home (knitting) for the holidays

Posted on 237 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events

by this point, most of us are ready to curl up with a relaxing project, definitely something cozy that has no deadline. and once again, sixth&spring books comes through to provide inspiration. knitting at home by leanne prouse is a collection of accessories, toys, and wearables for the home, all knit in the very affordable ella rae yarn line.

most projects are simple in their constructions, but many feature lovely embellishments, such as embroidery and beading to add some sparkle—really, there is something for everyone’s taste here . . .

from the purely ornamental (but necessary, yes?) to the highly functional. there’s bound to be something you’ll want to make.

the book is packed with the expected number of pillow and blanket projects, some designed solely with comfort and simplicity in mind and others, more elaborate.

i love this classic throw—so usable, yet rich.

there is a bevy of possibilities for small projects that make perfect hostess gifts, or last minute birthday remembrances—things you could whip up in no time that make a lovely impression

very few wearables are included, but those represented are the epitome of homey comfort—an easy sweater/jacket/bathrobe

or a pair of socks fit for a lazy afternoon and evening at home

there is a great section of toys and accessories for kids

my very favorite are these felted boots—in my experience, when it comes to handknits, kids get as excited about useful gifts as they do about toys. i want a pair myself!

so cool and a thoughtful gift when visiting family, to keep children smiling and endear them to you as a visitor on their terrain.

many of these items would be welcome gifts for an expecting family as well—the baby blankets included are lovely, yet simple to create.

there are even a number of crochet pieces, for those who enjoy switching it up now and then.

and here’s the best part—sixth&spring would like to treat one of you to a copy of knitting at home. if you’d like to get in the drawing, leave a comment at the end of this post some time before 9 pm EST on sunday, december 26th. i’ll announce the winner early next week.

i’m still furiously knitting on my big christmas gift for david, but nearly done. i finished the body last night before it was time to watch TV.

and worked on the second sleeve while visiting with james and diana yesterday and also while watching TV last night—i’m almost to the underarm bindoff. however, i need to spend most of today cooking with beckie, so i’m still not positive when i’ll finish. and to make matters worse, my yarn supply is dangerously low—i’ve rounded up all my various swatches in readiness for possible cannibalizing to finish the last sleeve or knit the neck edging. this was SO not what i expected to be worrying about at the 11th hour!

the sleeve cap should go relatively fast; i’m bringing it along to beckie’s so i can work on it while food bubbles and boils. (we’re also planning on skype-ing kim sometime this afternoon, haha!)

hopefully, i can finish that sleeve today, so that i can seam it all up tonight when we get home. and there’s always tomorrow morning—this is when i’m grateful that david is a very late sleeper. i’ll probably have until mid-afternoon to finish up any last details (provided i have enough yarn, heh).

please, remind me next year not to go down this road??

well, happy, merry, christmas to all—i’ll be back tomorrow with a quick christmas post that’ll be sure to light up your holiday!

jingle, jingle . . . (that’s the sound of time running out)

Posted on 20 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects

now there’s a sight i love—all the holiday boxes packed and waiting for the mail carrier. david and i had a packing party for just the two of us on monday night, organizing each box, then the labels, and finally, reserving a pcikup. they went out yesterday and i couldn’t be happier to have that weight off of our shoulders. from here, it’s just parties and furious knitting til saturday . . .

well, ok, maybe a couple of get-togethers, haha. our knitting class party on monday afternoon was the loveliest ever—the food was fantastic and the company was, as ever, jovial. it must have been the influence of winter solstice magic.

we started out seriously enough, knitting away as if it was a regular class—we are each under the gun to finish something by the weekend.

i forget what maureen was working on, but susie is knitting a cabled hat that looks delicious in a deep turquoise color.

anne c. was working away on a cabled keyhole scarf in briar rose wistful, left over from last year’s highlander sweater project—SOooo yummy. of all the group, anne has the best ravelry profile and project page—she keeps it all up to date, which makes it a great resource for the rest of the group (who are a bunch of ravelry slackers lurkers, but happy to keep it that way).

