The Afghan Itch

Today’s post brought to you by… nap time and two cups of coffee!

Though it has been absolutely scorching this week (over 90 every day), it was pleasantly cool just over a week ago. During that week, I started to get pretty excited about fall and the impending colder weather. Fall is my favorite time of year, hands down. I love the cool air, the leaves changing color and the fun stuff we do around Halloween (which is my favorite holiday. Though many people tell me if you don’t get the day off from work, it’s not a holiday. But I say, you decorate for it…(or at least I do)…so it’s a holiday!).

The other thing fall makes me excited about is bigger crafting projects – particularly afghans – that you can cuddle up under while you’re working on it. Which leads me to the start of my first charity afghan for 2014! I say 2014, because I’m not crazy enough to believe this will be done by early November (the deadline for submissions) and because I’ve already made 3 for this year.

Now, as you know, I only crochet one blanket pattern over and over. I do mix up the colors and the placement of the stripes, but that’s it. So it’s Blue Afghan again! However, since it’s still very warm and still technically summer, I am going with a Sand and Sea theme for colors. Sand and Sea Afghan in progressBaby Knitsnips and I took an unexpected trip with my mom back to my hometown last night. My other current project (a Godric’s Hollow hat in the scrummy yarn I showed you a while ago) is hurting my hand a little with all the k3tog, so I needed an easy, mindless project to occupy me during the hour drive. I selected a few colors out of my mom’s charity yarn stash and started when we hopped in the car. I selected Caron One Pound’s Lace as the main color and Seafoam as the main accent. The blue, which I would describe as a denim blue, didn’t have a ball band any more as there was very little left from a blanket my mom made a while ago. I think I have enough to do two one-row stripes in the blue, and that’s it! I’ve already made some good progress, and I’m pleased with the color combination so far.

It was nice, if not a little strange, to go back to where I grew up after I haven’t been in two years. We ran into a few people I knew when I was younger, and they all reintroduced themselves to me, and my mom reminded them of my name, and that was all very strange since I knew who they were! The little main street looked just the same, though. We stopped at a little independently owned BBQ and ice cream shop on the way home. I love their ice cream and the topping they put on it, which is a mixture of sprinkles and nuts. I haven’t had their BBQ since I quit eating meat (maybe nearly 20 years ago now?!), but I go back every time I’m in town for the ice cream.  It was BK’s first trip to the town and the ice cream shop, though I know she will never remember that. I was a little sad to see that a restaurant my grandpa always wanted to go when he visited us had shut down and is now a pizza place. Regardless, it was worth the trip to see a dear old friend and to show our support one of my mom’s old friends. And of course, the crochet car time was a nice benefit as well.

So I’m off to take advantage of the last little bit of BK’s nap. So far, I’ve managed to write this entry and block two newly finished projects! I hope to be able to share these with you soon. Have a fabulous holiday weekend!

 

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FO: You Are My Sunshine Blanket

I am so happy to report that I have finished the Solaria Blanket!! I have renamed it the “You Are My Sunshine” blanket because the reason I loved the pattern to begin with was that it reminded me of a sun, which reminds me of my mom singing me the “You are my sunshine” song all the time when I was little. I thought it would make a very special baby blanket because of those associations.

You are my sunshine blanket - complete view

That being said, this blanket stressed me out to no end. It began with buying the yarn. I got an amazing deal on this Universal Yarn’s Classic Chunky in Mulberry from the clearance section of Jimmy Beans Wool. I did the math for yardage from the pattern, and it said I needed 6.87 skeins. I ordered 7, and about two hours later, had a panic attack that I hadn’t ordered more. I planned to call the next day to ask if an additional skein or two could be added to my order before it shipped. I didn’t get around to it that day, and the next day as I was planning to call, I received my shipment!

Being too cheap to pay another $4 shipping when the yarn was only $2.50 a skein, I thought I would knit the blanket really quickly and see how the yardage was holding out. As we all know, that plan didn’t work out, since I had to rip out 3,400 stitches, rejoin the blanket and basically start over.

