Par Avion

Earlier this week, I came home to this.

Air mail from Canada

I hadn’t recently ordered anything from Canada, so I was puzzled.  However, upon turning it over, I discovered the customs form.

customs form

(In case you’re wondering, there’s almost nothing cooler than seeing the phrase “handknit socks” on a customs form when the temperatures are about 20 degrees below freezing.)

One of my favorite bloggers to follow is Lynn from Minding My Own Stitches.  I was first introduced to her blog when we were both regular participants in the original Year of Projects in 2011-2012.  We were two of the only bloggers who actually worked through a book rather than a series of patterns, though our approaches were quite different.  Also, we’re both members of Surmount the Stash, a group for those in dire need of stashbusting support.

Lynn is an avid sock knitter.  As you may recall, I’m not an avid sock knitter.  I do frequently fantasize about wearing hand knit socks, because they are so darned awesome.  (And I know this from experience, because I have also been the grateful recipient of a fabulous pair of hand knit socks from Underbaragarn on Ravelry, which you can see here.)

Once upon a time, after I lavished praise on one of her recently completed socks, Lynn mentioned she would knit me a pair.  Naturally, I jumped at the chance and instantly emailed her my address. (Or, as MC said when I tried to explain the situation: “So, basically you drove this woman crazy until she would send you a pair of socks to get you to leave her alone???”)  As soon as I saw the customs form, I knew the magic day had arrived.

Vorticity socks

Inside was a gorgeous pair of Vorticity Socks that Lynn knit in Twisted Top Cat by Wandering Cat Yarns, a stunning hand painted yarn by a dyer in her area.  Apparently, making these socks was quite an adventure (you can read about it on her blog here, here, here, and here), so I’m extra thrilled to be the recipient.

As if an amazing pair of socks in beautiful yarn wasn’t enough, Lynn also sent me some other goodies: some very pretty soaps, a foot lotion (so I don’t destroy those socks!), and some wool wash.

Swap goodies

And here is my picture with the socks on ( they fit fabulously, by the way).  I have renewed appreciation for the sock knitting bloggers of the world – feet are strangely hard to photograph!

Marie wearing Vorticity

Thank you, Lynn!

In other Year of Projects news, I’m still trying to come up with something awesome to make during the Ravellenic Games.  I didn’t want the stress of captaining a team, but I think I will offer up some prizes and a crochet/knit-a-long thread in my Ravelry group for anyone using one of my patterns during the games.

As for myself, it seems that whenever I have a ton of work, I develop a bad case of startitis.  Since I’ve recently had several big deadlines at work, I’ve starting thinking of launching an enormous undertaking by designing a whole lot of patterns for another year long knit-a-long for 2015.  I’m thinking that I should challenge myself to design and make samples for 7 designs during the Games.  I can’t tell if that’s a lot, or too little.  (Designing and making a sample for a small project in 2.5 days seems like a lot to me, but is it “a lot” in Olympic proportions?  Probably not.)

At the same time, I feel that I should be crocheting during the Games.  It’s pretty distressing to hear there won’t be a Team Crochet this year, and I want to do my part to support crochet.  And, of course, I can crochet much faster than I can knit.  So another idea would be to start/finish a bunch of crochet projects, like blankets, that would usually take a long time to complete.  Of course, big projects call for big amounts of yarn, which might lead me out into buying more.

Basically, as you can tell, I haven’t yet decided what to do during the Games.  Hopefully, by next Sunday, I’ll have a clearer idea!

Are you joining in the Ravellenic Games?

For more Year of Projects posts, visit this thread on Ravelry.

2013 in Review

YOP3 dates

Last week, I finished my last Year of Projects post of 2013 with a cliffhanger: how many more projects could I complete in 2013?

I ended up finishing just one more project, a baby blanket for my cousin’s newborn.  (My cousin was in labor when I wrote the post, and has since delivered a healthy baby girl.  Yay!)

Ava car seat blanket detail

I originally had a plan for a symmetrical blanket.

Ava blanket planEach square was made holding two skeins of yarn, with the colors blending into each other.  I planned to have an “x shape” of hearts radiating outward from the center.

Unfortunately, my yarn calculations were a bit off, so I had to move on to Plan B – an asymmetric design with an “L shape” around one edge – to work with the colors I had left.

Ava car seat blanket

I like how it turned out.  I should mention that the yarn that looks brown in the picture is actually purple, and the colors look much brighter and more attractive in real life!

