Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Socks That Made Me Go Hmm.

Though that fall chill in the air doesn't stick around long (no matter how hard I wish on stars), I figure I'm in an acceptable time frame to share knitting projects (it just seems so wrong in the summer). First up is my most recent finish--a pair of socks. My sister gave me some of the most scrumptious sock yarn for my birthday in a colorway called 'Strawberry Fields' (from this shop). I went on a bit of a shawl knitting kick for a while, so these only recently made it onto the sticks (and took almost just as long to come off--oy).

No matter what I did I could not get the colors to show up just right (why are pinks and reds so difficult to capture accurately?). But they're a dark pink, a medium pink, and a light pink sprinkled with white and a medium green.

I must have cast on the first sock a half dozen times and frogged just as much throughout. I have no idea what the problem was, as the second went swimmingly. These were knit toe-up, and I used German short rows for the toes as I dislike picking up wraps immensely. I didn't do a short row heel, however--I made the gusset and heel flap and all that jazz as I like how that looks.

These socks fit a little snug, which is how I like them as they don't slip and slide (which is better for wear), but I think they could be a little bit looser. I used the smallest needles for the foot, and then increased needle size every few inches as I went up the leg. I used a super stretchy bind off, and they stay up nice obediently. I have a pretty dang high instep, so I should probably increase my cast on a bit as you can see the stitches stretching a bit.

I had a small entanglement issue, so each sock ended up starting at a different color, leading to the matched-but-not-the-same quality they unabashedly possess. Part of the fun was watching how the colors worked up differently in each, more stripes in some places, more pooling in others. A math teacher I had in high school told me once that matching is for narrow minded people, so even though I super super SUPER disliked that teacher I'm going to use that point here.

I do have a question, though, for any sock knitters. I know the techniques, and the steps and all that jazz, but I struggle a bit with fit. The pairs I've made previously all seem to fit the same, even though each pair uses a different needle size (but the same stitch count). How are they supposed to fit? I know not too loose, but mine seem snug enough that they're not uncomfortable and stay in place, but do not slide onto my foot with the ease of store-bought socks (and might even be a wee bit tough to get on, if I'm being honest). I'd love to have a drawer full of colorful hand-knit socks at my disposal, so I'm keeping at it. I would just like to know what's worked best for you folks regarding fit. Thanks for any help!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mixed Stripe Blanket

Normally when a project takes me seven months to complete (or over a year) I like to do a 'ta-dah!' sort of post as I usually post pictures of my progress. But for this blanket, I showed you a picture of the yarn, told you the pattern I was going to use, and then never said another word about it beyond "I promise I'll show you a photo soon." I have a few pictures of it in the making; they've just been living in my camera.


See this photo? See how wavy that edge is? I was able to gently steam it into almost-straightness, so I kept going with it (normally I would frog and call it a day). Even though I kept telling myself to keep doing that every few rows, I didn't. So I crossed all my fingers and toes as it was tumbling around in the dryer that it would come out decent.

There was only one stitch pattern (those Catherine's Wheels, or whatever they're called) that caused that rippliness, but the addition of a border seemed to help pull things into shape.

This may very well be one of the more difficult things I have ever made, not necessarily in execution but in sheer tediousness. I am almost certain I counted stitches in every single row, and quite often ripped back. Quite often.

I tried to maintain randomness when it came to the colors (except for the white, which I tried to space out pretty evenly). I like the colors. I like how they all work together. I don't know if I like my arrangement. In hindsight, I think I would have liked more red, and less of the dark maroon. But that's in looking at the photos of it laid out perfectly flat and straight on the floor. Because let's face it--if it's not like this:

or this:

--it's going to have someone snuggled under it.

For the border, I did a few rounds of singles and half-doubles, ending it with a scalloped edge. I don't love that purple, but I had the most of it left, and didn't want a ton left over, so there it is. I was able to get the corners to look kind of nifty, even though lack of planning made the stitch count not what it should be.

So would I make this again? Probably not. UNLESS I made a list of stitch patterns that require the same count so I wouldn't have to fudge things into existence. But still probably not. Very often I wanted to rip it out and make a corner-to-corner blanket or something, but as I wove in my ends as I went (after the first two-ish feet) that wasn't an attractive option.

