I took a break from my gigantic Slipstravaganza blanket, well, because I just need one. It’s up to about 900 stitches per round (true story) so it needed a timeout, or rather, I needed a break from the endless slog. I have cast-on-itis, but I have so many projects on the needles in various stages that I have to exercise some self-control.
Meanwhile, my cousin announced an impending new arrival, which, of course, means baby knitting. I broke my self-imposed project limit, because babies knitting doesn’t count. There’s a finite timeline for that kind of project, ya know? So, I narrowed down some patterns on Ravelry with similar attributes and let G-Man pick amongst the final contenders. Here’s what we got:
Yarn: Yarn Bee Soft & Sleek Solids in the Viridecent colorway (I used about 2.75 skeins).
Needles: US 10/5.0mm
Notes and Mods: I totally forgot to start my project page in Ravelry, but I know I CO more stitches because the pattern, as is, comes out narrower than I would like, per other knitters’ project notes. I looked through other projects, and I’m pretty sure I CO at least 130 stitches. As for length, I just kept knitting until I thought I was getting close to the size I wanted, then continued out the current pattern repeat before moving to the final steps. This pattern is both written and charted, fyi. Overall, beautiful, easy pattern, especially for a freebie. I pinned the completed blanket out with my Knit Blockers and aggressively steam blocked it to “kill” the acrylic. Sending this off to my cousin, then it’s back to the blanket of doom.
I really enjoyed Paperback Crush. It’s a deep dive retrospective of the teen fiction novels I devoured in the ’80s and ’90s. Divided up into a thematic approach, it explores the evolution of popular teen fiction and the history of the most iconic series. While it primarily focuses on the titular decades, the author has done her research and mentions how certain themes can be tracked back through the decades. Just browsing the classic artwork brought back memories, and the author’s humorous and sometimes wry tone made it a fun read.
Overall, pure nostalgia made me buy it, but I’m glad I did. Series like The Baby-Sitters Club and Fear Street made me catch the reading bug, which I still have today.
Nonfiction–Hooked by Sutton Foster
This book is basically a memoir from Broadway and television star Sutton Foster. It follows her extensive career and travels as a rising stage talent to mother and TV star, while also describing the tumultuous relationship with her problematic agoraphobic mother. While she does incorporate how her crafting projects served as touchstones throughout her personal journey, this book is still very much a memoir at its core, with crafting as thematic tool for the stories. Overall, it was a good read, but I was already familiar with and a fan of the author. Because it’s mainly a memoir with crafting as an ancillary topic, it could be misleading if you don’t read the jacket or reviews.
Nonfiction–Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off
I’d say this book is solidly for knitters. It’s a fun, whimsical and funny look at the knitting community, including how specifically diverse, strange, and neurotic we can be. As a prolific knitter who fits many of the author’s descriptions, I found it to be an entertaining, lighthearted read. So, if you are a knitter, it’s great. If not, it’s not for you (unless you live with a knitter and need a guidebook to our world).
Fiction–The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
This novel brings together a diverse cast of characters as they take a cooking class at a local restaurant. The chapters focus on their backstories, while weaving together the lessons from the class into their personal journeys and future goals. It’s beautifully descriptive, and a short, easy read if you like novels with food/cooking as a backdrop to the story. I will say that, while I enjoyed this one, I was slow to finish it. I appreciated it as a whole, but it was more of a pickup-putdown read for me.
So, there’s the recap (excluding the trashy romance novels that get me through carpool). That puts a respectable start to my embarrassingly tall TBR pile, I hope.
I picked up my four exhibits from the State Fair today, and clearly I’m happy as a clam with the results. However, this year has been bittersweet. Compared to years past, I saw much lower participation in all of the categories, not to mention that the fair itself had a whole lot of open space due missing vendors/rides etc. I know it’s a sign of the current times, but I miss seeing the variety of talents from the exhibitors. Anyway, here’s a recap of the projects:
My Let’s Boogie sweater won first place in the miscellaneous knitted garment category.
My Swing Left socks won first place in knitted socks.
If you’ve never looked into competitive exhibitions at your local fair, it’s definitely worth checking out. From canning and quilting to photography and woodworking, there are so many ways to participate. It’s a great way to learn more about your community, and get some inspiration, especially if you are a maker.
Now, I guess it’s time to start brainstorming for next year.
So, we survived the first nine weeks of school, but getting back into the routine was not without it’s challenges. I did not miss getting up earlier and spending nearly two hours of my day in the carpool line one bit. However, everyone is back to their respective routines and that’s given me some welcome knitting time. So, here’s a round-up of what’s on the needles, in the queue, and what I’m stalking.