And with that project, I came to the end of my yarn usage for 2013.

Overall, I worked up about 1,700 yards less than in 2012 (which is no surprise, since I made many fewer projects in 2013), but I knit a lot more (about 19% of my total yarn usage, compared to about 4% in 2012).  That trend will probably continue this year, since I’m planning to make up a few extra samples of my 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long blanket.

My plans for the next half of the Year of Projects are to:

  • Finish my 2013 temperature scarf.  I love this thing so far, and I can’t wait to wear it during the impending cold front.  I crocheted through September 6, so I have 116 more rows to go.  I’m not sure if I’ll join it as an infinity scarf, or add buttons so I have the option to wear it as a scarf or cowl.  As you can tell from the photo below, it clearly needs blocking and a massive weaving in of ends before it can be worn.

Temperature scarf thru 2013-09-06

  • Take pictures and finish formatting the five patterns I have that are ready to self-publish.  (What can I say, it’s tough to find models willing to stand outdoors in the New York cold in exchange for baked goods!)
  • Keep working on the projects for the e-book I plan to release in March.  I have one in progress to finish, and 2 more to make.
  • Come up with something exciting to do for the Ravellenic Games.  I would like to come up with some kind of mystery crochet-a-long, but I’m not sure if I have time.

I’m keeping my goals a bit fluid because mainly I want to keep working on using my stash and getting more patterns ready for publication.  My original goals were all about developing patterns and self-publishing, and I plan to keep on moving in the same direction.

What are your plans for the first half of 2014?

For more Year of Projects posts, visit this thread on Ravelry.

2012 Year in Review: Frog Fest!

I’m not the type of crocheter (or knitter) who feels the need to complete every project I start.  Sometimes I start a project for stress relief, other times I make a bad yarn choice, and then there are times when the project just isn’t really something I want to work on anymore.

Today, I’m celebrating all those creations that actually made it as far as into my Ravelry projects but were later unraveled.  While I actually unraveled 12 projects in 2012 (freaky, huh?), I’m just going to talk about the three most significant ones today.

If you followed my second Year of Projects posts, you may remember that I was working on my first pair of knit socks.

I started these during the Ravellenic Games, hoping that would be the push I needed to actually get excited about making knitted socks.  I love looking at other people’s knit socks and I love wearing hand-knit socks, but something about actually knitting socks never seemed all that appealing to me.

I think I’ll stick with crochet socks.  I’m not all that comfortable knitting with small needles or with lightweight yarn and I just don’t feel committed to spending the amount of time needed to knit a single pair of socks.

Another learning experience was the slip stitch scarf I started for the Red Scarf Project.  Vashti Braha‘s newsletters got me very excited about using more slip stitches in my projects.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really think this one through.

Let’s just say that the combination of not so great quality acrylic yarn, watching a movie while crocheting, and slip stitches is not a good one.  I decided to unravel this, along with a Christmas stocking I made last year (in red wool)…

…and give slip stitch crochet another try in wool in 2013.

 

I think the addition of this hook I found at a shop near my job, which looks like a pjoning hook, will also help to make the stitches more even.

And finally, there’s the Pineapple Doily Shawl I started.

Several students in my crochet class were working on it, and I decided to start one, too.  I don’t usually work on projects with my students (besides a little swatch I make in class), and this experience hasn’t encouraged me to make it a habit.

I inherited this yarn from my grandmother and I eventually want to make it into something special for my mom.  So far, the perfect project for this yarn hasn’t revealed itself.

 

Do you unravel projects, do you always finish what you start, or do you abandon projects that aren’t working out?

2012 Year in Review: 12 for Myself

Back in January, I joined the Ravelry group 12 for Myself (now called For Myself!) with the hopes of making some crochet projects for me!  I’m that type of crocheter who always makse things for others and rarely for myself.  You know, the one who never has her own scarf finished in time for the winter because she was finishing a baby blanket for a colleague’s wife so she ends up buying one at the last minute.  This tendency has gotten even worse now that I’ve been designing, because I also have design deadlines that take precedence over gift and charity projects.

The original idea was to create 12 projects for me in 2012.  I actually made more than 12 projects, but there are only 5 that I actually use on a regular basis.  Others were repurposed as gifts or charity projects.  Since I probably only made one thing for myself in 2011, I consider this a good start!

My favorite projects were the two infinity scarves I made.

