Queen B Socks and Twinkle Twinkle Blanket

August 18, 2014 11:11 by Suzy

May and June were super productive on the knitting front, but apparently not on the blogging side of things! I get so excited about starting a new project I completely forget to stop and reflect and write about what I have finished...hopefully this post will get me caught up.

JD and I have some friends back in Maryland who were expecting their first child...they were keeping the baby's gender a surprise until birth, so I knew I needed to find the perfect gender-neutral project. Luckily the mother-to-be told me she was decorating the nursery in an ocean/beach theme, so that helped me find the perfect pattern and yarn.

I found the Twinkle Twinkle Blanket pattern on Ravelry back in December...I loved the stunning yet simple pattern, the in-the-round construction, and the fact that it uses fingering weight yarn. Then I just needed to find the perfect yarn and color...a few email exchanges with Allison at Simply Sock Yarn led me to Dream in Color Smooshy, in the Blue Lagoon colorway. I liked that the yarn is durable, soft, and washable, and the colorway had the perfect tonal depth without being too variegated.

This was my first time using the disappearing loop cast on method...it worked really well and avoided both the cast-on "hole" and the tendency of other methods to pucker in the center.

Our friends' baby boy arrived safe and sound in June, and I was so pleased to present them with this lovely blanket!

As soon as I finished the blanket, I cast on for my June Sock Knitters Anonymous project...one of the themes was Historical Figures so I chose the Marie Antoinette pattern, from the wonderful Anne Hanson at Knitspot. I had some madeleinetosh tosh sock yarn leftover from my Sproutlette baby dress project, so I put that stash to good use.

This pattern has a very interesting construction...the top cuff is first worked flat, in a narrow strip, and then grafted together in a circle. Stitches are picked up along the edge and joined in the round for the remainder of the sock. I really liked the cuff edging, and the "honeybee" stitches down the back of the ankle down to the heel. Very regal design, hence the Queen B name!

In other project news, I have given up on my seamed Custom Fit cardigan. I wasn't happy with how the pieces fit together and my crappy attempts at seaming with mattress stitch. Apparently I am a knitter, but NOT a sewer, so I should stick to seamless (or as close to seamless as possible) designs from now on. I'm going to frog the cardigan and use the yarn on a new cardigan pattern...Magnolia by JOJI. Fingers crossed this project is finished soon!

In my next blog post I will share some other exciting news that happened this summer...hint: annual summertime event with critters and funnel cakes...any guesses?

Links to projects in Ravelry:
Starlight Lagoon Blanket
Queen B Socks



Stormy Socks

May 8, 2014 12:20 by Suzy

And the Sock Obsession continues...

For April's Sockdown Challenge, I chose Crocus vernus, a pattern from the featured designer Hunter Hammersen. I really liked the elegant floral lace pattern on these socks and couldn't wait to make them.

The yarn for this project had been in my stash for well over a year...I bought it just a month or two after I first started knitting. Purple is my absolute favorite color, and the Mountain Colors "Harmony Storm" colorway is a beautiful mix of purples and greys and greens. I wanted to use the yarn for socks, but I was very leery of sock knitting at that time. I wasn't really comfortable using DPNs and all the explanations of the Magic Loop or 2-circulars methods were beyond my comprehension. Plus, the descriptions of sock construction looked way too difficult. Or so I thought. Fast forward to 2014...I can't stop knitting socks, and this yarn immediately came to mind when I chose the Crocus vernus pattern.

Aren't they beautiful? I love the almost "ruffly" edge on the cuff, and the contrast of the lace pattern with the channels of yarnovers along either side. I completed 6 repeats of the pattern on the leg, with another 6 repeats on the foot before working the toe. The finished sock is a bit more snug than other socks that I have made, but they fit me very well and look so pretty on my feet.

In other news...

- I won a prize in the March Sockdown Challenge with my Slytherin Socks! I won a copy of the Intwined Pattern Studio software. I've never thought of designing my own patterns before, but with this software it might be fun...

