Snow Day!

We awoke to snow this morning. Yay! I’ve been waiting and wanting some, what we call here in Maine, “measurable snow” and today we are getting it! Since it’s January 20th, let’s say that it’s about time!

When the local schools in Waterville are closed, our classes at the Yardgoods Center are canceled. We have a mostly older customer base and none of us should be out and about in this weather unless we absolutely have to … today is a snow day. The store is closed and classes were canceled. I’m putting my snow day to good use and after I had coffee and a muffin with my dear hubby, I went upstairs into my atelier.

On Wednesday I decided to make microwaveable (corn) heating pads. I’ve had the supplies on the floor of my studio for a year. When the kids came last winter to go skiing, they were a bit achey after their skiing and they used all of the warming things in our house. One in particular, they all liked best. So … I measured the one made by my friend Judy and bought the muslin, flannel and corn to make one for each of the kids. Wednesday I ironed and cut the fabrics and then sewed two of the sides and was ready to fill them and finish them up when I realized that the corn was either moldy or dirty.

Off to the kitchen I took all eight pounds of bagged corn and I cleaned it in bleach water to kill any surviving whatever might have been on it. It was powdery but dry and I am not sure what it was but I am sure, now, that the corn I’m putting into the bags is clean and won’t send something gross out into the air that they breathe when they microwave the bags to warm them up.

Today I brought the washed, dried and baked corn back up into my studio and filled the three bags and sewed up the final side. Ta done! Three microwavable corn-filled heating pads. I have more fabric to make three more but I didn’t buy enough corn. Each of the kids will get one this time and I’ll get three more made for the summer when we go to the beach.

Task number two was to make a heart pillow for daughter number 2 who lost her beloved pup Willow just after Thanksgiving. When we were in NY for Christmas, she asked if I could make a heart pillow out of Willow’s jacket. I am touched that she trusted me to do that for her.

Earlier this week, I cut out a heart shape to use as much of the fleece jacket that I could and pinned the sides together (right sides facing) in preparation to sew them up and stuff it.

At this point in the day I went downstairs to probably clean the corn and while the corn was soaking in bleach water, I decided to make some cranberry water that I’d seen a recipe for online. The cranberries were in my freezer for a year and it was time to do something with them. I had thawed them and just has to blend them with water and strain them. While blending them, the blender (it was overfull, I admit) leaked cranberry water all over the counter. I strained the water and when I was cleaning up I inadvertently switched the blender on and metal piece on the base was too close to my thumb … what a bloody mess I made. Some days … !

I cleaned up my thumb, cleaned up the mess and retreated to my studio for a few minutes of stupid TV and to hold my thumb up over my heart so it would stop bleeding.

Today I finished the pillow and I hope my daughter loves it as much as I love her. It’s far from perfect, I’m not a professional sewer by any imagination but it’s stitched with lots of love. I unstitched the tag from the jacket and put it into the seam so it sticks out as a reminder of what it was. I also preserved the spot where my daughter sewed a tear in the jacket by hand to remind her of how much she loved her pup and the memory of the hole, maybe, too. I’ll deliver it when I go to NY next.

I have been knitting and since this is technically a knitting blog, I should report on my progress. I have been making slow progress with my Emsworth. I’ve picked up the front shoulder stitches, and am working my way down the front. I’ve reached where the increases under the arms are and pretty soon I think I’ll be knitting all the way around the body. I’m enjoying the lace pattern and I love the charcoal gray colorway of the Patagonia yarn. It’s a bit tricky for my “old eyes” to see the dark yarn in the evening but I’m still working away at it.

I’ve finished black sock #1 and have reached the heel of black sock #2. Today will be a good day for me to turn the heel and pick up the gusset stitches. Black yarn really does challenge the eyes. It’s best attacked when the lighting is good and bright. Hahaha!

I also started a new project, the Stashbuster Shawl by Heather Haynes. One of my former co-workers came in in hers and I knew I had the same yarn. Since everything else I’m working on was dark colors, I cast on for this shawl so I have something to knit at the end of the day. I’m enjoying the simple, meditative knitting on this one. Mostly Garter stitch, it doesn’t take a lot of brain power (of which I have precious little at the end of the day.)

My plan for the rest of the day is to do some knitting (as my “blended” thumb will allow.) I am so left-handed that it’s tricky to do anything without my left thumb! I’ve managed to write this post and I’ll probably do some baking today or tomorrow. I found a recipe for sugar cookie bars (they’re frosted and sprinkled, yum!) and I haven’t made any granola since the batch that I took to NY at Christmas time. I might need to vacuum again, too. Don’t let anybody tell you that Labs don’t shed a LOT!

Gone knitting.

Pumpkin Hats, etc.

