To Peek Or Not to Peek…

December 25, 2015

…just might be the question of the night;-)

The Christmas gifts are mostly wrapped and done. I have one more to finish and wrap, but it involves paint and shellac(the spray kind), and it will be done in time. I may have to thank my brother and sister-in-law for moving our Christmas family gathering this year. I had less craziness involved in completing the gifts. I’m much happier with them when I can look at it and say, “This is closer to what I wanted.” I really wanted perfection, but that would require months, not weeks….

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The Christmas tree is getting full of gifts…there’s a couple more to go under it, and perhaps next week I can show you my creations.

Alas, they are getting done and mostly wrapped, and the gift pile beneath my tree is growing. I’m not sure how I’m going to fit some of these gifts beneath it until I get to deliver them. Then the directing may begin. Though it would be fun to see this gift I can’t fully explain opened both ways. I may just let the teen figure it out for himself. He’ll have his own ideas anyways.

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Scamp is convinced these are her toys…

And the nieces are set up to be opened how they wish. Now, if I could just find the treats meant to go with them. I have the candy canes, but I got some other items and am not sure where I put them…I may have another search on my hands. In the meantime, this is a knitting blog…

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Scamp likes to play with the ribbon before she peeks…

But my needles are all naked right now, and I want to cast on and start a new black (shh…don’t tell dear James) sock that fits better, and I might still tonight. But then I have to get some knitting graph paper and design an arm sock set for a friend of a friend. This could get interesting. I was impressed my knitting journeys took me to fair isle. I didn’t expect them to take me to custom arm sock design. This could get interesting. Now to figure out which journal I need. I promise, you will hear about whether I like it or not. I picked out this one:  http://www.fringesupplyco.com/product/knitters-graph-paper-journal

I hope I didn’t ruin a Christmas gift, but I suspect he bought me yarn and he said something was a set and I could get the rest of it after Christmas…it’s curious, because he tells me it’s not needles. I know where it is, I could check the packages. It’s tempting, but I won’t. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being naughty, I just learned many years ago that I don’t like ruining the surprise.

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Scamp and Squib Inspecting the gifts, and their box…

When I was ten, (please forgive me if I’ve told this story before), my little brother woke me quietly at 2AM. We snuck down the stairs, and peeked at the Christmas gifts, which were only covered with a blanket. My brother woke me to help because I had a knack for putting things back exactly the way they were. So, we peeked, and I found mine and looked. It was fun, and made a great story about what I did on Christmas vacation. And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for that meddling teacher, Mr. Sauve(Saw-vey, not shampoo). He kept our essays, and returned them to our parents at conferences in February.

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Squib is pro-peeking…

I was mad at him for a month. We didn’t get into too much trouble, but our cover was blown, because it made a better story than I watched tv, fought with my brothers and waited for school to start back up where the rules were consistent and we frequently busy, except when I finished my classwork before everyone else, except for writing. I would have written all day if they’d let me. Alas, the stocking soon took over for my favorite tradition, and I remember having to “act surprised” at my gifts, though I already knew what they were. After that, I decided just to wait and see what the gifts were. That way, I wouldn’t get anymore essays returned to my parents that I didn’t ever want them to see or know about. (Though it does make for a fun story now. At least I think so).

 

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Making It My Own…

December 18, 2015

I like to give handmade gifts of me at Christmas. I like to create something I hope someone will enjoy for time to come. I’m also broke much of the time. Even so, I still enjoy seeing my work come to life before me, as well as the feeling of putting on those hand knit socks the first time, and many times thereafter.

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Zeus hasn’t noticed the limb yet…though he looks like he’s snuggling it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t make it all…I just can’t–and knit candle holders or hot cocoa mugs are just not good ideas. Perhaps one day I’ll take up ceramics or metal-smithing…but I have to make more money for that first.

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Briannag, Begging for her very own stuffed gift from Santa Paws…or “Mom, Is this for me?”

But some days, you just want to do and create. Most days, I do so. My job usually allows for that. While my projects are ambitious, they light a fire in me. I want to keep that fire going, especially around the holidays. I do celebrate Christmas, but more because of tradition and love of the holiday(and I’ve learned to embrace 1 special gift over multiple small ones).  I believe I told you about my stocking traditions last year.