- I'm taking a break from sock knitting (gasp!) and working on a long cowl/infinity scarf right now. My indigodragonfly club yarn for April is a worsted weight, and I thought it might be fun to work with heavier squishy yarn and big needles for a change. Loving it so far!

- When I do go back to sock knitting later this month, I will be tackling my first ever stranded colorwork project! I received a copy of Op-Art Socks for my birthday, and one of the Sockdown Challenges for May is mathematics/tech/geek so I plan to make the Fibonacci socks. Can't wait to get started on those...

Until next time, happy knitting!



Slytherin Socks

April 30, 2014 14:31 by Suzy

Back in February, I discovered a group on Ravelry called Sock Knitters Anonymous (SKA)...every month there is a different "Sockdown" Challenge with various options to choose from. Members choose the challenge option and cast on during the challenge month, and must finish the socks and post photos in the group by the end of the following month. It's a really fun group, and I like how the different challenge options encourage you to work outside your comfort zone. There are two featured designers each month, or you can pick one of the design/construction/theme challenge options. Some months there is also a Mystery Sock (MOCK) pattern as well.  At the end of each challenge period, the group moderators hold a random drawing from all of the completed projects for various prizes donated by some awesome pattern designers, yarn companies, and other knitting-related vendors. Great motivation to finish your socks, don't you think?  My Monkey Squalor socks were my first entry in the SKA group...one of the February challenge options was designer Cookie A. She had TONS of patterns to choose from, and the Monkey pattern is one of her most popular on Ravelry.

For the March Sockdown, Heidi Nick was one of the featured designers. After browsing her patterns, and adding a bunch to my Ravelry Favorites, I decided to make the Dolores Umbridge socks. I really liked the mock cabling and the unique zig-zig running down each side. I had another indigodragonfly special edition colorway in my stash...Owl Week: A Bad Week To Be A Field Mouse in the Sad Lester Sock base. I fell hard for this gorgeous rich green as soon as it was featured on the website last summer. I was originally planning to make the Nennir cowl, which has a really cool Celtic knotwork pattern that I thought would be perfect with the green. Once I got the yarn, however, I realized it was not the best choice for a project to be worn around the neck. The Sad Lester Sock base is made from 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool, which I hadn't used before. The wool is soft, but not as soft as Merino wool or the other indigodragonfly Merino blends. It takes colors beautifully, however, which is why the green was so awesome. So, I decided to make socks from it instead.

Now, in case you are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter universe, Dolores Umbridge is a truly evil witch disguised as a sweet old lady. She acts syrupy sweet, dresses in pink with big bows on her head, and decorates her office with collectable kitten plates...and is a fan of incredibly severe punishments for anyone who crosses her, or anyone of less than pure Wizard blood. Creepy, creepy lady.  

In addition, most of the villains in the Harry Potter world are/were members of the Slytherin House at Hogwarts School of Magic. The colors of Slytherin are green and silver, and the mascot is a serpent.  So with a pattern name of Dolores Umbridge, and using striking green yarn, I had to name this project Slytherin Socks!

How amazing are these??? Cables twisting snake-like down the legs, all the way to the toes. 

This was a great pattern...my first time working exclusively from charts, and I really liked the heel construction. Instead of a typical heel-flap, the increases for the gusset are worked at the same time as the heel, so there was no picking up stitches. Very cool.

So I definitely see myself knitting a pair of socks for each month's SKA challenge for the rest of 2014! I'm nearly finished with this month's challenge (good thing I have until May 31) and I already have my pattern and yarn ready for May. Stay tuned for more sock posts as they are completed!



Monkeys and Tulips and Greystone, Oh My!

March 27, 2014 13:37 by Suzy

2014 continues to be productive on the knitting front...4 more projects finished since my last post!

