Easily Distracted…

There are so many things that fascinate me, I have a hard time focusing on just one.  The Internet really doesn’t help with focus, it just brings more things I want to try.

For example, I’ve been a fan of Tech Knitter for a long time.  Her illustrations on the TECHknitting blog are amazing and incredibly helpful.  I’ve often wondered how she makes them, and finally took the time to find out that she uses Adobe Illustrator.  I don’t have Illustrator, but I went on a hunt for free vector graphics editor and I found Inkscape.  I downloaded the software on my iMac, looked at a couple tutorials, and fell down the rabbit hole.  Before I knew it I had spent the whole day creating illustrations.

The first one I did was a cartoon illustration of my latest crochet critter creations: the Whimsies.  The pattern for these little guys just popped into my head one morning, and before I knew it, I’d made 4.  One from each of the bright acrylic yarn colors I had on hand.  Here is what I came up with:

crocheted critters

The Whimsies

I’ve been trying to decide on the best way to get these guys out into the world, so for now they just sit in front of my computer and make me smile.  Since they were there, I couldn’t help but draw them to try out this new software.

Here’s my Inkscape interpretation:

The Whimsies, Illustrated

The Whimsies, Illustrated

After spending time on that, I decided to see if I could create something similar to the TECHknitter’s drawings but use it for crochet.  All of my little creatures start out making a ring of single crocheted stitches on an adjustable loop called a magic ring.  There are several webpages showing the technique with pictures, but I wondered if I could make an illustration that showed it.

It’s taken several hours, but I think I’ve got it.   I am a left handed crocheter, so I did the drawings left handed and then flipped them.  It all looks a little strange to me right handed.  I’ve decided to collect technical illustrations on a separate page on this blog, so look for the Technical Tips page at the top for the left handed version, along with this one.

created with Inkscape

created with Inkscape

Is it helpful, or just confusing?  I think I may add a couple more steps to show how to use the ring.  I learned a lot, regardless.  It was helpful for me to spend some time studying the stitches, it is fascinating how it all comes together.  I also learned a lot about Inkscape and am looking for excuses to use it.  🙂

I guess I should get back to cleaning up from my crazy cooking extravaganza, but I’m sure there will be more illustrations in the future…

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Mission Accomplished

Well, it took 3 days, but I finally processed all the food I bought for the freezer.  It really did feel like industrial processing, cycling through steps just to clean up and start again.  My biggest problem was the lack of pans.  I have enough for normal baking and casserole making, but not for making 8 casseroles at once.  I ended up lining my pans with heavy strength aluminum foil then filling and freezing the dishes overnight.  In the morning I took the food and foil out of the pan, bagged it, vacuum sealed it and put it back in the freezer.  In some cases I peeled the foil off before storing.  When it comes time to eat it, I’ll thaw it in the pan I froze it in and finish the cooking in the oven. Want the list of what I made?

  • 2 lasagna
  • 3 meatloaves
  • 6 packages of meatballs (14 meatballs per package- serving for 2)
  • 3 packages of spaghetti sauce with italian sausage (a lot of it didn’t make it to the freezer since we’ve been eating it all week)
  • 4 chicken broccoli casseroles
  • 5 meals of “Mexi-Chicken” (chicken taco filling with barley in it)
  • 2 meals of ham broccoli bake (skeptical of this one, but we’ll see how it tastes)
  • 4 meals of scalloped potatoes and ham

I also had 1 lb of ham and a chicken leftover.  Instead of making chicken soup, we ate the chicken from the crock pot and I used the ham to make 15 bean cajun soup last night.  Whew, I’m tired.  Kind of fizzled before the last cleanup, so that is still in progress. I’m letting the dishwasher do most of the work, I just need to unload and reload once more.

New Experiences

I’ve jumped into the new year with both feet.  On my list of things to do:

  • Start an Etsy Shop
  • Eat better
  • Exercise More
  • Look for Work

With the exception of the last one, I’ve made progress on all of these things.