The All Weather Cowl (Ravelry project page/free pattern) is great because I used a neutral color so I can wear it a lot.

 

On the other hand, the Eyelet Ripple Infinity Scarf (Ravelry project page/for sale pattern) is really vibrant and bright, and I love to wear it on grey days.

The most unlikely project for myself that I actually love is this bathroom rug.

The backstory: I wanted to participate in as many competitions as possible in the Ravellenic Games.  This rug started out as the only partially completed project I was willing to unravel that was old enough to compete in the Frogging Trampoline.  At the same time, my current bathroom rug was looking really sad, so this seemed like the best usage of 1″ wide strips of cotton fabric.  I have used it every day since!

I’m also very proud of myself for finally finishing the Craft Yarn Council Certified Instructors Program in Knitting.  I consider the swatches I made for the program one of my favorite gifts to myself this year!

The final project for me success story is this placemat.  In many ways, it is totally impractical – after all, it has an uneven texture and the yarn doesn’t match my dining table in any way.  But I love it and it gives me a happy feeling to put my plate on it at dinner time.

After looking through what worked and what didn’t work for me this year, I learned a few things that will help me make more projects for myself in 2013.

  • I prefer functional projects for myself.
  • I still have a lot of trouble making things for me, so combining a “for me” project with an “obligatory” project (such as a design, testing out a pattern as part of a book review, or trying to use up stash yarn) seems to work best.
  • Although it helps to have some guidelines (“I’d like to make myself some winter accessories!”), I seem to use projects made spontaneously – and not necessarily with me as the intended recipient – more often.

Are you the type of crocheter or knitter who makes a lot of projects for yourself?  Do you plan to change that in 2013?

Year of Projects, Year 2: Spinning, Take 1

This post contains affiliate links.

I had a bit of a cliffhanger in my last Year of Projects update (you might have missed it since it was hidden between pictures of yarn): would I be able to take the Basic Dropspindling class at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival? It turns out that there was room for me.  But, um…  well, you can be the judge.

Is that what you call handspun?

Clearly, I have a long way to go before I can actually spin some yarn that anyone (myself included) would ever use.  While I did resist the urge to buy a stunningly beautiful hand made drop spindle from Hearthwise, I couldn’t stop myself from getting some super cool roving.  You know, for that day when I’m an accomplished spinner and stuff.

Yum.

So from here on out, I’ll be relying on these spinning teachers: Abby Franquemont (via Respect the Spindle) and Maggie Casey (via Start Spinning).

If these don’t help, there’s always Drucilla Pettibone‘s Craftsy class.  I think spinning is something I’ll need to set aside a fair amount of time for (since a 90 minute class was definitely not enough!).  That probably means that my next self-guided spinning lesson will take place over Thanksgiving weekend or the break from work between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This seems as good a time as any to share an update on my general YOP progress so far.

1) Crochet 52 granny squares for charity. I’m furthest along here.  I have 25 blocks finished (I made 26 but one was frogged).

2) Knit my first complete pair of socks.  It appears I’m not a sock person.  My socks have stalled since the end of the Ravellenic Games.

3) Make my mom a special bedspread for her milestone birthday.  I might need a little help here.  I already started working on these squares … and then I realized there’s a Tree of Life crochet pattern.  I started thinking maybe I should switch to a Tree of Life project?  What do you think?  (If it helps you decide, the yarn is a little more cream and less yellow than it appears in the picture.)

4) Learn to spin.  See above for update.

5) Design my own Bruges lace pattern. Done!  I released Visit to the Kantcentrum this week.  If you’ve never done Bruges lace crochet before, there is a photo tutorial inside.  As a thank you to all my YOP friends for your support, you can download it for free on Ravelry with coupon code BrugesYOP (or by following this link) through October 31.

Visit to the Kantcentrum, a Bruges lace crochet pattern with a photo tutorial for newbies.

6) Learn overlay crochet. No progress yet.

7) Create my own hairpin lace pattern.  No progress yet.

8 ) Try double knitting. No progress yet.

9) Try domino (modular) knitting. I’ve looked over the book, and even had a false start.  Perhaps I should make a charity domino square?

10) Make a small project inspired by Pop Knitting: Bold Motifs Using Color & Stitch.  No progress yet.

11) Learn knit entrelac. No progress yet.

12) Design a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe for my DC 37 crochet class students.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is actually finished.  The design has even been tested and edited.  You’ll just have to wait until it is ready for release…

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.