose” is getting lonely.

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

Of course, the problem with free patterns (besides the obvious lack of remuneration) is that there is no real compelling reason to complete them promptly so they tend to end up in the land of “someday I’ll get around to that.” I would love to have the breast cancer ribbon-style scarf completed by October, which the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I am also working on some patterns that will be for sale: a tweedy baby jacket, some Aran-style hats, and a double-knit illusion scarf. The first two will give me a chance to dip my toes into the complicated world of sizing knits; I have some experience with this when working for and with others, but this will be the first time I go out on my own and I feel like I need to take baby steps first. Literally. Maybe I’ll find that I’m underestimating my design capabilities. That would be a very pleasant surprise.


Phew! Well, this should certainly keep me busy in the year to come. Let’s see how many of these goals I actually meet. I need to attach some specific due dates to these projects — you know the old saying: the difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline. Check back on December 31st! And wish me good luck and good motivation!