I checked Ravelry to see the two completed projects. Both showed using far less yarn than I had, and used size 10 needles. I desperately changed to size 10s from my 10.5s somewhere in the 60s of the chart (the chart goes to row 94) in hopes of squeezing out just a little bit more out of what I had.

By last week, I was certain I was going to run out of yarn. I went to bite the bullet and order more, only to find it was sold out. I started calling all of the local stores that carried Universal Yarns, and no one carried Classic Chunky. One website I found from a Google search said the color was discontinued (now the clearance thing was making so much sense!). I boldly (and crazily) proclaimed to my knitting group that if I ran out of yarn I was going to tear out the whole blanket, as I couldn’t bear the thought of having a weird patch of different yarn in the middle. Since the construction is from the outside in, I couldn’t just go until I ran out and bind off.

This weekend, I determined there were a couple of rows that I could remove from the chart  near the center that I didn’t think anyone would notice. I ended up omitting rows 78, 79, 82, 83 and 87. On Sunday, I finished the blanket!

The final numbers were:

  • I had 917 yards of yarn for a blanket that called for 900 yards. 
  • I had approximately 6.5 yards left after finishing the blanket.
  • This made me think I could have maybe finished those fairly short five rows I omitted – but I certainly was not going to rip it out and redo it to find out! Besides, I don’t think you can tell.
  • My final blanket diameter is approximately 44”.

Close-up of You are my sunshine blanket

I was initially a little unsure of how much I was liking this blanket, as the cables weren’t as smooth and crisp as I wanted them to be. However, after finishing the whole blanket and seeing it overall, I was enamored. It’s beautiful!

I also used the Russian Join for the first time. I came across this video on Knitting Help’s Twitter feed the day I was ripping out the blanket. I felt like it was meant to be to help me save as much yarn as possible, so I did this for every join in my blanket. It was great to only have two ends to deal with at the end! I will use this for all future projects using non-wool/non-felting yarns.

This is a machine washable yarn, and I gave it a run through the washer on hand wash/wool, put it in the dryer for a damp dry, and pinned it out for a light blocking. It didn’t make much difference to the appearance or size, but the yarn did wash very well. I’ve also never machine washed anything I’ve made except a dishcloth, so when it came out of the washer still in one piece, I was amazed and thankful!You are my sunshine blanket on chair

I feel like I have a million things to say about this blanket and pattern, so if you want more than you’ve already read (which I can’t imagine!), check out my Ravelry project page.

So, despite all the stress during the creation of this blanket, I love it! I’ve been going into the other room to visit it occasionally, just to appreciate that it’s done, I’m happy with it, and I did not have to put a weird spot in the middle of it.

Full of hope

Last week, I was full of hope that spring was around the corner. I even told my Uggs as I pulled them on one day that it was probably their last outing of the season, so enjoy it while it lasts. I went out on Saturday without a coat (which turned out to be ill-advised – the wind was still quite brisk). I even welcomed DST and the change to have more evening sunshine. With it still sunny at 7:00, I longed to be out on our patio having ice cream despite the chill still in the air.

But then it snowed. And it is still snowing. It’s not coating the ground, but it’s there just the same.

Springing forward for Daylight Saving Time does not usually bother or affect me at all. Though I am a Hoosier who didn’t change time for most of my life, I felt like I adjusted well. And I’m not one of those types who wants to endlessly discuss if we’re on the right time, or if we should change back or change to something else (which strangely is what our legislators seem to want to continue to discuss – it’s a waste of time to do that! – get it?). I’m happy the way we are. But for some reason, this time change has really messed up my sleep cycle and made me a little bit grouchy. At least, that’s what I’m blaming it on.