debby is also working with wistful left over from her birnum wood wrap project—now she’s using it to knit juerga, and she’s just whipping through it (just one wristlet to finish up and then a bath). i love the colors . . .

that didn’t last too long, however . . . we were also hungry.

i swear, every year the food gets better and this year we really pulled a nice spread together (that table filled up admirably just a few minutes later with all manner of sophisticated finger foods, mmm).

and then there were the presents

actually, i think it’s even more about the wrappings, haha, since we do keep the gifting on the light side—the focus is mostly on knitting notions, clever household gadgets, and lovable stationery items. it’s great!

i’ll show you what i gave to everyone after the holidays, as i still have my spinning group to surprise next week. i think you’ll approve . . .

in between platefuls of food, we knit some more and susie revealed her new scarf design to us, a criss-cross buttoned scarf

it does happen that some people who stay in my class long enough eventually get bit by the design bug. and sure enough, she emailed each of us a copy of the pattern the next day . . . she may have a future in it.

robin stopped in to say hi and everyone asked to see his orange hat, so he ducked back out to his truck to get it—i guess he wasn’t lying when he said it fit and that he likes it, haha. i’m glad it worked out; i was nervous about getting it just right.

(i’m not really sure what janet thinks she’s accomplishing there, but it’s a cute picture of her trying not to be in the picture, haha!)

finally, it was time to see how the cake turned out inside

it was fine—everything inside cooked just right.
we are testing the oven to see if we can pinpoint the issue, but not stressing about it right now (we’re not really cooking for a crowd any time soon).

after that, we said goodnight and headed home; what a great celebration of our friendship and common interests.

when i got home and was changing into lounging clothes, i realized that i was running a little low on usable, warm socks and remembered that a few pair had finally worn out last year. time to select a couple pair from the finished sock shelf to rotate into use.

i knit this pair of socks in february ’07, during my trip to SPA and for some reason, have avoided putting them to actual use. i know why—they have been holding trophy status on the shelf because they are knit from a fine, handspun yarn and i was afraid to actually wear them. i spun the yarn from spunky eclectic BFL in the (then) navajo colorway and knit it into simple stockinette socks. then i put them on the shelf where i have been admiring them from afar ever since. heh.

the other night i decided to at least put them on and see why maybe i hadn’t worn them—were they too big in the foot or too tight around the top? did they slip down, requiring constant tugging that might strain the fabric? (i’ve always suspected that stockinette socks would not be right for me for this very reason) were they perhaps scratchy??

nope on all counts—they were an absolutely perfect fit. not only that, they were warm and cozy and super comfortable. not bulky at all, yet not thin-feeling either. i wore them a little longer and before an hour had passed, they were my favorite socks of all time. and now that i have these sheepskin clogs to wear around the house, they should not suffer much wear at the heels, the way i was worried about. i’m in love.

my only question to myself is this: can i make more just like them?
is it just a perfectly happy confluence of the right yarn, needles, and stitch count, or can it be replicated?

ah, the eternal knitting question. and so well-suited to a winter solstice evening. i guess i’ll just have to try.

i have handspun sock yarn, i have size 2mm needles, i can count—maybe this could be good travel knitting for january and february (i could knit fresh socks to supply myself in my travels).

while pondering all those questions, i settled in to work on the big project at hand. since monday afternoon i have dedicated all my spare time to it (as well as some not-so-spare time) and so far

i am partway up the back yoke on the body, which i should be able to finish up today. then i’ll start the front yoke.

i also finished the first sleeve and started the second one

the sleeve work is a nice, light break from wrestling with that body piece for several hours at a stretch (which is why i dislike knitting sweaters in the round—once they get this big, they are hellishly bulky and heavy to deal with). while i’m really happy to be past the point where i have to push 290 sts around the needle every few seconds—talk about your sisyphean tasks—the growing bulk of the thing is getting my way all over the place, slowing down my knitting speed.

i know i will be grateful, however, not to have much seaming to do at the eleventh hour; i’m just not sure that knitting this in the round is a time saver.