It's one of those weird things. I didn't have much fun making it, but I really do like the end result. I'm still uncertain regarding my colors, but I'm looking at it right now draped across the love seat and it's vibrant and cheery. I think I have a love-hate relationship with it. I bet I'll love it unconditionally in about a week when it's not driving me to madness.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Review: Hand-Lettering for Everyone

Today I am presenting a review for you of a book that scared the bejesus out of me. It's not a collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales, nor did I decide to revisit my childhood and read the Goosebumps books. And it is certainly not Spiders for Dummies.

I was given a copy of Cristina Vanko's book for review:

I'll be honest--I gave the description a cursory review, and awaited this book thinking it was more of a learn-to-write-fancy kind of thing, like those calligraphy workbooks that involved lots of tracing until you were ready to fly solo. So when I saw what it was, I thought "Oh no!! Stranger danger!!" This was way out of my comfort zone. But when you promise a review you get over yourself.

This book is...different. It's not a do-this-in-exactly-this-way kind of book (which I normally like as I'm a rule-oriented, structured person). It acts as a guide for you to unleash your inner hand-lettering soul. This baby is chock full of practice pages, samples, suggestions, historical factoids, encouragement, and ideas for creating your own unique designs, from plain to fancy.

On the left we have some samples of traditional sans serif fonts. On the right is practice space and some direction on what to do. Enough direction that you know where you're supposed to end up, but how you get there is up to you. 

Difficult to see here, but the tiny print are labels for all of the things you need to know about type. Serifs, apexes, descender lines, things like that.

The book shares a history of popular typefaces through the ages, and why they may be preferred (or possibly left to history). It shows how the right font can make a message or an idea or an image all the more powerful. For example, would the sign for a Texas rodeo be more enticing in that old 'wild west' font or in comic sans?

I went over each and every page, and some of them made me feel twitchy as they were a little more drawing oriented than writing oriented. So instead of starting at the beginning, I started where I felt comfortable, with a bit of eraser writing.

I was going to write "Yeah, right" where the smiley face is as I have a hard time creating things that aren't 'perfect' to my mind. But that's a thing I need to work on, and a book such as this is quite helpful as you're not expected to be perfect or even close to it. But you are expected to try.

This page was nifty. You write in cursive on the left, and on the right there's a brief analysis of your writing. And it was weird how it was pretty accurate.

This was a fun page to try. Examples of blackletter are on the left, and my attempts at it are on the right. I tried to be cute and interlace my letters for the word laugh, but then I realized I'm not good at this yet, haha. My 'joy' came out pretty swell, though.

Would I recommend this? Yes, indeed, even if it's not in your comfort zone. I find that when I get out of mine I'm a lot more thoughtful and careful about what I'm doing and am rarely disappointed in the results as is sometimes the case when I'm so comfortable with what I'm doing that I get distracted. However, I would recommend something--have a variety of writing implements. Not a lot, nothing fancy, just more than the pencil I was using. Maybe some chisel tips for playing with line thicknesses and flourishes and things like that. Or some watercolors from your kids' art set that they never used. Simple things like that.

I did realize something today while someone had me on hold--I tend to doodle my name, playing with the letters and all that as this book suggests, something I never noticed before. Now I'm going to pay more attention to my mindless writing. Because I'm not afraid of this book anymore.

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

If the Third Time's the Charm I'll Stop After the First, Thank You

For the record, I want to state that bad things happen in threes. And the third time is NOT the charm. Of what am I speaking? The one thing that will send me running from a room. The one thing that will make me twitch at the mere thought of it for hours. The one thing that has had me scanning corners for a few days now. That one thing, my friends, is the spider.

If you've been here for any length of time, you probably know that I have a deep-seated fear of spiders. I can squish most bugs no problem. Spiders make me scream and flail and become an absolutely nonsensical version of myself. For reals.

New furniture arrived recently in the form of a sofa and loveseat. Neither of them have that little skirt thingee around the bottom. I saw a dark little something under one that I assumed was dirt or fuzz or a piece of stray yarn or something like that, as it was there for two days before I remembered to get it. Thank heavens I took a closer look before I touched it with my bare hand, as it was a dead spider. One that would have been enough to make me scream. My father absolutely refused to pick it up as he thinks adults should be able to handle such matters. So I flicked it into a plastic cup and tossed it outside as a warning to other possible intruders. Other intruders obviously chuckled and said "Oh really? We'll see...."

