Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Such a Good Mood; Your 30s are Great

Happy people can be obnoxious, but damn, I'm in such a good mood.
This month, and even moreso, this year, has been fantastic.
Anyone who tells you being 30 is no good is crankypants.

And while I have the super power of crankypants sometime (I won't lie), I'm choosing right here, right now, this post, you readers, as a internet virtual happy dance party. So share with me if you please: what are some Great Things about your 2013?

Great Things

Reaching Goals You've Set for Yourself
I made time to sit down and actually write out some goals for myself over the past year. I worked towards them, and achieved a few. There were plenty that I didn't get to, but I'm thinking that's what makes the world go round; you've got to have something to shoot for.

Spending Time with Family and Friends
I've found some of my happiest moments this year have been time with my peoples. Whether impromptu hang outs or planned parties, regular knit nights or one-off pub crawls, it's the conversation and relaxation time that I seem to remember the most and love the best.

Watching Funny Things on the Interwebs
(this list was getting way to serious).
My favourite from the last few months is the talking dog. Still gets me every time.

In the very best of ways. I've been seeing so many friends getting serious about eating healthy and being active. Those are not my favourite things; I generally avoid strenuous activity. But seeing how happy they all are with their hard work is my motivation to do the same for myself.

If we don't mark the great events and even little accomplishments in our life, it all rushes by and seems less tangible. I used to think celebrating things was silly, but have come to recognize its worth and I try my best to "make a big deal" of even little things for myself and people I care about.

Being Comfortable with Yourself 
Getting back to that "being in your 30s is rad" thing: it's true. I'm feeling at a point in my life where what other people may think of me has lost much of its hold on my mind, and I'm feeling much more free. In part, I'm sure, that also has to do with my conscious effort to consume less media, and be much more actively critical of all of it that I'm exposed to.

Discovering New Things
Who knew I'd like board games so much?  Embracing suggestions by friends and trying not to say no to things will lead to adventure, whether mild, medium, or super incredible.
I also never thought I'd like a beach vacation, but, you know, we all learn and grow.
There's also that awesome little side street I randomly walked by on a route through my neighbourhood that I never have otherwise taken. Great as a photo shoot location, and it's already provoking design ideas. Adventure!

Recognizing Where you can Wield your Super Powers
We've all got super powers.  There's stuff I can do, and be fairly sure it'll be done well. I can organize and control certain things in my life and make my world a better, less stressful place.
But a huge stress generator in my life is trying to control things that I just can't. Getting angry with situations and people and their actions where my anger is really just useless crap hurting no one but me. This is a tricky one, and I'm working on it.

I did an awful lot of that this year! Chicago, Alberta, Columbus, Rhinebeck, Cuba. I'm looking forward to visiting Indianapolis in 2014 for TNNA, and hopefully another Rhinebeck trip.

So bring it on 2014! I'm totally ready.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Indie Designer Day

Designer: Lili Aghabeik
Blog: Lilirious knits
Rav ID: lilirious
Some Great Designs: lilirious' Rav Designer Page

This week's designer, the last of the indie profiles for this year, has three really great patterns.

One: Kahjiit Cowl (pictured). I don't think I have to tell you why this is cool. But I will: cables, texture, shape, functional, awesome. Really, can't you see yourself wearing this all the time? Because I could. It's a type of knit I very much enjoy anyhow, but she's done this one up to the extreme. Love it.

Two: Autocumulus. An uber-fluffy looking, scrumptious cowl. An accessory that's a simple, quick knit, and one that you can (yet again!) get so much wear out of in the colder seasons.

Three: Erasmus. A pair of pretty armwarmers, using attractive colour combinations and the key design element of snugness (ie: these guys aren't going to roll down your arms. Good for keeping warm while typing, which can be key for those of us in office-y jobs!)

I can't wait to see what beautiful designs lilirious brings us in 2014!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Christmas Sweater

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the house,
The lady was busy knitting, quiet as a mouse.
She was not knitting stockings, she was not knitting mitts,
Instead she was knitting a man's XXXL colourwork sweater, which was driving her out of her wits.

The birds were nestled all snug in their cages,
While the lady swore intensely, and was flung into rages.
And she in her armchair, and he on his couch,
wondered why the lady was so suddenly a grouch.

