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.
Just in time for the season, I finished this sweater:
Pattern: Let’s Boogie by Katie Franceschi
Yarn: Berroco Vintage DK in the Pumpkin, Banana, Cast Iron, and Mochi colorways.
Needles: US 4 and US 5
Notes and Mods: This is a cute pattern, but I ended up really disliking the neckline. Despite aggressive blocking, it tends to roll downward. If I were to make it again, I’d probably modify the cast-on and neckline. Otherwise, I really love the sweater.
As for mods, I converted this to short sleeves, considering that it’s still hot as Satan’s back porch here in Louisiana. To do so, I completed the under-bust chart for the sleeves, then knit 10 rows in white, and 5 rows 2×2 rib. I also left of the pink detailing on the ghosts’ cheeks, because I thought it would look weird with this color palette. Overall, thumbs up on this project.
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.
**Remember, my blog is not sponsored or monetized in any way. No link in my posts is an affiliate link, and these ideas are all my own. None of these companies know who I am, and all of this is crap I buy with my own dang money. I’m just not that cool, y’all**
The husband has recovered (mostly) from the ‘Rona, and through careful quarantining, the kids and I did not contract the virus. He has pretty sick there for a while, and is dealing with a lingering cough and fatigue, but we got lucky. Thanks for the well wishes.
So, as I have been shopping for the holidays and planning for the new year, I thought I pass along some of the things that I really enjoyed this year (other than the endless warmth of the 2020 dumpster fire).
I really love Knife Aid. It’s like the Netflix of knife sharpening. You pick how many you want sharpened and they send you the materials to pack up your knives and mail them in. Then, they send them back to you perfectly sharpened. It’s only about a week in turnaround time and very convenient. I have used them twice, including last month.
I love OXO containers. My pantry is out of control, and these are helping me tame the chaos. I still want more.
A bluetooth meat thermometer was game changer. Yes, I use it when smoking meat, but I also use it for so much more. For example. I used this on Thanksgiving for the turkey, which meant I could watch the temp in real time, and also not lose heat from constantly opening and closing the oven to check on the bird. I also use it for cooking roasts, prime rib, chicken and more. You can go about your day without worrying that you are going to overcook an expensive piece of meat or undercook the poultry.
I am totally OBSESSED with this one. So, it’s basically a murder-mystery subscription box you get each month, but think of it like a limited tv series with episodes. One “season” lasts a few months, or you can purchase past “seasons”/mysteries in their entirety. You get all kinds of clues and documents to investigate, but they also have cool online components to enrich the experience. We are currently working our way though the Blair Witch season and the Cadence Theater season. If you are stuck in quarantine, pouring over clues in order to catch a killer is a great way to pass the time.
I am in love with Hue-It Hand Dyed Fibers. This local-to-me Louisiana artist specializes in small-batch dying, and has an incredible portfolio of colorways. Most of her stuff sells out fast but she takes preorders if you missed out on a colorway. I recently snatched up a couple of skeins that are just waiting for the right pattern to come along.
My neighbors gifted me this book after we had a mini-Thanksgiving this summer (they are in our “pod/quarantine bubble”). This book is LEGIT cool. These recipes are not for those looking for basic pies. These guys compete around the country and their ideas are complete bananas. Favorites so far are the Strawberry Margarita Pie and the Caramel Popcorn Pie.
This cookbook was written by the founder of the Mosquito Supper Club restaurant in New Orleans. It’s beautifully shot and showcases Louisiana food traditions that are slowing being lost. If you have any interest an authentic Louisiana cuisine, this needs to be in your library.
So, my go-to recipe software, Living Cookbook quietly went out of business and has basically ghosted it’s customers. So, I spent part of the year test-driving Cook’n, MasterCook, and Paprika, which came out the clear winner. I think it was the easiest to learn/use out of the three, and with a more intuitive interface. I was able to import my Living Cookbook files, though I will say that some things did get lost in translation. I had to go back and check each recipe to correct some things that got garbled in the transfer, but the same thing happened with the other two as well. Otherwise, I’m happy using it, and very grateful for the cloud sharing ability.
This herb stripper was featured on Food Network’s The Kitchen, and host Sunny Anderson loved it so much she immediately said she was taking it home with her. I LOVE this. It strips those pesky thyme and rosemary leaves off of their stems in two seconds flat.
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.