It may also be this Solaria blanket. I’m pretty sure I’m going to run out of yarn. And I bought it on sale and it’s a discontinued colorway and there is no way I’m going to be able to get any more. This blanket has almost given me a stroke anyway – as you’ll remember, I’ve already ripped out and redone about 3,400 stitches. There are only two completed projects on Ravlery, and both used considerably less yarn than I have. They used size 10 needles, and I’m using 10 1/2 (because that’s what the pattern called for), but I didn’t think that could make the difference of 150 yards – but maybe so? – who am I to say that? I am knitting on with all of my fingers and toes crossed that I can make it to the finish line without having to do some weird yarn and color switch in the middle.

Regardless, I am feeling quite restless this week. I’ve found myself watching reruns on TV that I’m not even that interested in. I felt bad this morning as I was watching an old episode of Doctor Who (this one, if you’re interested), even though I remembered the ending, and even though I’d told Mr Snips last night I didn’t want to watch old episodes on DVD. I don’t think I’m the only one who does that though, am I? I’ll watch things just because they’re on TV, even though I own them and can watch it on demand anytime. It’s like sitting through a movie with all the commercials, even though you have it on DVD and haven’t watched in it five years. I wonder why that is?

I’ve also been watching Castle reruns, but I’ve been trying to limit myself to the ones where I don’t remember who did it. My general rule of thumb is that the shorter Beckett’s hair is, the less likely I am to remember what happened. I do find that I remember a surprising number of details, which makes me feel a bit bad about what I’m using my brain for. What would I be capable of if I didn’t have to store who the fictional bad guy was and how the fictional writer and his fictional cop friends will figure it out?

Here’s hoping to a more positive end to the week, and to this blanket. I’ll be back soon to share a nice FO with you (which will not be the blanket. :-))

The best gifts

My birthday was last week, and I had a fantastic time seeing family, eating a lot, and partaking in cake. I managed to spread it out for a good few days, which is definitely the way to do it! I also ended up with a few neat presents I wanted to share with you.

First of all, from my dear friend Sarah (of Sir Ted fame), I received a Harry Potter-themed knitting bag!! Two of my favorite things in one! It says “Accio Needles,” which for those of you unfamiliar with HP, would be the spell to summon your knitting needles to you. I always tell Mr Snips that’s the spell I’d like to be able to do the most, since I could just sit on the couch and summon things to me without having to get up. Or, sometimes summon things I’ve managed to leave at home while I’m out and about (can you imagine being able to summon your cell phone to you when you’ve left it at home? awesome.).

Accio Needles bag and blanket in progress

Right now, this beautiful bag is holding a blanket’s worth of Universal Yarn Classic Chunky yarn in Mulberry. It is destined to be a Solaria blanket. It’s a pattern I added to my Ravelry favorites back in early October and seriously considered purchasing the pattern then. I waited though, and somehow my husband was totally tuned in and purchased the book for me that the pattern is featured in! Since I know he doesn’t know how to get to my Ravelry favorites, I think it was very serendipitous that he bought Comfort Knitting & Crochet: Babies & Toddlers for Christmas.

It was all feeling so meant to be that I was super excited about casting on this week. The pattern recommended casting on to a 30” circular needle. You knit two rows flat, then join in the round, and begin the cable pattern. Since you start from the outside (416 stitches!), this had the yarn so bunched up on the cord that I could barely see it. Since I was using interchangeable needles, I put my knitting onto a 40” cord. It was still pretty bunched up, but a little better. I then tried to flatten it out to make sure it wasn’t twisted and then joined. I started knitting my cable pattern happily. After about 8 rows, I got suspicious that it may be twisted. I moved it to a joined cable of my 30” and 40” together, and realized with a sinking heart that it was twisted. I then began the painful process of pulling out about 3,400 stitches on Wednesday. There is a morning I would not like to repeat. Once back to the two knitted rows, I put the stitches back on my now super-long needle and joined again. I’m now about six rows into the cable pattern, not quite to where I was, but I’m at least feeling a bit recovered from the pain of ripping so much out.

Knitting book presents

My last present appeared in the mail this week from my friend Uma. It’s a book called Knitted Toys. I’m still trying to decide what project to tackle from this first, since I think some of these projects could be good for using up some of my odds and ends of yarn. I’ll have to do a stash dive and see what I come up with!