That night (Sunday) at dinner, sister Rachel caught something out of the corner of her eye, and pointed and said "I don't know what that bug is behind you, Dad, but you need to get it!" It was possibly one of the biggest spiders I have ever seen on the floor in front of the fridge (the weather strip under the back door needs to be replaced, and the theory is that it came in there). I immediately screamed and ran. Rachel picked up A-train and ran, while he's chewing his carrots and wondering what the hell is going on. My aunt followed us into the other room where we all twitched and tried not to say naughty things in front of the young 'un. My mother and sister Alicia (who can't be in the same room as most bugs, mind you) calmly sat there eating while my father squished it.

I spent most of yesterday trying to get that image out of my mind. Tonight I headed off to my yoga class. At the very end we do a relaxation sequence for five to ten minutes. The room is not air conditioned, so we open the windows. Sometimes you see a moth or a fly or something come in. So when I felt a tickle on my arm, I slapped at it thinking it was that (or a piece of my hair, which is usually the case). But when we were finished and I stood up to roll up my mat, what was there on it but a nice sized spider that look like it had aspirations of being a daddy-long-legs. On my mat. Practically spooning with me. I stayed calm (because I didn't want to look like a goober), shook it off the mat, and squashed it, all while looking like a sane person who wasn't itching to scream and run from the room.

That's three attempts on my life in three days. And to make matters worse, I can't take a certain road until after Halloween, as one of the houses has a gigantic spider display in their front yard and closing your eyes while driving is frowned upon.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lighting the Night

"There's a potent Portuguese word, with no direct translation in English. Saudade: profound longing for an absent something; something that remains for something that will never exist again."**

I was born nostalgic (as well as about threescore too late for where I believe my soul was destined to be). It's a familiar feeling to smell freshly sharpened pencils or a box of crayons and crave the simplicity of school days and homework. Seeing the old Christmas decorations from when I was a child makes me long for those days of waiting for your turn with the Sears Wishbook and counting down the sleeps until Christmas. A whiff of a certain perfume is practically a time machine in liquid form. You get the idea. I don't know if I would apply the term saudade to any of them. But when I read that quote back in January, I knew exactly where that term applied.

Before. Before, back when we were all kids. Before, back when our parents worried about things and we just mosied along, learning who we were and how we fit into the world. Before I wrote this post. It's hard to believe that it's coming up on one year since the hardest months ever started (and that's counting sixth grade, which, before this, was the worst year of my life, no question). Thankfully, all has been well the past several months and will hopefully continue to be well. Fingers crossed, wood knocked upon, and wishes made on stars.

Last night was the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk. My sister's company is a sponsor of the event, and I've always donated money but never walked. This year we walked.

Mr. A-Train, prepping for the walk with a bag of cotton candy.

Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised that there was a field of tents with food and snacks and cotton candy, moon bounces, and face painting. And a lot of people.

This is just a wee smattering. So. Many. People. 

There was a small ceremony beforehand. Lanterns out, crowd only slightly noisy. A thank-you listing of sponsors and the highest fundraisers for the event. And a tear-jerking story by a mother whose very young son has leukemia. For that the crown hushed. Except for a few sniffles. And then the crowd lit their lanterns. Gold lanterns for those who lost their fight. White for those who are in the midst of their fight or who are survivors (my sissie Rachel!!). And red for those walking to show their support for someone with a blood cancer.

Again, just a little bit of the whole thing. I like to imagine that the entire thing was visible from space.

It was chilly out, but that passed quickly as we got walking. We were right near the start of the trail, so we were at the head of the line. It quickly grew quite dark, except for hundreds and hundreds of lanterns bobbing along in the darkness.

I don't know what time the last of the walkers got started, but when we were looping back around they were still heading out (on the mile and a half trail). And the pace was a decent clip. I couldn't get any good shots on my camera as I didn't want to stop too long, so all my photos look like squiggly colored lines (thank you, sister Alicia, for letting me use your pics!!).

Normally I eschew these kinds of affairs. I figure that it's money they need, so I donate a nice amount and consider it a job well done. But I learned a bit of something this year. Money doesn't solve everything. But love, support, positive vibes, and a kick-butt attitude can work wonders. Afterwards we went out for a late dinner, and had quite the pleasant time. It was just a small group of us but it was a cozy ending to a really fabulous evening. I use the term 'fabulous' relatively, as it was quite a somber thing to think of why we were all there in the first place.