Last fall, Shalimar Yarns offered a Monkey Jacobus kit using their Enzo Sport yarn. I had never made knitted toys (called "softies") before, but the monkey looked so cute I couldn't resist! Shalimar yarn has always held a special place in my heart, as my first-ever knitting project was made with their Homage fingering weight...my first taste of luxury yarn! Plus, they are Maryland-based, not far from where JD and I used to live.

When I received the kit, I was a bit intimidated by the lengthy and complicated-looking pattern (10+ pages!) so I was hesitant to get started. So the kit languished in my WIP bin until I finally got the nerve to give it a shot in February. Surprisingly, the pattern was not nearly as difficult as I had feared...just very detailed...I just followed the instructions and before I knew it, I had an adorable monkey, ready to stuff.


Isn't she cute? I named her Bernadette!

At the same time, I started a new pair of socks, with the awesome pattern name of Monkey, designed by Cookie A. I had some yarn in my stash that I thought would be perfect for this project...an indigodragonfly club yarn from last year. The base is called Filament o' Squid (70% Merino/30% Seacell) in the colorway Squalor Amongst the Ankles. I must admit, I wasn't in love with the yarn when I first received it...the color is kind of a muddy green with a bit of yellow/gold in it, and the fiber texture is different...not unpleasant, just different. Every month or so I would take it out of my stash bin, give it a look and a squeeze, and I started liking it more and more. I think it looks great with this pattern, don't you?


This was my first lace pattern sock, and I just love it. I also used a different cast on method, as I noticed the cuffs on my first two sock projects were a little tight. I used the slip-knot cast on and I really like how it turned out. The edge has an almost folded-accordion look to it.

Next, I made the Greystone hat with my first Bare Naked Knitspot club yarn. The yarn is Kent Worsted (60% Merino/40% Romney wool) in the Driftwood colorway. I love this color...completely from undyed natural wools. It's a beautiful blend of browns and greys with a great sheen. The texture seemed a bit rustic at first but softened up considerably after a soak and blocking.


The cables look great in this yarn, don't you think?

Finally, our good friends back in Maryland were about to celebrate the first birthday of their daughter, and I knew I had to make her something special. She is the lucky recipient of my Baby Girl Blanket and Sproutlette Dress, so I had to top myself, you know? Enter the Tulips Cardigan pattern...simple and practical, yet oh-so-cute and in such beautiful colors! The Coldwater Yarns online shop has a great selection of kits in different color themes...I chose the Anita's Rainbow kit. The kit comes with enough yarn of each color (9 colors in all!) to make the cardigan...so you don't have to buy full skeins of each. The yarn is Dream in Color Classy, which is a worsted superwash wool. The colors are amazing...not boring solids but beautiful and rich and complex.


(Note the picture above is pre-blocking) Various project notes on Ravelry for this pattern indicated that the cardigan runs small, so I made the 24-month size and also modified the pattern to have 10 rows in each color vs. only 8 rows. Luckily I didn't run out of yarn!


Isn't she adorable? And don't the colors look perfect on her?

I currently have another pair of socks on the needles, as well as my first project using lace yarn. My brain is already two or three projects ahead and I can't wait for my next club packages to arrive!

Happy knitting!

Ravelry project links:
Bernadette Monkey
Monkey Squalor
Greystone: The Legend of Romney
Birthday Tulips



Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili

March 9, 2014 19:17 by Suzy

JD has been "gettin healthy" in 2014 and so far the results are amazing...he's lost 20 pounds and his cholesterol dropped from over 200 to 134! We're basically going with a plant based, whole-foods diet. This recipe was a great find, and with our modifications, it's been a favorite for both of us.

The flavor in this chili is amazing...smoky and rich and with just the right amount of heat and bite. You won't even miss the meat!

Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili
adapted from blog.fatfreevegan.com

2 large onions, chopped
2 large bell peppers (red and yellow), chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
4-6 cups vegetable stock (preferably salt free)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
a few dashes of Cholula sauce
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and dry-saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add diced bell peppers and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute.

