Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snow Bunnies!

Nope, there is no snow to be found in Chicago this week. It is January 31 and 55 degrees!

Before I officially started working on my UFOs mentioned in the last post, I made a mitten for Sifu, the yarn store here in Chicago that I kind of work for. I make store samples when she needs them, including the felted bracelets from this post last year.

This may have been the most unexpectedly time-consuming project I’ve ever knit. Thankfully, it was just a mitten so it couldn’t have taken up too much time, but just one mitten took about 20 hours! By hour 16 or so, I was pretty irritated actually! Fine yarn, tiny double-pointed needles, and the fair-isle stranded knitting technique made for one putzy project. The wool yarn was old and scratchy and stuck together while I twisted the yarns to make the images of bunnies. The yarns got stuck between the needles too. The yarn was a mish-mash of different weaving wools, so the varying thickness and different twist directions of the yarns made for a slightly lumpy surface. So, not only was this project putzy, it didn’t even look nice. 

After blocking the mitten, my tune really changed! The mitten isn’t perfect, but after a good press under a damp towel, it really did turn out to be sweet. Since the yarns were varying thicknesses, the bunnies didn’t show up quite as well as I had hoped, but I think it’s okay. That really is my only disappointment about the finished object. Oh, and that my wedding ring gets stuck on the yarns inside. It looks like I won’t be doing many fair-isle mittens for myself in the future. We just can't have that. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Out With the UFOs!

As I mentioned in the last post, my goal for the beginning of the year is to clear my slate of “works-in-progress” or “unfinished objects” (WIPs or UFOs in the knitting world). I have about six projects that I have let slide by the wayside and go unfinished. Usually it happens because I come across a snag in the pattern or I find another pattern that I fall in love with and have to start immediately! In the case of three of these projects, they are my own design and I got stuck on how to best carry out my idea.

For example, this lovely, lacey piece is a cowl but I haven’t figured out how to make a smooth join where each end connects. See that big ugly kink down the middle? That must go! I love how light and airy this piece is though, and it’s made of alpaca for incredible warmth and softness.
It will have such a lovely drape when it's all done!
I adapted this pattern from a blouse that I made for my senior thesis project. The yarn is all natural alpaca from Hidden Valley, a sheep farm and woolen mill, not far away from where I grew up in Wisconsin. I was blessed to have spent quite a bit of time there the past few summers, learning about the entire process from raising and shearing the sheep to dying yarn and knitting or weaving a finished project. Paul and Carol are a wonderful couple, so down to earth and passionate about their livelihood.

This next project will someday be a reversible headband topped with a big bow. The reversibility is what’s holding me up so far. I would love to be able to have the option to choose a grey or pink headband but my attempts thus far have been unsuccessful. The hot, hot pink against the cool grey is such a fun, cheerful winter combination.
This gorgeous textural piece will someday adorn our bed as a pillow.
Isn't that texture just incredible? Knit out of a super soft organic cotton yarn, I can't wait to lay my head on that!
The entire front is done. Now I just have to decide how to construct the back. I could knit the back or sew a fabric back on. The second option would allow me to make two matching pillows, given the amount of yarn I have. Having to find the perfect fabric to go with the pillows would give me an excuse to visit incredible Vogue Fabrics. I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it is one of the largest fabric stores in the U.S.! One of the Apparel Design classes at Madison went on a field trip to Chicago every year to shop for fabric and develop collections from their finds. I remember almost fainting over the gorgeous fabrics my classmates brought back. Whether the back of this pillow is made of purchased or knit fabric, I’ll have to visit soon!

This poor shawl is left over from my senior thesis. After graduation I became consumed by my internship, work, then my surgery, then planning a wedding! With all the excitement, I forgot all about this little cutie. All I have to do is sew these two pieces together and attach buttons.
 Also on my list of things to do this year is photograph my senior thesis pieces. I am so proud of them but I have no good way to display them yet. That will change soon I hope!

These little necklaces are kind of an ongoing project, but I have started four now and finished only one.
I’d like to have at least a few finished and on hand for gifts. I love this technique of knitting two strips with holes in them and weaving them through one another to create the look of a braid or cable. Perhaps you can see that the pink one is a single strip with holes every inch or so. This pattern is an alteration of the Cable Braided Necklace courtesy of the brilliant Olga Buraya-Kefelian.

Last on my list of projects to finish is this knit jacket for my Mama. We made a deal that she would buy the yarn and pattern for me if I would knit it for her. This was two summers ago and I still haven’t finished it! I remember rushing and rushing to try to finish it before her birthday but I didn’t even get close! I only finished the back, and most of the front left side!
I know I made quite a few alterations to the pattern. I just hope my notes were clear enough that I remember them all! Here is a photo of the finished jacket that Mom and I saw while visiting Magpie’s Cottage in Sheboygan Falls a year and a half ago when she first bought the yarn and pattern. It's not all that flattering on me, but I'm hoping the alterations will make for a perfect fit for my Mama.
Hopefully you’ll be seeing each of these patterns in all of their finished glory within the next few weeks and months. It will feel so good to be done with all of them!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy New(lywed) Year!

I’m back!! After a very long break from the blog, I’m back and so happy to be. The New Year has been very exciting so far! Hubby and I had the chance to explore Chicago a bit more while he was on break. We are trying to visit every museum in Chicago and we started with Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry. We have also gotten to explore the city along the lakeshore trail by bike.
On a related note, I have started running again! This is the first serious attempt at running since my hardware-removal surgery this summer and I can feel such a difference! My knee and shin used to get so irritated after just two or three miles, but now I don’t feel a thing in my leg! I’m training for a 5k race that hubby and I are doing together for Valentine’s Day. So sweet! I love running with him and he’s thrilled to have such a cute running partner

Theseus came with us while we traveled around Wisconsin for Christmas and he was such a good kitty. Although he was a bit hesitant at times, I think he really enjoyed seeing the world and getting love from all of our family. There is no doubt that our fluffy little critter loves his new family.
 There is so much love to be celebrating this New Year. One of my bridesmaids, Ashley, just recently got engaged! I am so thrilled to be a part of her wedding just like she was in mine. Congratulations Ashley and Nate!! 
Another of my bridesmaids, Kati, celebrated her first anniversary with her husband! These couples are such model couples for us. We have all learned so much from one another over the past few years, and we are incredibly blessed to go on through life all together.
  Quite possibly the most exciting news in my life this New Year is a possible promotion at work! Things have been relatively slow-moving while everyone at work recovers from the holidays and sets up the biggest transition of the year (Spring is arriving at Target!). Nonetheless, my mentors and managers have been spending as much time as possible prepping me for my upcoming interviews and giving me so much helpful advice. It is so encouraging to be working for people who invest themselves in people before products.

If I do get this promotion, it would mean working about 60 hours per week! It would be wonderful for many, many reasons, but I’m sure my knitting time will be deeply cut into. (So will my housekeeping time, so do be prepared if you come to visit!)  Until that time, I am hoping to finish up a few unfinished projects that have been lingering around here. More on that in the next post! It's time for a hot cocoa date with my hubby!