Just because. 

**(quoted from this article by Emma Kate Codrington).

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Months ago I bought a crepe paper poppy kit. It was on clearance at Joann's for just a few dollars, but it's the exact same as this set on Amazon. I was overtaken by a sudden whim to put them together, in that Shia LaBeouf sort of way. So I did. And now I have nine gigantic poppies. I should have ten, but some of the papers stuck together and I didn't realize it until the end and then felt kind of "Eh whatevs." So nine.

I need to fluff them up a little bit more, but they sure do add a nice pop of color.

I think it took me about ten minutes to make them all. You layer up the papers, poke a screw down through the top, which screws into that green petal looking thing, which pops onto the stem. Finito.

Poppies have become a symbol of remembrance for soldiers who have died during wartime (In Flanders Fields). Last year, in the moat surrounding the Tower of London, was the beautifully sad (in the most poetic way) art installation of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red in commemoration of the centennial of the start of World War I. Here in the States poppies are probably most popular for putting Dorothy and her friends to sleep in The Wizard of Oz, unless you've seen the 'Buddy Poppies' made by veterans for fundraising purposes:

I remember seeing these when I was younger and not knowing what they were for (but had adults who certainly knew to explain it to me). I'm pretty sure that kids today would have absolutely no clue the meaning behind this simple flower, and I wonder if their parents would either... As Veterans' Day nears I'm going to look a little more pointedly to see if I notice these anywhere.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Sore Fingers Wreath

Fall has been teasing us with cooler temperatures, but I'm not convinced it's here to stay. The past week, however, has been chilly, wet, windy, and a bit lethargy-inducing. I've also been fighting off a cold/sinus infection/possible allergies, so I haven't felt much like doing anything. However, with a proper cup of tea, some crafting supplies, and a pot of gravy and meatballs simmering away with that amaaaaazing aroma filling the air (seriously--Yankee should sign a contract with my mother to get that scent into a candle), I felt a little like pottering around at the kitchen table.

A few weeks ago my mom came home from the dollar store with these stiff but gauzy leaves that had a little bit of sparkle on them just because she felt like we could use them for something. I've been wanting to make a burlap wreath for a while so I bought a wreath form (like this one) and a roll of jute/burlap ribbon (like this), found some pipe cleaners, and set to. After what was waaaaay longer than the ten minutes this video said it should take, I had a cute fall wreath for the back door. I also had very sore fingers, glitter everywhere, and a full swear jar.

I bought a ten yard roll of burlap, and had just enough for this wreath. Like that perfect amount that rarely happens kind of enough. I used pipe cleaners (cut into three) to secure it better ever few inches, and took care to fluff it and arrange it how I liked (which is probably what took so long).

The bow is actually a piece of silk (not the expensive stuff, but the stuff I think might be polyester masquerading as silk even though the website says silk) that I had bought for another project but never used. It's not something I would use for anything (and there wasn't much of it anyway) so I tied it on here and trimmed it, and it worked a charm.

I didn't plan anything, so getting the leaves on was a bit of a hack job. I am very against hot glue as I usually burn myself with it and inhale glue strings, so I took the stems and pushed them under the wire of the frame. It was pretty tight with the burlap in there, so I'm confident it will hold. The burlap ploofs right back into place to conceal it all.

So that's it. I feel like I haven't made anything for a long while, but I always start to feel very inspired when the cooler weather descends so we'll see. I'm off to try and finish a pair of socks that just do not want to exist.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Giveaway Winner!!

Hello you lovely people! I wanted to announce the giveaway winner before I forget (which I find myself doing a lot, lately). I've got the package all ready to go once I have the winner's address, so without further ado (someone tried to tell me once that it's 'without further adieu.' It took me two other people and about fifteen minutes to explain why that was not the case)...OK, ahem. Without further ado, this is the winning comment:

Lori, I'm going to send you an email but if you see this before you see that let me have the address you'd like these shipped to and I'll get them out to you right away.

Thank you all for your delightful comments. I really wish I had piles and piles of fabric to ship to each of you. BUT while we wait for that day to come, if you fancy some crafty doo-dads I've done a shop update recently, and have lots of baggy fixins' in there for decent prices. Use coupon code CLEAROUT for ten percent off of everything until October 3rd.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...