Add beans, 4 cups broth, spices, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add more broth if chili seems too thick/dry for your tastes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Taste and add salt, pepper, and more Cholula or chili powder if necessary. Add corn and quinoa, stir and cover.

Simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!



Keeping Warm With Two Sticks And Wool

February 13, 2014 08:48 by Suzy

I'm off to a great start for 2014!

In January, I completed 3 projects...my Charades in the Acid Rain socks, Sweet Rizzo hat, and Mars Attacks! socks.

For my first pair of socks, I used my Giftapalooza yarn from indigodragonfly...the colorway is called "Acid Reindeer" and it's a beautiful mix of rich blues and violets in the MCN Sock base. I didn't want to make a boring stockinette sock, but I also didn't want to make anything too complicated for my first sock project, so the Charade design was a great choice. Plus it's a free pattern!

Then I went on to use my December club yarn, also from indigodragonfly...Merino Silk DK with the aweseome name of "Light The Lamp, Not The Rat!". This is one of those colors that I probably never would have chosen myself, but once I received the package I fell in love with the shiny spun gold...it looks like it's glowing! This is why I join this club...so I get to try new colors and yarn bases and get me out of my comfort zone.

In case anyone is confused about the color name...here is a link to the inspiration from the holiday classic "A Muppet Christmas Carol"...I love Rizzo!

The Sweet William pattern was already in my queue and I thought it was a perfect match for the yarn and the gorgeous color. This is the first hat I made for myself, and I love it. It's much warmer than you would think so it has been a regular fixture in my bundling-up routine each morning.

Finally, I tackled another pair of socks.  This time, I wanted to try Susan B. Anderson's simple stockinette sock design, and used Wisdom Yarns Saki Silk in the "Mystery Mars" colorway. Blues and greens mix with orange for a fun, random-stripe look. I got the yarn from Webs when I ordered my sock blockers (I needed something to add to the cart to get free shipping) and I liked it even more than I had hoped. Very soft and easy to knit with, and I can tell they will wear well with very little pilling.

At the moment, I am working on several monkey-related projects (can't wait to share pictures!) and hope to finish my CustomFit cardigan soon as well. My first Bare Naked Knitspot club shipment should arrive any day now, as well as my next indigodragonfly club package, so I will have no shortage of goodies to fondle and get on the needles. Good thing, since it looks like spring will never come!

One particularly cold morning this month...

 



2013 Recap and Goals for 2014

January 5, 2014 14:21 by Suzy

2013 was my first full year of knitting, and I was surprised when I checked my Ravelry projects page and found that I completed 15+ projects in 2013...I had no idea I had completed so much!

 

 

  1. 1. Baby Girl Blanket for Lauren (started in December 2012 but completed in 2013)
  2. 2. Aspen Shawl (started in December 2012 but completed in 2013)
  3. 3. JD's Waffle Scarf
  4. 4. St. James pullover sweater
  5. 5. Aspen Scarf for Mom
  6. 6. Sproutlette Baby Dress for Lauren
  7. 7. Color Block Alpaca Wrap
  8. 8. Swirl Baby Hat (never got around to gifting it, so it's for the next new baby girl that arrives)
  9. 9. About 6 dishcloths, in various patterns and colors
  10. 10. Left Bank Cardigan
  11. 11. Show Me Your Boutons fingerless mitts
  12. 12. JD's Dude Hat
  13. 13. Pop's Watch Cap
  14. 14. Princess and the Canoe Shawl
  15. 15. Fall Flower pullover
All in all, a pretty productive year!  I'm very proud of myself, not only for the total number of completed projects but also in the quality of my knitting. I can definitely see improvement from my earliest projects to those just finished. I tackled quite a few new techniques in 2013 as well...using double-pointed needles, short rows, adding beads, and different types of cast-on methods. I also used all different types of fibers (wool, cotton, silk, alpaca) and weights (fingering, DK, sport and worsted).