i’m getting a little concerned about my yarn supply, which was one thing i did not think i’d have to be worried about. and probably i’m fine; i just can’t tell if what i have left will go the whole mile. and you know, if i’m not worrying about something, the sky might fall down.

oh whoa—it’s 2 pm already and here i am chattering about the sweater instead of knitting it—time to go do something about that.

our nephew james and his lovely fiancée diana are stopping for the night to visit, on their way to her family for christmas. i can’t WAIT to see them.

they’re arriving lat, so i don’t have to make dinner, but i do have to think of something for a nice lunch tomorrow and i’ll almost certainly miss some much-needed knitting time while they are here (i’ll try to sneak in some sleeve knitting while we’re sitting around chatting, however).

let them eat cake (if they dare)

Posted on 36 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, projects

our knitting class christmas party is today and i volunteered to bring dessert. now, we’re not a fancy group in general, but for the christmas party we do things a little differently—we meet at someone else’s house, we bring yummy finger foods and have a small gift exchange. there may even be imbibing. so, you know, i want to make a nice impression.

in keeping with the holiday, i decided that an eggnog cake would be just the thing and went in search of a recipe. we used to make one at home when i was a kid, that was featured in holiday ads for some food company or other, during the 60s or 70s. i couldn’t locate that recipe but i found this one, which sounded great.

i borrowed a bundt pan from the neighbors and got started early yesterday afternoon. there is a lot of beating in that recipe—to the tune of about 20 minutes total, i think—but it’s definitely worth the work; by the time it goes into the pan, the batter is velvety smooth and the resulting cake texture is absolutely sublime (it’s a pound cake type)

creamy, moist, and yet . . . light. it could use more nutmeg than the recipe calls for, but that’s quibbling really.
sooo—what’s the problem and why is that cake being eaten at home???

this is NOT the recipe’s fault. sigh.
i think my %!#*&@^ oven is on the blink again. grrr.
i had a vague suspicion that i should check it out, when when i baked some fish the other night that took WAY longer than usual to cook.
but i forgot.

then yesterday, i put the cake in and waited. and waited. and waited.
the stipulated cooking time came and went, but the top and center of the cake were still liquid. when they were finally cooked and the cake had cooled a few minutes, i unsheathed it from the pan to find that the bottom and outside edges were charred.

that’s what happened the last time the oven went.

david suggested i try one more time, using a recipe that always turns out well, so i proceeded to make my apple cake, which is also festive and pretty enough to bring to a party. this time we put our old thermometer in the oven with the cake to see if the temperature was regulating properly.

the temperature actually varied widely over the course of the cooking time (NOT good). and the upshot was about the same—i had to leave the cake in the oven a lot longer than usual for the top and inside to bake through, leaving the bottom and outside somewhat, er, over-browned.

not as bad as the first cake, which was truly black-bottomed. but not good.

the top though, is a glittering jewel of a thing—and just might redeem me

david thinks i should bring it and tell everyone to eat all but the bottom edge, haha. and you know what? as we are a very forgiving group, i think i’m going to do it—i know the cake is delicious; it’s always a hit. and it’s not like baking another thing is going to be any more successful.

the thing is this: i am a perfectly competent baker, capable of making an excellent cake. yet, every time i bake for this particular group of people, something goes wrong. i have bad baking karma when it comes to them. so they have never been treated to my best baking efforts and i feel bad bringing yet another dessert piled high with apologies for the state it’s in.

on the other hand, things could be worse.
everyone gathered there today is a fortunate person—we each have a good, warm place to call home, a secure (for the moment) living, plenty to eat, a little cash to spend on yarn when we like, and enough leisure time to meet and make merry on a pre-christmas monday afternoon.

plus i have killer gifts for everyone, heh.
so now that i’ve talked that out with you, i’m going to let it go and let it be—i’ve got other holiday concerns to obsess about, after all.

besides, just when i thought things couldn’t get more depressing in the kitchen, i saw this and was reminded that rainbows do sometimes appear in the unlikeliest of places

looks like we haven’t seen the last of my garden after all—my rosemary plant is covered with buds and tiny blooms!