First, I fell in love with the Slipstravaganza blanket from Stephen West, and immediately ordered the kit from his shop. I love that it’s knit in the round and the play on textures, and it’s going to be an awesome FO if I actually conquer this beast of a project. I’ve made it to the bubbles section, and I’m hoping to finish it by year’s end.
I still have a Vanilla is the New Black second sock languishing on the needles. Every time I’m determined to finish it, a new pattern or project lures me away. It WILL become mandated car knitting, so I can stop procrastinating.
As for future knitting, I am going to have to declare the coming months a stash-only, queue-clearing affair. As I was cleaning my closet out last night, I have no less than 8 projects with the yarn kitted up and ready to go, including The Shift cowl:
As for holiday knitting, I don’t foresee gifting any knits this year. I already made hats for the neighbors, baby gifts for another neighbor, and a baby blanket for my cousin this year, so my knitting mojo has swung back into selfish territory. Now, if I can just stay out of the yarn shop…
Yarn: Loops & Threads Impeccable in the Forest colorway
Needles: US 10
Notes/Mods: This is an easy lace pattern, but you do need to realize that on two of the pattern rows, the stitch markers will change positions. I steam-blocked this to set the lace since the yarn is 100% acrylic. Probably my favorite baby blanket to date, and it the recipient loved it (they even passed it around at the shower). Overall, very happy with this project.
My cousin is about to have her first baby, which of course, means baby knitting! I rarely knit for others anymore, but babies are always the exception. I got the shower invitation and went to work, finishing just under the wire. I also managed to burn through my binge-watching queue while I was at it, so I need to find a new show for my knitting time.
I really prefer Berroco Comfort yarn when knitting baby stuff, but my LYS was closed and I HAD to get started with that tight timeline. While Impeccable yarn would not have been my first choice, it blocked well, and it felt much better knitted up to me than the Snuggly Wuggly yarn (also a Loops & Threads yarn) I used on a previous baby blanket.
Whelp, now, it’s back to the UFO pile, because I need to stop starting projects until crap gets finished. I current have 4 projects on the needles, which is just too much. But, I confess, I have a severe case of “start-itis” going, so we shall see.
Yarn: Hat 1–Loops & Threads Cozy Wool in the Pewter and Earth Tones Colorways. Hat 2–Lion Brand Thick & Quick in the Slate and Dusk Colorways.
Needles: US 11 and US 13
Notions: Buttons and faux fur poufs.
Notes: Cute hat pattern but executing the lotus stitch made my hands ache. If you have a larger head, this may fit a little smaller than expected.
Pattern: The Eternal Hearts Beanie
Yarn: WeAreKnitters Petite Wool in the Ivory and Spotted Pink Colorways
Needles: US 8 and US 9
Notions: Button and faux fur pouf
Notes: This came out way smaller than expected. I didn’t swatch, so it could be a gauge issue. However, the pattern is easy and well-written. I ended up giving it to a neighbor who has two small children.
The dreary grey days continue here in Louisiana, and I want to spend all of my time knitting allllll of the things. The endless Bernie mitten memes certainly do not helping matters, and my to-be-knit pile grows by the week. I miss hanging out at my local yarn store, knitting and chatting with our colorful group of north Louisiana knitters, but I’m still cranking out projects regardless.
Yarn: Loops & Threads Charisma in the Denim colorway
Needles: US 10.5
Notions: a detachable (snap) fake fur pouf from my LYS
Notes: I whipped this up for G-Man’s girlfriend, because she is definitely knit-worthy. I’ve made several Snappy Hats, as they are good for quick gifts. I used the craft store yarn because I’m pretty sure a college student doesn’t have time to hand-wash and dry knitted garments in their dorm room.
Yarn: Lion Brand Thick & Quick in the Denim colorway
Needles: US 13
Notes: I made the 14/15 size, and for reference, Bean is almost 9, so she has room to grow into it. She suddenly fell in love again with the now too-small red Azel pullover I made when she was 4, so I whipped this one up last week. She loves it, wears it constantly, so I’d call it a success.
Yarn: Lion Brand Thick & Quick in the Denim colorway
Needles: US 13
Notions: fake fur pouf (elastic attachment), button for the pouf
Notes: I had leftover yarn from the Azel Pullover, so I knit up this hat in a couple of hours while binge-watching Bridgerton on Netflix. It only took half a skein, so I will probably make another for her friend.
Notes: I made the Hubs a quick scarf, despite the fact that he’s not really a “scarf guy” per se. However, I promise, if it gets as cold again as it did a couple of weeks ago, I promise you he will come around. Easy pattern, and 2 skeins provided plenty of length.