Etsy Shop

I’ve gotten my Etsy shop started, though my inventory is still small.  I need to learn to take better pictures and make more things to sell, but at least I’ve got a few items listed.  Check it out at stellarb.etsy.com.  So far I have a couple of cacti for sale, in case there are people out there that like Claude the Cactus, but would rather buy him than make him.  Since these cacti are made with different materials and are larger than the original, I have named the boys Clyde and the girl Cora.  Cora is sporting a flower that is as near as I can get to an actual Barrel Cactus Flower.  Here’s a picture of the love birds cacti.

I’ve also got the first in what I hope to be a series of tools for the knitter or crocheter.  I’ve been a serious fiber fanatic long enough to have made myself several custom accessories.  I hope to make the same tools for sale in coordinating fabrics on  my Etsy shop.  The first and most valuable tool I have is my vinyl pouch and stitch marker holder.  I never leave home without them.  I only have one fabric choice at the moment, but lots of other fabrics waiting to be used.  I also plan to make double pointed needle holders, and possibly a circular needle pouch, though I haven’t found a style/method I really like yet, so it could be a while.

I would appreciate any constructive feedback on the shop including pricing and shipping.  It is all new and I want to get it off to the best possible start.

Eat Better

Moving to a new place is always stressful, and I’ve never been good at creating routines, so it is no surprise that Scott and I have been eating out more than we should.  There is a restaurant here in Ames, called Hickory Park, that offers good food at reasonable prices and can feed my carnivore husband with all the meat he can handle, since I don’t have much meat in the house.

This is about to change.  With the house, we inherited a large chest freezer in the basement.  So large in fact that, though we requested they take the freezer out of the house because it was old and we knew it was going to be hard to get out, they tried the night before closing and couldn’t get it up the narrow stairway.  Long story short, we’ve had this freezer plugged in to keep the compressor running without any food for several months, and I figure we might as well use it.

Though I’d prefer to eat fresh, locally grown food, there’s not much to be found in the middle of winter in Iowa, so I’m going the freezer meal route this winter. I’ve known about the book Frozen Assets for a while now, but I finally picked it up from the library and am going to give it a try.  The basic premise is to cook enough meals for a month in one day by preparing several meals from several recipes amd freezing them.  The book has a proposed grocery list and all the recipes you would need for 30 days of dinner entrees.  I don’t plan for us to eat completely from the freezer for a month and then start all over, but I am going to use it to “open the bank account” in our freezer.  I picked up another book titled Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer, that suggests recipes that you just triple as you are making dinner to have two more in the freezer, and I hope use that one to supplement the Frozen Assets meals.  Couple this with the fact that my grandpa gave me his old Foodsaver vacuum sealer when I saw him at Christmas, and I’m ready to go.

The original Frozen Assets book has traditional comfort foods like meatloaf, meatballs, and ham and scalloped potatos that make it more calories than a lot of people would make for themselves these days, and as I was looking up the amazon link I found she has the Frozen Assets: Lite and Easy book coming out in June, 2009.  I think I’ll look into that one when it comes out.

So anyway, yesterday I went grocery shopping with the list from the book.  Just to get a feel for the quantity of food we are talking about, I bought 3 whole chickens, 9 lbs of ground beef and 2 lbs of bulk Italian sausage.  That’s just the meat.  🙂  I’ll start the cooking today, but I don’t know if I’m actually going to do it all in one day.

Along with all that food, I also bought the ingredients to make granola from scratch.  I’ve been eating oatmeal for the last couple years, and I’ve finally gotten sick of it, so I was looking for a way to make it tastier without paying large amounts of money for cereal.

I found this recipe with a google search and decided to make it.  IT IS DELICIOUS!  Even though I forgot the sesame seeds, I did add toasted almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, toasted wheat germ, coconut, raisins, dried apricots and dried cranberries.  It was really easy to make and they even have a video to make it simpler.  I’d  recommend this to anyone!