Well, we survived Mardi Gras, but Spring as sprung, which means we are deep into pollen hell. The bright side is that, after ending up at the hospital last year for a severe allergic reaction, my allergist is my new BFF. He’s got me on a serious medication regiment that involves lots of pills, four different inhalers, and occasional breathing treatments. So, it’s still bad, but it’s not as bad as it could be. **Spoiler alert, it’s about to be.**
Meanwhile, they broke ground on the pool we are adding:
Which is exciting, but until they stop bulldozing my yard, we can’t get started building the garden. This has my husband less than pleased. He’s got the full-on itch to start planting, but I don’t see that happening for quite a while. However, we at least now know how much space we will have, which allows us to start the design process. Our last yard was tiny, so the garden was more utilitarian than anything. This time, we still want to shoot for our year-round suburban farm goals, but create a space that blends better aesthetically with the property as a whole. We are also considering dabbling in beekeeping, but that is going to require a lot more research before we know if it’s feasible for us.
Despite the yard being a construction zone, I will probably try to plant jalapenos in an out-of-the way corner because my candied jalapeno stash is officially gone. I took a jar with me (along with my plain pickled jalapenos) to serve with the chili at the Cub Scout winter camp out. They were a surprising hit. Two of the moms loved them so much, I gifted them the last of my jars. The salsa is also gone, as well as the vodka sauce, so I’m not thrilled at the prospect of no canning this summer.
Meanwhile, here are some finished knits:
Pattern: None. Just provisionally CO 110 stitches, knit until I was almost out of yarn, and grafted the ends.
Yarn: Must Stash Yarn & Fiber Perfect Must Match in the Must Stash Does Mardi Gras colorway.
Needles: US 6 and 8 for the hat, and US 4 for the romper
Notes and Mods: Love both of the patterns, although I think there are a couple of sections of the romper pattern that could use tech editing. Still got time before my great nephew is due, so I am shooting for a few more finished projects for him. **Spoiler alert–Looks like I just got a whole bunch of free time**
In other knitting news, I recently met Melissa, who is a local yarn dyer!
I had no idea we had a local dyer, and I’ve been drooling over her social media posts ever since. I snagged these when she created them exclusively for our LYS. You should seriously check out her Facebook page.
And just about the time I was finishing this post, Louisiana announced they are closing schools for 30 days. If you thought there was a run on toilet paper this week, that isn’t anything compared to what’s about to happen at the liquor store. Stay strong, my friends!
If you need me, I’ll be hiding in the bathroom, with books, yarn, copious amounts of alcohol, and Netflix. Those kids can smell fear, and but this certainly isn’t my first rodeo. #gocleanyourroom #thosewindowsneedwashing #sayi’mboredonemoredamntime
Notes and Mods: The beads on this shawl mimic the night sky as seen from the North Pole. Used silver-lined beads from Michaels and applied them using the crochet hook method. Used the circular cast on with crochet hook. Just placed bead in the loop before picking up the stitch. I also used kfb for the increases instead of M1 because its faster and easier for me. I set up the pattern in Knit Companion and used magic markers to count stitches. As this got bigger, I pre-marked bead placement on each row with removable stitch markers. Taking one minute to do that on a large row saved time counting stitches along the way and made the project portable, as it became just endless knit stitches with a bead here or there. I omitted the YO/ktog. I like the look of projects that did not better. Finally, I incorporated Stellar Waves edging instead of original border.
So, just an update on my down the rabbit hole knit-a-long that I jumped into. I have completed two more blocks for the Knitterati 2018 KAL from Cascade Yarns. If you want info on the first block, check out my previous post. Three blocks in, and I can honestly say that I really am enjoying this project. Each block pattern is released in three week increments, and they only take a few days to complete. For me, these blocks are a nice break from my larger projects, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed this. I swing back and forth between being a product versus process knitter, which only verifies the fact that I’m a selectively schizophrenic fiber artist. Any-hoo, here are the squares:
Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 2 (available for purchase on Ravelry or free to those who signed up for the KAL newsletter).
Yarn: Cascade Superwash 220 Merino in the Stonewash colorway.
Needles: US 6 and US 7
Notes and Mods: I knitted the pattern as written, and followed Cascade’s advice to pin to dimensions then spray with water to lightly block. This yarn cannot be wet-blocked on this project because it will grow like crazy. Additionally, the first block had a weird ratio of stitch versus row gauge, so I am sticking to the pin-then-spray blocking method after learning that lesson the hard way. While I am following the KAL to the “T,” I am not a fan of the border and the picked-up stitches. If I were to repeat this in the future, I would mod the pattern to do a garter or seed stitch border to create a more even finished product.
Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 3 (see previous block)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in colorway Artic Ice
Needles: US 8 (see notes and mods)
Notes and Mods: I was initially confused about the increased needle size on this block, and wondered if it was just personal gauge issue between designers but, after knitting it, I can tell you, the increased needle size is NECESSARY on this block. The lattice pattern creates more tension on the fabric, as well as the bobbles. I’m not ever going to discourage swatching, but I can tell you that the needle size difference between this and the previous blocks makes sense, so whatever gauge you are working with, take note that a larger needle will probably be necessary on this block. Otherwise, I think the pattern is cute and it’s been added to the Knitterati FO box.