now, i’ve heard that rosemary sometimes blooms, but it’s never happened to me.
i feel girlishly tickled pink about it. this plant has lived in a pot since it came home from the nursery in may. to amuse myself, i kept it pruned into a (more or less) round topiary shape

i don’t know if the constant pruning helped or not, but whatever the reason, i’m enjoying the chance to see it.

i even have matching buttons to celebrate, haha

i ordered these from jennie the potter when i saw her at rhinebeck and they arrived the other day. i just love them—they will be perfect for a handspun sweater in a natural color.

we’re trying to get all the gifts boxed and organized to go out in the mail; still waiting on a couple of last minute mail-order items to go into them. the boy’s jackets are done and ready to go

i think they turned out adorable—they are my best christmas knitting this year. focusing on just a couple of items was a good idea. we’ll wrap these up with a couple of toys and a picture of uncle david in HIS whitfield jacket and i’m pretty sure amad will be over the moon with that gift.

i opted for a single pocket without a flap for these, mainly because i was afraid of running out of yarn, but also to streamline the look and cut down on fussiness for the knitter. i think these are a good solution—pocket enough to be manly, but not so much that it gets heavy.

these jackets will work well for the mild, shorter winters they have in las vegas and be wearable into the spring as well as next fall. amad will love that his jacket matches his baby brother’s, too.

micah won’t know the difference, but some day, he may wear the bigger one when amad grows out of it. i’ll knit a third one for their cousin in NYC for his january birthday. and write up the pattern to send for sizing right after christmas.

other than finishing those up, i have not been working on a wide variety of objects as usual. i’ve been focusing ALL my attention on my super secret gift project—the S-W-E-A-T-E-R for you know who (i just love how easy it is to hide things on the blog, haha).

i’m almost to the underarms on the body, about two inches to go there. this has been the biggest share of the knitting—that’s 290 sts around.
it could be worse—i’m really fortunate that the recipient is not all that long in the torso or arms. otherwise, i’d be knitting til new year’s . . .

i’m also almost done with one of the sleeves

i would say i’m about halfway through this project, with five days to go. i plan on spending a lot more time knitting this week than last, so preliminarily, i think i have a good chance of finishing in time. i’m not sure yet, but i’m hopeful.

i’ll keep you posted.

ok, now, it’s time for me to get ready to go to that christmas party i was telling y’all about—the sleeve is coming along and if we both behave ourselves, it might get finished by the time i head back home.

here’s hoping that your own christmas preparations are going well and if not, that whatever hangups you are experiencing are small ones.

one week to go . . .

Posted on 18 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects

well, it finally stopped snowing here and we’ve even had some sun over the last couple of days, but wow, it continues to be frosty cold—more like january and february than december. at least the temps have climbed into the 20s now, from near zero earlier in the week.

beckie and i are heavy into planning our annual christmas eve dinner, which will be at her house this year. back when we first moved to ohio, we started celebrating christmas eve together by sharing my family’s traditional feast of fishes on that night. and every year since, we’ve managed to get together with beckie and mark some variation of it.

this year, we’re cooking paella, using this recipe—paella is one of my favorite dishes and i haven’t had it in years. not since we lived in brooklyn, i think, where we sometimes stopped into la mancha on atlantic avenue for one of their delicious paella combinations.

one week from today, i’ll be chowing down on our own version, mmm.

on the knitting front, i’m making great progress on a couple of christmas projects and not so much on others.

the whitfield shorties are done, except for a final steaming of the seams and sewing on the buttons. i just love the way they turned out. the yarn—briar rose anne (i KNOW!)—lends them a deliciously cozy depth (the yarn isn’t listed on chris’s website yet, but we’ll let you know when it is).

they feel sturdy and super comfortable at the same time (the very thing i love about my jackie jacket, knit in fourth of july).

david did me a big favor yesterday and stopped at jo-ann fabrics while he was running errands, to pick up the buttons i needed. we picked out something we liked ahead of time from my button box and he matched them in the store.