So, those are a few of the projects I’ve finished over the past few weeks. I have at least five new projects I want to cast on, but I also need to address some languishing WIPs are outstanding, as well as a few I already have “kitted up” into project bags. Somewhere in there, I need to make some forward progress on the new needlepoint stocking for Bean.
I’ve been knitting up a storm lately, so here’s what’s off the needles.
Pattern: Fantastitch by Stephen West (available for purchase on Ravelry)
Yarn: WalkCollection Bliss in the Stone, Volcanic Sand, Artic Wolf, Limestone, Dutch Sky, and Birch Tree Colorways
Needles: US 4
Notes: No mods on this one. It is one of my favorite projects, even if it took me FOREVER. But that’s because this thing is huge! It’s about 9 feet from point to point, hence my need for G-Man to model it for me. As always with Stephen’s patterns, it was clear and easy to understand, and though I did not need them, he usually has tutorial videos on certain techniques. Overall, thumbs up on this project.
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces String Quintet in the Blueberry Cobbler colorway set
Needles: US 4
Notes: I’ve had this yarn languishing in my stash for years. It came from the now-defunct YarnBox, and I could never figure out what to do with it. When I saw this pattern, I knew it would be perfect for this yarn. The pattern is very easy and well-written. I think my only complaint is the nylon content and high twist of the yarn did not produce as smooth of a fabric as I prefer. Bean loves it so I am forseeing her “borrowing” it quite a bit.
Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in the Highland Fleece, Earth Ivy, Spring Ice, and Midnight Sea colorways
Needles: US 6 and US 7
Notes: This has been a popular pattern for years and I finally decided to work it up. It’s my first attempt at stranded colorwork, and a good starting project to learn the techniques. (If you are hesitant about colorwork, it’s easier than you think. I avoided it for years, and now feel silly). This yarn is an excellent choice for colorwork because the fibers really encourage the stitches to “stick” together. Easy pattern as well.
Pattern: Swing Left Socks by Just Run Knit Designs
Yarn: Little Skein the the Big Wool’s House Sock in the Swing Left colorway
Needles: US 1
Notes: I bought the Sock the Vote kit from Little Skein in the Big Wool (Anne) back in 2016. I saved it for this year and worked on them when we travelled a couple of times. Forgive the pic. It’s not easy to take a picture of a sock on your own foot. I wasn’t a big fan of the German short row heel technique, but that’s because I don’t think I was grasping it with the way it was worded. If you already have a sock heel construction you prefer, it would be easy to sub it in. I enjoyed finally knitting myself some socks, much to my husband’s complaint. He loves handknit socks, but his giant Neanderthal feet make me feel like I am in a sock knitter’s hell.
So there’s the update on the knitting front. I am taking a break from some current projects/plans in order to knock out a few knits for Christmas gifts. My son’s girlfriend is definitely knit-worthy, so I’m hoping to knock out some mittens and a hat for her. I may or may not whip up some gifts for neighbors, but I do know I need a break from fingering-weight projects. I could go for some more instant-gratification projects. Time for some cozy movies and cozy projects.
I was scrolling through my photos this weekend, hoping to clean up my phone storage, and came across this pic of G-Man. He presented a lecture at a local conference, just a week before everything went to hell in Louisiana. It was a bittersweet moment, finding this photo, because things have changed so much such a short time. Louisiana has been hit especially hard by this crisis, and we continue to adapt to a way of life that seems so incredibly foreign and surreal.
I can’t really compain about the quarantine. As a knitter, crafter, reader, and cook, I’m never, ever bored. I have enough yarn, needlepoint projects, craft vinyl, fabric, and embroidery projects to last for years, and my to-be-read pile of books will barely have a dent in it by the time this crisis is over. Yes, I do get tired of cooking, and miss date nights with the Hubs, but I I’ve been challenged to be more thoughtful and intentional about meal planning during this time of scarcity.
While social media has it’s drawbacks, being able to stay connected with my friends and family is what makes this situation less of a challenge. We share silly memes and jokes full of pandemic humor, because a good laugh reduces stress. But even as we stay connected, I still feel the sting of how this quarantine impacts things that are trivial in comparison to the situation at hand, but still carry with them sadness just the same. We celebrated Bean’s birthday, and while she remained as positive as ever, I know she was disappointed about missing her planned trip to the amusement park. Bear turns 16 this week, and all he wanted was to eat at his favorite restaurant, which is clearly a no-go. So many of our favorite places have closed and it remains to be seen if they will be able to reopen when this crisis ends. So, a milestone birthday will feel just like any other day, even if we do our best to celebrate at home. We couldn’t even get his gift shipped due to overseas manufacturing shutdowns.