When deep from her soul there arose such a groan,
that bespoke of her knowledge that she had herself to blame alone.
Embracing the fury she knit like a flash,
hoping that colourwork would flatter and not clash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
went unnoticed by her uninterrupted knitting flow.
Oh, what to her wondering mind would Christmas bring?
Success or failure, gad this wretched thing!

She did really love to knit for this dude,
even though this poem implies thoughts so crude.
The sweater would be loved, of this she was sure,
So all that internal bitching, she would push through and endure.

"Now knit, now purl, now knit and purl and repeat!
This sweater will look so great when it is complete!
I know he'll love it, I can imagine his smile,
when he opens the box, and wears it a while.

"He'll be so happy with this sweater hand knit,
No matter my rages, my cursing, my fits.
He'll take handsome pictures all snug by the fire,
With a drinky in hand, and a lady no longer filled with ire.

The story continues, my friends, it's not done,
there's a week to go, and so on with the fun.
Will she finish the sweater? Will she succeed at her task?
Or will Christmas find her at the bottom of a whisky flask?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Indie Designer Day

Designer: Leila Caroline
Rav ID: LeilaCarolineDes
Some Great Designs: LeilaCarolineDes' Rav Designer Page

Here's some pretty, and some pretty quick knits:

Leila Caroline's Shiny Happy Birthday Scarf is a beautiful, beaded stole. It has a wonderful wee bit of flare at each end, which adds even more elegance to this lovely knit.

The Puss in Boots Skirt is a cute piece, with a simple A-line and pretty lace panel along each side. It's sized for kids to pre-teens, and if you're a quick knitter, you might get it done in time for Christmas, Kwanzaa or Solstice!

Need a quick, last minute gift? Here's a couple of cute hot-water-bottle covers: Autumn Nuts and Berries and Clare's Handspun Cozy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I'm the Cookie Woman

I think I've voluntarily made enough cookies in my life that I can tack it on to my self-definition.
Indeed, I'm the Cookie Woman.

Not quite as fun (or blue) as the Cookie Monster, but certainly enthusiastic about the given foodstuff.

For evidence, I give you my Christmas baking.

  Apple Butter Thumbprint Cookies
  Applesauce Cocoa Cookies
  Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies
  Chocolate Krinkles
  Chocolate Chip Cookies
  Chocolate Orange Fingers
  Cinnamon Buns
  Coconut Dreams
  Coffee Bean and Toffee
  Cranberry/White Chocolate
  Date Squares
  Double Chocolate Brownie Cups
  Empire Cookies
  Lemon Coconut Bars
  Maple Leaf Cookies
  Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
  Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
  Orange Date Nut
  Peanut Butter Cookies
  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip
  Sugar Cookies
  White Chocolate/Orange Dreams

Personal baking tips
I underbake most of the cookies, though there's a few exceptions.
I keep my oven at about 325, rather than 350 (which is what the vast majority of recipes call for).
This year I was all about the parchment paper. Works so well, and less clean up!
A few years ago I invested in a cooling rack and it's my favourite cookies baking tool ever.

Do you do holiday baking? What are some of your favourite recipes?
I love asking this question, as I've received some great recipes in the past from you all. And hey, if there's any cookies up there that you're way keen on, just let me know and I'll get the recipe to you!

1 For further evidence, please see 2011 and 2009.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Thick Chill FAQ; Or, Short Rows! What do I do!?

Thick Chill is a quick knit, and a great little project to try out for your first foray into working short rows.

I've had a few knitters ask about this technique, so I thought it best to do up my own wee explan-a-post all about the short rows in Thick Chill!

If you're more of a visual person, here's a few links to youtube vids on short rows.

Imagining the Short Rows' Function
When I was learning how short rows work, I found it helpful to imagine the short rows I was working as a wedge. This wedge has slanted sides. These slanted sides are created because each time you work the next row, you’re working one less stitch (hence the term short rows!)
To make this wedge, you're knitting a wrong side AND a right side. That is, you're knitting back and forth.