As for 2014, I can already tell that this will be the Year of the Sock. I finally tackled my first pair of socks in the last week of December, and I absolutely love knitting them. I have so many new sock patterns in my Ravelry favorites it's getting ridiculous...if I didn't knit anything but socks this year I still couldn't finish them all. Here's a hint of my first sock project...full pictures to come when they are finished.

I plan to renew my membership in the indigodragonfly Smart Ass Knitters club when it comes up in February...can't wait to see what Kim and Ron come up with in the new year! In addition, I have signed up for the Bare Naked Knitspot club for 2014. Anne Hanson's patterns are so beautiful...classic without being boring, and I love the idea of natural fibers in their undyed state, so I can't wait for that first shipment as well.

One phobia I hope to overcome this year is my aversion to seamed sweaters. I have never been one for sewing, and the idea of having to assemble pieces to complete a sweater has always scared me off. But with Amy Herzog's new CustomFit program, I am challenging myself to get over this fear and just do it. It has really helped me to read Amy's blog and participate in the various Ravelry discussion boards for the CustomFit program.  Amy emphasizes the idea that you are Making Clothing and not just random knitting. Real clothing should be properly constructed (i.e. in pieces and seamed) and be an integral part of your wardrobe. I have nearly all the pieces completed on my first CustomFit sweater...an open-front cardigan. With any luck, my first seamed project will be completed by the end of this month!

Finally, I hope to connect with more knitters in 2014.  Not just on Ravelry, but in person and more regularly. I plan to attend my LYS knit nights and other events whenever possible, and there are a few fiber-related events that are on my calendar for 2014: Toronto Knitter's Frolic in April, Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May, and maybe even Rhinebeck!

So that's my wrap-up of 2013 and plans for 2014...what projects did you complete this past year? Any exciting goals for 2014?



The Princess and the Canoe

December 16, 2013 12:24 by Suzy

This is, hands down, the most beautiful thing I have ever created.  I've made some pretty desserts and fine-looking main dishes, and I was very happy with my Left Bank Cardigan and fingerless mitts, but this by far surpasses them all.  Can you believe I made this myself???

I discovered this pattern back in March, when I had only been knitting for a few months.  I drooled over it and favorited it in Ravelry, and even went ahead and purchased the pattern, but I don't think I really believed that it would be something I could, or would ever, be able to make.  A few months later, indigodragonfly released a special edition colorway in their Merino Silk 4-ply Sock base that I thought would be perfect for this project, so I splurged and bought the yarn, and soon after found just the right beads.  The pattern and the yarn sat, waiting patiently, in the background while I continued to work on simpler projects and gained confidence in my knitting.

Towards the end of September, I decided I was ready, and with one false start, cast on (509 stitches!) on September 29.  And surprise, LilyGo's pattern is so well written that I really didn't have any problems at all.  I just kept plugging away, learned how to read my work and made sure the stitch counts were right after each repeat and the end of each row.  Slowly but surely, the gorgeous design started to emerge.  I was driving poor JD nuts every night, insisting on showing him my work in progress as soon as I finished a section, but I couldn't help it!

A little over a month later (much sooner than I had expected), my shawl was finished.  A good soak and careful pinning later, and I was holding my greatest knitting achievement (so far!).  I really felt that I had done LilyGo's wonderful pattern justice.  The yarn is perfect...gorgeous colors and with the sheen of the silk and the drape of the wool it really shows the design well.  

The lesson here?  Don't assume something is too difficult or out of your reach...make a goal and work towards achieving it.  It was great having this as a "dream project" on my radar for this past year.  Every time I looked at it, the goal seemed more real and more achievable.  The pattern became less complex as I learned more and more with my other projects.  I'm so glad I took the plunge!

About the name...the pattern is called Princess and the Pea (see those pea pods throughout the design?) and the colorway is Canoe Up To The Beer Store (there was severe flooding in an area of Canada this past spring and indigodragonfly was donating money from the sale of this yarn to help those affected) so I came up with The Princess and the Canoe.  