Here’s a picture from their post, just to make you want it more.  🙂  Scott really likes it, and he’s not a fan of sweet things, so you know it’s not too sweet.

very-large-spoonful-of-granola

And finally…

Exercise

This one hasn’t gone quite as well as planned, but we do have a treadmill in the basement I use every so often.  Shovelling snow and walking downtown have been my primary activities lately, and considering how often it snows, I exercise at least 3 times a week.  🙂

Sorry for the incredibly long post, but it’s been a while and I’ve been busy.  I’ll let you know how the massive cooking and freezing experience goes.

Blogging makes shoveling more fun

We had another snow storm today, and blizzard conditions tonight, but taking my new canon powershot camera with me to do the shoveling made things more fun.  I can’t really remember a winter here quite like this one.  Snow piles have gotten to the point that you can’t see if cars are coming at the intersections.  Almost every day it seems we wake up to more snow to shovel!

It is often easier to walk than to dig the car out, so I’ve been playing around with a hat pattern for those occasions.

I like my cloche, but it has the distinct disadvantage of not having ear coverage.  Out here on the prairie, the winds can really get going and my ears really ache after a walk to Main Street on a cold day.  The brim on the cloche really helps with the bright sun, so I started another bucket hat.  I used my Barbara Walker Treasury 1 and some math to come up with a stitch that would make a stiff brim and a pattern that would make a fun band.  I wore it on a walk once and realized that even though it fit closer to my head and was knit so I could shape it over my ears better, it still left my ears too exposed.  Solution?  Add 1 x 1 ribbing under the brim using short rows to cover my ears and still have the brim in front.

And after shoveling today, I can finally say I have found my winter hat.

Part bucket hat, part stocking cap.

Part bucket hat, part stocking cap.

At least that was one bright spot in the latest round of shoveling. I’ve got other pictures of the winter weather on my Flickr site, and here’s one that shows the size of the piles.  There is a lot of lifting involved to get the snow on top of the massive pile.

Yes, that pile is higher than the fence, and I threw most of it over the fence myself during the last couple months.

In other news, I have been slowly moving toward opening an etsy shop, mostly as a diversion to pay for my own yarn, etc.  I’ve got my resume tuned up too, so I am trying to get my job search rolling.  Only so many options in a town as small as this one.

Let’s hope the snow lets up for a little while so other things can get done!

ETA: Here’s a shot just to compare with the last post.

White Christmas? … No Doubt.

Winter in the midwest is really giving my arms a workout!  After another snow storm last night, it has taken me an hour and 45 minutes to shovel everything, and that is with a neighbor using his snowblower to get rid of most of the 3 foot berm left by the snow plow in the alleyway.  At least it was warmer today.  With a temp of 20F, I just wore a fleece jacket, my neckwarmer rebuttoned into an earwarmer, and my knotty gloves. Oh and some long johns under my jeans and wool socks, of course.

There is no chance of the temperature getting above freezing this week, so we will definitely be having a white Christmas.  Add in a snow storm predicted for the 23rd, and it’s guaranteed.

At least things look pretty outside.

Still working of felting and blocking, but at least I got the ends weaved in.  🙂

Stunning!

Well, there I was going about my business on the computer, taking a break from knitting by checking e-mail, browsing Ravelry, and making a wish list of seeds at the Seed Savers Exchange, when I decided to check in on my blog stats.  It is always fun to see the 50-80 hits a day and know that people are using my patterns and checking in.

Much to my surprise, the blog stats that wordpress provides said that I had over 600 hits to my webpage, specifically the Mock Cable Neckwarmer pattern.  And it keeps climbing!  My blog has over 1000 hits today and I have no idea why.  It seems that a lot of the viewers are being referred by an e-mail, but I have no idea who sent it or what it said.  My curiosity is killing me and I’d love to thank the person for the referral.  If any one of those viewers would like to leave a comment to let me know what is going on, I would greatly appreciate it.  It could be a good last minute holiday gift pattern, so I’m assuming that was the reference.