Most of all, watching G-Man’s senior year end like this has been especially difficult. Both senior prom and his graduation ceremony look doubtful, and the the huge party we planned and our first international vacation will not happen. He also missed signing day at his future college, because they had cancel all on-campus events.
Despite these small disappointments, the Heathens have been amazingly understanding. They 100% get the magnitude of what is happening, and know we all have to do our part to flatten the curve. When I start to let the stress of these strange times get to me, or when I want to tear my hair out while attempting to homeschool, I also take a breath and focus on gratitude. These are miniscule drops in a bucket in comparison to the proverbial hurricane so many others face right now, as well as the real sacrifices being made by those most impacted by this pandemic.
Changing directions, progress surprisingly continued on the pool project:
The construction company decided they had to proceed, because once they dug the hole and placed the rebar, they deemed the project too much of a danger to leave in that state. Hopefully, they can continue soon, but at least we aren’t facing severe threats of erosion or unintended impalement anymore.
If you have been following my Instagram, I have been posting frequent dinner pics as I try to make the most of our pantry and freezer. Last week, I made a brisket from See You on Sunday by Sam Sifton, and turned the leftovers into nachos, tacos, and shredded BBQ beef with hash brown casserole.
Then, I made a mini-Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and dressing and sides, and used the leftovers to make Turkey a la King with stuffing waffles, and finally turkey noodle soup. My friend created a Facebook group specifically devoted to quarantine cooking ideas, and between that and posting on Instagram, we are all trying to share inspiration as we think outside of the box.
What a difference a week makes. So much changed so quickly, and like the rest of you, we are doing our best to adapt. No, I’m not making cute, color-coded homeschooling schedules, or using this “opportunity” to clean out my closet Martha Stewart style. If you are a Pinterest supermom, more power to you. We are just taking each day that is in front of us and making the best of it.
Other than a solo trip to the grocery store, the Heathens and I have not left the house since March 13tth. Though the older kids thought I was being a bit harsh by not letting them go see their friends, the changes over the past week have demonstrated to them why I took social distancing very seriously. First, I want to protect their health, but I also explained to them that I am in the high-risk category. I almost died of a respiratory illness that progressed to severe pneumonia as a child, and even after I got out of the hospital, I still had to have in-home care and rehabilitation. I would never wish that experience on anyone, so beyond our own bubble, we need to stay home to help our community and nation turn the tide on this terrible pandemic. My husband is still working, but continues to practice aggressive social distancing as well.The first week of at-home school was an adjustmenet. The teachers in our area literally had one hour to pull together the materials for the students and come up with a fast plan. Between daily online class and the remaining work, Bean and I are spending about 4 hours a day on school, not including independent reading. The boys are in high school, and are able to manage themselves. However, my friends with multiple elementary-age kids in different grades are struggling to juggle it, most especially those still having to work. Regardless, I admire Bean’s teacher for her dedication and the effort she is putting in to make this situation work for the students. I swear, if we ever we had the opportunity to push through legislation for teacher pay raises, it would pass with flying colors the week the kids go back to school. Luckily, this week is our spring break, so we all have a chance to regroup.
As far as the emotional climate, our kids are pragmatic. They watch the news and understand the gravity of the situation. We are honest with them, and they get that our community as a whole is worried. This situation is a marathon not a sprint. However, we combat anxiety with practicality. We are ok, we are taking commonsense measures to protect ourselves and others, and we’ll get through this. I think the hardest part for my Louisiana community is the isolation. We can handle tornados, hurricanes, and being robbed of the Super Bowl #stillbitter, but we handle those things by banding together. The Cajun Navy loads up the boats, we gather, we feed one another, we volunteer, or we just spend time with our neighbors. It’s one thing to go through something stressful, but going through it in isolation makes it just a we bit tougher. But you know what? The drive-thru daquiri shops are still open! Gotta find the silver lining somewhere, right?
If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been posting pics of our meals and other cooking adventures. Over the next week or so, I’m going to be posting some easy recipes, or ideas for making the most of what’s in the pantry. We all could use some inspiration while adapting to this temporary normal.
On the knitting front. I have enough stash to last, not to mention needlepoint and 100 other crafting projects to keep me occupied when I’m not being the worst homeschool teacher in the world. I just cast on Fantastitch by Stephen West, as well as a baby blanket for my grandnephew. The one thing I can say about our time in quarantine is that I won’t be complaining of boredom any time soon.
*photo credit Stephen West *
So, in an effort to spread a little joy, I giving away a free downloadable copy of the Fantastitch pattern via Ravelry code. If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern, leave a comment about what you are doing to stay occupied during quarantine. I’ll draw for the winner this Friday! In the meantime, stay sane, my friends!