i can’t wait to see how the boys like them. i’m going to knit another one after the holidays for our third whitfield nephew, who lives in NYC and has a january birthday; then ALL the whitfield boys will have one (no girls on that side of the family . . . yet).

meanwhile, my secret project for another whitfield boy is growing. i still can’t tell if i’m going to finish it in time for christmas, but maybe . . . if i can knit for several more hours each day than i usually manage, i just might make it (i also have a sleeve underway, so i’m knitting pieces in tandem)

this is the project i’ll be focused on between now and the big day, even though i’d like to also crank out six or seven pairs of handsies for the nieces and nephews in texas and finish a couple more cabled keyhole scarves for some girlfriends (i’ll stay on course though—i’ll resort to those projects only if and when i can’t knit another stitch on the sweater).

BTW, there are a whole bunch of finished cabled scarf projects popping up in our ravelry group’s project page, knit in all manner of DK yarns—if you’re wondering what it looks like in different colors, check it out.

this week’s knitting classes were a-buzz with gift knitting—looks like everyone is making neckwarmer and mitt sets of one kind or another. debby’s wearing the ivy vines neckwarmer here, knit by anne c. in great norther yarns mink/cashmere DK

anne took the opportunity to photograph her FOs in class before posting to her ravelry projects page before giving them away (anne is so organized). she also had a hot waffles set, knit for her son in oh-so-cozy briar rose nate

she knit the mitts and had plenty of yarn left over, so she winged it and cast on a neckwarmer, using the same stitch pattern and knitting a simple tube. it turned out SO yummy that now we all want one! (i should make one of those for david . . )

she also recently completed a very beautiful curling neckwarmer and mitts set in cherry tree hill sock yarn, that she brought to class last week.

i know you’re all rushing off to ravelry to “friend” her this very minute . . .
i’ll wait.

debby is knitting juerga in briar rose wistful, left over from a shawl project. i love that colorway, which susie had custom dyed as a gift for debby last christmas.

i know it looks like we knit with nothing but briar rose yarn around here, haha, but it’s true that we love chris’s yarns. and since she comes to our local fiber show each year, she makes it easy for everyone to stock up. and chris wants to spread the love to all of our readers—she will give a 10% discount on any yarn purchase made by you through january 8, 2011—just use the code work knitspot.

a few yarns arrived during the last week that i’d like to share, too

from studio june yarns, silky meri, a lovely 50/50 merino/silk fingering yarn that is one of my favorite blends. i knit the original spiraluscious neckwarmer from such a yarn (cathy, are you reading this??), which was subsequently discontinued and have been searching ever since for a replacement, as it has such a perfect balance of drape and substance. i was there fore terribly excited when jill emailed to let me know about it and sent along these two skeins in the celery flats colorway. what a beautiful green, eh? AND it also comes in a worsted weight for luxurious sweater knitting, yay.

also included in the package was a skein of jill’s silky alpaca lace in soft purple (sorry, i can’t seem to find a link to this yarn!). though at the moment i am deep into projects for DK and worsted yarns (it could be the weather), as happens every year, the seasons will turn warmer and before long, i’ll be scouting my stash to cull these lace yarns for spring and summer projects (seriously, it’s right around the corner, nipping at my heels).

and then there is this absolutely deLISH skein of sadie lace that arrived from poshdee—i know that many of you know who she is (courtesy of the yarn ho thread in our ravelry group, i happen to know that we have a large contingent of posh yarn addicts fans among us. or maybe it’s the adrenalne rush during the sunday shop updates they’re addicted to . . .).

anyway . . . sadie is a merino/tencel blend laceweight that is gorgeous—especially in the memoirs colorway pictured above—and indescribable pink/red color, something like raspberry lip gloss. i love it.

ok, i just realized that i need to rush off for a much-needed haircut now—where the heck did the whole morning disappear to?? i’m not even going to proofread this til later, so forgive my typos. i’ll be thinking of you this weekend while i knit my fingers to the bone on that big gift.