I’ve been working on knitting down my (sizable) stash. When a knitter talks about his/her stash, we all respond that we have bins and bins of yarn. And we do. It seems to me that we all think we have the largest stash but we likely don’t. BUT mine is sizable and I’m proud to say that I did really well to knit only from stash UNTIL I went back to work and customers started giving me ideas again.

This is the yarn corner of my atelier. I had the shelf (and a matching one on the other side of the window holds my knitting books and fabric in the cupboard. Sadly, I have three Ikea shelf sets that also hold yarn. A total of about a dozen fabric boxes in addition to my built-ins. It’s a good sized collection … and I like to think that it adds to the r-value of our home.

Anyway … I digress. I have been trying to knit down my stash so that when I die my children won’t have to deal with it. Partly because they don’t have a clue as to its value. At the end of the year, I dumped out all of the little bins and boxes and went through the yarn to try to cull some that I knew I wouldn’t be knitting with – not ever. I also noticed some that I could knit up and get out. One of those was the Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece that I have had forever (or the last time I had fall babies to knit for.) I knew that this yarn had to be a pumpkin hat for my great-nephew-to-be who is due in September and who will live in Salem, MA. A perfect gift for a Salem baby.

So, last week I cast on and knit the smallest size pumpkin hat. I had forgotten how cute the hat is and how little yarn those tiny hats use. I had a significant amount still left. Surely, I thought, I can use it all up if I make a medium-size pumpkin hat, right? This weekend I cast on again and am nearly finished with pumpkin hat number two. And guess what? I have a feeling I have enough for a third hat, too. The extra hats will go into my gifts drawer or maybe I’ll have a giveaway on my Instagram page. I haven’t done that for a long time.

The Fiber Trends Patrick’s Pumpkin hat is really one of my favorite patterns. It’s a clever construction with a “shark tooth” piece done up first in garter stitch and then added to a rolled brim. When the hat is finished and blocked you can tack the pieces to that they stay in the right spot. The pumpkin part is so simple and yet so obviously a large orange gourd and it makes a great gift for a fall baby’s arrival. Especially in New England.

Cotton Fleece yarn by Brown Sheep is what I have always bought for this hat. I’m not sure why but it is. I love knitting with this cotton/wool blend yarn. It’s not as stretchy or squishy as full wool but for a baby’s tender head, it’s a soft but warm alternative to acrylics or acrylic blends. And we all know that cotton yarn doesn’t really hold its shape. So … this seems the perfect solution. I also love Brown Sheep because it’s an American company.

Brown Sheep was started over 100 years ago and pivoted in the 1970s when farming prices were low and the market for lamb was dropping off. The Brown family pivoted and began processing wool from their sheep and the rest is history. The Brown family (now with the last name Wells after a couple of generations of marriage) still owns and runs Brown Sheep.

I’ve made a LOT of these hats but on this last one, for whatever reason, I increased in every stitch when the color changed to orange so I had WAY more than 90 stitches. After an inch or so, when the stitches were so squished on the 16″ needle, I had a second look at the pattern and kept knitting. After two inches, I pulled it out, realizing my error. Good grief. Knitting keeps me humble.

I recovered my place again last night while I was watching the Tony Awards. I’m about ready to decrease for the crown of the hat and then I’ll weigh the remaining yarn to see if I have enough for one more hat. It must be my Yankee upbringing that makes it difficult for me to “dispose” of yarn that could still be used. I hope my fingers and wrists hold up well into old age.

Gone knitting.

From the “Expert”

Anchor Sweater v.2

Because I value honesty, I want to tell you a very typical story from knitters. Beginner knitters all the way through to expert knitters. All of us have had this experience that I had today. Fortunately, I can laugh at myself. I made a rookie mistake today.

I pulled one of my UFOs out of the cupboard this week in an effort to get some old projects finished. This one is the Anchor Sweater, an intarsia sweater in a child size, by Roo Designs. I started this sweater last year when I was teaching an intarsia workshop. And once the class was over, I put the sweater away and “forgot about it” until I started a cleaning up program in the New Year.

Today I started working on the back of the sweater. My pattern says that the back needs to be knitted until it’s 16 inches long. I got knitting this morning in my class and then at lunchtime I found the back that I had knitted last year …. I should have been knitting the front! Oh, crap!

So, tonight, when I got home, I frogged back to where I started this morning and began following the chart for the anchor. And I was laughing at myself and my rookie mistake.

All of this is to say that I am not perfect. Many people might consider me an expert (I don’t think I’ll ever get there, it makes me laugh because I still learn new things about knitting all the time!) I make mistakes. Lots of them. On a regular basis. This time, here’s what I did wrong … (the idea here is for me to teach you something, right?) I put a project away without making a note on the pattern noting exactly where I stopped work. I “should” have at the very least marked my pattern with a big arrow showing where I begin knitting. If I had marked my pattern (with a big arrow?) I would have known that I’d finished the back and was working on the front.

Oh well. Gone knitting.