I have been knitting continuously the past few days, even though I told myself I wouldn’t make so many gifts this year.  The biggest project has been finishing a sweater for Scott that I started over a year ago without a pattern and only a vague notion of what the final product would look like.  I knit a 3x 2 rib in the round up to the armholes, but it took 3 tries(including one with a partial sleeve that had to be ripped out) before I got it right.  Ever since I got two books: Designing Knitwear by Deborah Newton and Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti in December of 2007, I have been planning this sweater.  Maggie Righetti is a big fan of circular needles and even outlines a method of using short rows to create the sleeve cap for set in sleeves.  I used this method and the sleeve cap math from Deborah Newton to finally get the sleeves right.

I worked a couple of full days on it last week and as soon as I cast off the collar, he wanted to wear it.  I took it back to weave in the ends and haven’t touched it since.  I hope to block it and he would like the sleeves to be a little longer (so I will probably pick up stitches and add the same ribbing I used on the collar) but I have no idea when.  I also hope to get a picture with him in it but I was planning to block it first.  🙂  The 5 inches of snow and high temperatures of 8 degrees F make his first and only wool sweater very attractive.  He has worn it to work every day this week.

When I get photos I will add the other knitterly details.  Now I must get back to weaving in ends, blocking and felting gifts that will be revealed after the recipient knows about them.

Happy Holidays, and good luck with your last minute preparations.

Mock-cable scarfette: the neckwarmer revisited

I have been hanging onto a skein of gorgeous Catalina Baby Alpaca/Silk since I knit my urban necessity mittens after getting the yarn from my parents on our trip to Lake Placid, NY. I had probably 50-60 yards leftover from the mittens plus one whole skein. Since knitting those mittens, I realized that alpaca wants to stretch an drape and that hats and mittens don’t work that well with alpaca/silk. So it sat for a long time as I pondered what to do with it.

When I went to the knitting group at the Ames Public Library a couple of weeks ago, I was wearing my mock-cable neckwarmer for a little more warmth, not thinking much about it. Well the ladies there noticed it, and that got me thinking about that neckwarmer again. I had also just finished my St. Vincent cloche, and wanted something burgundy to go with it.

I started rifling through my boxes of unorganized stash, and with the leftovers from the mittens, I started another neckwarmer. I got about 2/3rds of the way through when I ran out of yarn. I liked the texture and drape, but it was a little too narrow and way too short.

I thought that this might be just the stitch pattern for a one skein scarf using that whole skein that had been waiting for a project, especially if it had buttons to hold it in place. I looked through a couple stitch dictionaries for a different stitch, but kept coming back to this one. So the mock cable scarfette was born.

The pattern is just a riff on the neckwarmer that can be pulled up to keep you chin and nose toasty. I cast on 10 more stitches ( 2 repeats) and knit until I ran out of yarn for a length of 40 inches( I used some of the skein to finish the neckwarmer, so I was probably 30 yards short of a skein). If you knit it longer, button it up higher and allow the end to hang down further.

Download the PDF

Here are the directions:

Needed: 1 skein of worsted weight alpaca yarn(~180 yards). I used Catalina Baby Alpaca/Silk.

Size US 6 needles and at least 2 ea 5/8″ buttons

Gauge: ~19 st/4 in stockinette ( I didn’t actually swatch, and it is not critical for this pattern)

Pattern:

Note: psso= pass slipped stitch over (in this case over the two knit stitches and off the needle)

yo= yarn over – (just wrap like you were going to make a stitch, but without a loop from the left needle)

CO 38 st.

Row 1: s1, k2, p2, *s1, k2, psso, p2*, repeat * * 5 more times, k3 (42 st on needle)

Row 2: s1, p2, k2, *P1, yo, P1, K2* , repeat * * 5 more times, p3 (38 st on needle)

Row 3: s1, k2, p2, *k3, p2*, repeat * * 5 more times, k3

Row 4: s1, p2, k2, *p3, k2*, repeat * * 5 more times, p3

Repeat rows 1-4 until yarn runs out or you have at least 40″ length.

Final Dimensions, 40″ long x 4″before blocking. It will easily be an inch wider after blocking, but I don’t know about the length until i block it myself. 🙂

Sew buttons to second and 5th “cable” on row 5 ( the first cross). Wrap around your neck once and button into yo holes along the other end.