Hope everyone had a wonderful week, and that you have plans for a relaxing and fun weekend!

FO: Charity Blanket #2 for 2013

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a little bit addicted to my charity afghan project this year. It’s just so easy to pick up and work on, and the pattern is so easy (Blue Afghan).

As a result, I’ve already finished two this year. And since the collection is at the beginning of November, I still have the red, white and blue one from 2012 to donate for this year. I’m pretty happy with three, since I only finished one by the deadline last year!

I used the losing color combo from our vote last year to finish up this one, since I had the yarn available.

blue, lilac and white afghan

I think it turned out really well! I’m pleased with the color combination. All three colors in this afghan are Caron One Pound, which is my favorite for these charity afghans, since it is easy care.

Since I gathered all my yarn in one place and realized how much there is, I’ve been on a mission to start knitting and crocheting my way through it quickly. I now only have two half skeins of One Pound left, which is not nearly enough to make another afghan. This means I’ll probably be taking a little break from afghans. This is good news for you, blog readers, because it means I will probably be working on quicker, smaller scale projects – which means more FOs (hopefully)!

It pains me to be a hooker.

As you’ve gathered from a couple of my posts about my charity blankets, I do dabble in the art of crochet. Just blankets, actually.

I noticed while finishing blanket #1 that the hook was really starting to hurt me. The flat part of the hook was causing me pain as it flipped back and forth between my fingers. I had seen a “comfort hook” at JoAnn’s and decided it would be worth trying that for blanket #2. Once I got to the store, I realized that the comfort hook was flat for the entire handle, which I thought would increase the pain, so I ended up purchasing a round bamboo handle hook instead.crochet hooks standing up

I took my new hook home and started to plan blanket #2. Since I’ve crocheted the same blanket every year for 6 years, I decided to mix it up a bit and create one with three colors instead of my standard two. And since it’s been a year of red, white and blue patriotism (my husband becoming a US citizen, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics in London), I decided to do the same with my blanket.

Red, white and blue for my next blanket

As you can see from the below picture, my new hook still has a flat piece in the middle, and the hook is not shaped as nicely as my original hook. I found it very difficult to handle. I was trying to hold on only to the bamboo piece, which made the hook feel too long. And the different shape of the hook made it more difficult to easily poke through the chains.

crochet hooks

I took my blanket along as a car project a couple of weekends ago. After two sessions of an hour and a bit of crocheting with the new hook, I was in intense pain. My wrist and fingers hurt intensely in a way they never have before, and nothing could easethe discomfort for hours.

So the long and short of it is that crocheting is hurting me now no matter which hook I use, but knitting is not. I’m therefore taking a blanket hiatus, so expect only knitting for a little while. Any suggestions on what I can do to ease the pain and get back to my blanket?

FO: Charity Blanket #1 for 2012

Finally! After six months, I’m proud to introduce you to the first charity blanket I’ve completed for 2012.

Charity blanket on queen bed

Here is it displayed on the queen bed in our guest room (which you may be able to gather is a London-themed room – a result of loving London myself and living with a Brit). It’s 5 feet wide and a shade past 6 feet long, which is the minimum for submissions to my charity group.

close-up of charity blanket

It’s my favorite pattern to crochet for charity: Blue Afghan. As usual, I’ve used the Caron One Pound so that it’s easy care for the recipient. I’ve used Azure and White for this blanket.

Though I make this same pattern year after year, I never get tired of knowing that it will go to a woman who has escaped a bad domestic situation with few supplies, and that it will keep her warm on her journey to her new life. It never stops being the most rewarding crafting I do, despite being the simplest pattern.

Each year, the woman who organizes the wrapping, collection and delivery of the Christmas packages sends us a letter that brings tears to my eyes. It always describes the joy when the woman realize there are presents not only for their children, but for them, too. And how many serendipitously end up with a blanket of their favorite colors. So I’m hoping this year there is a woman who will love nothing more than a light blue blanket!