Thank you thank you so much to indigodragonfly for coming up with such wonderful yarn and colors, and BIG thanks to LilyGo for designing such a beautiful pattern that is written so well and is easy to follow!!!

Link to my Ravelry project page here.



Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

October 27, 2013 13:11 by Suzy

I'm looking out at a gorgeous Ohio fall Sunday...bright sunshine, cool crisp air and falling leaves.  And football on the TV.  Life is good.

These muffins are the perfect treat for a late-October weekend.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
adapted from The Loopy Ewe

Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Muffins:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

Beat together cream cheese and powdered sugar until well combined.  Scrape onto piece of plastic wrap and form into a log, 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 2 hours.

Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix with clean hands or two forks until crumbly.  Keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin tins, or use paper liners.

In large bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil until well blended.  Add all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Do not overmix.

Slice cream cheese log into 24 equal pieces.

Put a small amount (barely 1 tablespoon) of batter in each muffin tin well.  Top with piece of cream cheese mixture, then spoon batter on top, completely covering the cream cheese.  Sprinkle each muffin with topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack for a few minutes before serving.  Makes 24 muffins.



These Still Count As Goodies, Right?

October 7, 2013 21:54 by Suzy

These still count as goodies, right?

No, I haven’t completely given up cooking and baking goodies…I've just added knitted goodies to my repertoire!

JD and I moved to southern Ohio this past spring, and we’re loving the quiet, small town life. Definitely don’t miss the traffic, crowds, and high prices of DC. I was lucky enough to find a really good job fairly quickly, and JD is spending his days working outside with his grandfather…taking care of the house and 70+ acres of property, including a lake! We are both truly blessed.

So, in between my job, enjoying the peace and quiet of rural Ohio, and getting into Big 10 football in addition to the NFL (there go my Saturdays and Sundays!), I have been making food goodies in the kitchen and knitting goodies in the living room.

Most recently, I finished my Left Bank Cardigan and Moutons' Boutons fingerless mitts…

The Left Bank Cardigan is a design from Linda Wilgus of Wooly Mammoth Knits. It’s a great pattern, completely seamless, knit from the top down in an easy but distinctive rib pattern. I will confess, I did get a bit bored towards the end but the end result was so worth it! After finishing the body (whew!), the sleeves are knit in the round with a bit of the rib pattern at the cuffs. Then stitches are picked up along the edge and a seed stitch button band and collar is added.

The rib pattern is lovely, and gives the cardigan a nice fitted shape. I was very pleased with how this project turned out and it’s a perfect go-with-everything piece for my work wardrobe. I was also flattered and thrilled to hear from Linda Wilgus after I posted my finished project on Ravelry…she complimented my finished cardigan and asked if she could include my pictures on her pattern page! Wow!

I used Fyberspates Scrumptious yarn, in the Water colorway. Beautiful blend of Merino wool and silk.

Link to Ravelry project here.

Back in August I received my club yarn shipment from indigodragonfly yarns and OH MY GOD it was so gorgeous…a beautiful mix of purples, greens and blues in their super-soft-super-squishy MCN Sport base. I immediately began searching for the perfect pattern to match up with this treasure. A complex stitch pattern would get lost in the variegated colorway, so I looked for something simple and elegant.

Enter the Moutons' Boutons pattern. I loved the idea of surrounding my hands with the glorious Merino-Cashmere blend, and I even had the perfect buttons left over from the Left Bank Cardigan project!

The pattern is simple but not boring, and the sport weight helps make them a very quick knit…I finished them in 2 days! I love having the button band to add a little visual interest, plus you can get creative and a little wacky with your button choices. These would make great gifts that you can personalize.

Can't wait for the cold weather to get here so I can start wearing these mitts!

Link to Ravelry project here.

So that’s what’s going on here…I’m hoping to do some baking now that fall has arrived so you should see posts of that nature coming up. I’m planning to have regular posts to update “What’s On My Needles” and “What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’,” as well as make some general updates to the About Me and Index pages and other stuff.

Stay tuned!



Foodbuzz