Remember, Short Rows are worked FLAT
Through the entire “Short Rows” section, you’re working the rows flat, even though the rest of the cowl is knit in the round.
These two lines in the “Short Rows” section can be confusing:
“Rep last 2 rows 16 more times.
There are now 18 wrapped sts on each side of the cowl.”
These two lines mean you’re working flat.
You shouldn’t be working the “Picking up Wraps” section until you’ve totally completed the “Short Rows” section.
Don't Get Tripped Up: w&t are different from Picking Up Stitches
Some knitters have been confused by the wrap and turn (w&t) and picking up stitches instructions. These are two different steps. 
An example from Thick Chill would be that you knit to 10 sts before the end of the round and do your w&t. You then work your WS short row.
On the next row, you work to 11 sts before the marker (so, that is, creating the slanted side of that wedge you imagined above), then w&t. You then work your WS short row.
Next row, you work to 12 sts before the marker, then w&t. You then work your WS short row.

And so on. This is how that imaginary wedge shape is created, and how Thick Chill gets that little bend in it so that it sits nicely around your shoulders and up on your head!

Make sure you're...
  • not wrapping the same stitch over and over. See the "Don't Get Tripped Up" section above.
  • completing the Short Rows section of the pattern BEFORE you move on to the Picking Up Stitches section.
  • aware that generally in a pattern, "Row" means you're working flat. As in, right side row or wrong side row, and that "Round" means you're working in the round. Thick Chill is knit both in the round and flat.
  • working only ONE picking-up-stitches round. Several people have been confused, and thought that they had to work 18 picking-up-stitches rounds. When you pick up the stitches, you’re asked to simply ”pick up wrap with st and K tog, rep 17 more times” (1 call out + 17 rep = 18). So if you’ll recall from the "Short Rows" section, you did 18 pairs of short rows. That’s why it asks you to pick up a total of 18 sts in the Picking Up Wraps section.
  • not slipping the marker in the Short Rows section. You only slip the marker once you’re working the Picking Up the Wraps section. This may indicate that you're working in the round, rather than working flat.
It's important to me that knitters enjoy my patterns, and I hope what I’ve written above will help you. If it isn’t clear please email me and we can to work together to figuring the issue out.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Indie Designer Day

Designer: Cathy Rubin
Blog: The Barbarian Horde
Rav ID: cathyrubin
Some Great Designs: cathyrubin's Rav Designer Page

Looking for fun knits for kids? Here ya go!

Belle (pictured) is one of the prettiest kid's scarf I've ever seen. (well, it's really for any age, but it's nice to see it modeled on a child! Very stylin!) :)

Sweet Penny is sized for a variety of ages, and comes from a lovely pattern collection celebrating sisters. See more pieces from this collection here.

A little love, a hooded scarf is a wonderfully functional little piece (though this one can be for adults too! Just imagine how much warmer you'd be with a hood/scarf combo!

Finally, here's Snugglegs. So cute! Legwarmers for babies to toddlers to children. I mean, the pattern is adorable, but I'm equally taken by the cute name :)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Embroidery Winner!

Congratulations to Wanderingcatstudio! The random number generator has chosen you as the winner of the Red Letter Day Stitches embroidery giveaway for a Primary Subscription. Your prize should be on its way soon.

Thanks to everyone for participating!

Flowers in the Winter: Calavera Catrina Bonnet

I just love seeing people's FOs from patterns that I've designed.

In October 2012 I independently published Ghosts, an ebook inspired by those very phenomena and associated cultural ideas surrounding their creation, perception, and existence.

One of my favourite patterns from that collection is Calavera Catrina, a be-flowered bonnet that's perfect for keeping your head and ear warm during those chilly times of year.

Here's a few people's FOs.

Threadpanda's Dead Man's Party

I LOVE the project name :)
On her blog post about this project, Threadpanda raises a very good point about bonnets: they cover your ears and still allow you to see! I have this same issue with hats. So bonnets all the way!

TooManyBooks' Calavera Catrina

I like the change in flowers! While this may have been a yarn-remnants-strategic move, it replicates the spirit of the pattern.

kangath's Elegant Skull

Again, awesome name! I really like the yarn colour she chose here. With yarn running short while she knit, a few flowers had to be sacrificed. But I like it! Three instead of five flowers is lovely.
She's also a great designer; check out her stuff!