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“Mom, I will love him, and hug him and name him George, right before I chew the eyes and nose off and rip the stuffing out of him.” It’s not for Briannag, sorry, Girl. Better get some puppy treats…

This year, I’m beginning a slightly new possibility.   I saw a t-shirt I liked in August, and bought it for my dad(Dad, if you did read this one, stop peeking, you’ll see it Tuesday). My brother posted a t-shirt he liked, but after obtaining other gifts for my nieces and nephews, some of them pricier than planned, I realized it wasn’t feasible if I wanted to keep pretending I was following the broke budget plan for holiday spending.

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Putzer, helping me knit the secret gift…

My brother also reminded me that he only wears t-shirts about one day a week. If it’s not going to get use, there isn’t much point in me purchasing this item I’m constantly wondering if it’s a bit over-priced. So, I needed another approach. I realized I still had one canvas left in my basement. I also use acrylic paints (and may move into oils when I have more budgetary freedom), but for now, the most appealing part is that I can make it my own. I’m not limited by some company’s idea of the “correct” phrasing. Now, I just have to figure out which brush will paint the words I need. I believe some will be easy and some a challenge….but it shall be interesting. (I am practising on newsprint first).

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If you can guess what it is, please don’t post here. This is the wrong side of the fair isle knitting/color strand work.

Now, you’ve read this far and there’s not near enough said about knitting, except the feeling when you put on a new pair of socks. Well, a few weeks ago, I decided to make a gift for my nephew’s car…(David, quit peeking, I’m not showing this either). Well, I’ve got one finished and need to finish the second. I got a good start on it tonight, but I have some work to do, in the midst of finishing some other plans….oy and vey…Photos will come shortly, so long as I remember to take them. In the meantime, I simply have to make these gifts my own, even if the ideas were generated by that which I could not afford;-). Merry early Christmas for those of you that celebrate. Happy Holidays to the rest of you!

My Needles Feel Naked…

December 11, 2015

….really, really naked. Like, considering the black yarn again naked.

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Or, why I don’t have socks on my needles…I could go into references from Sherman and Peabody when I was growing up. I don’t wish to bore you if they’re not your thing. If you have no idea who they are, I hope you can find them on Youtube.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not knitting. It’s simply that my sock needles feel lonely and unloved. I still have yarn, and thread, on my needles. the needles are simply much bigger or much smaller these days…and sometimes, I only need one.

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Briannag, taking my place on the couch after a short break from sewing…

It’s Christmas season here, and I’m hoping to get these gifts done by Christmas. One of them is done, and I showed them to you last week. I’ve also had the delight of working on other projects…. However, I can only share a few of them with you, and it must be done carefully. Though these will all be given out by Christmas. Somebody, please remind me to take my camera. It’s going to matter.

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Squib and Putzer helping me sew the latest project…

Where to start…I told you about the stranded color work…it’s coming along, but my aunt offered me a cheat which I traded her the cotton yarn I found in order to accomplish. I may be gifting some of the other stuff to my sister-in-law so she can crochet a scarf or something else with it. It may be easier to color block in crochet….Of course, I may be too ambitious for my own good. I really never thought I’d utter those words, let’s just forget I said that, okay;-).

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I can’t tell you what it is or who it’s for yet…but it’s coming along(this is the stranded side).

So, next on my ambitious projects: a teddy bear. I can’t tell you who will receive the bear. I can’t tell you why. I can simply tell you I think she needs it and she loves mint green. Not to mention we’re Irish (with some German and likely some Greek thrown in…along with a few other nationalities…) But if you noticed the tiny shamrocks, we’re Irish.

I believe I named him Fitzgerald William…(it could have been William Fitzgerald…it’s been a couple of years).

It’s actually coming along better than I expected. Perhaps it’s simply determination and focus. Perhaps it’s that I’ve sewn stuffed creatures before that were tougher, by hand. I didn’t even mean for this one to be sewn by hand. I just started it at work, and took it to band concert (my oldest nephew and youngest niece are now in band). It kinda stuck, and it came together pretty quick. I have ears and stuffing and buttons and details. Each should take no more than a day.

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Scamp, helping me with my latest sewing project…(more, after I gift it, promise.)

The ambitious part, you say? I have no instructions. They have been misplaced. I received the pattern second hand and luckily have been able to figure it out on my own, mostly, I think, and I hope. I’m sewing the ears so I can figure out their placement as well. Then again, I’m almost fearless about knitting. Why should I let a wonky ear stop me? It’ll give the bear character and more for me to blog about-next week. Now I’m going to take a deep breath and show you a late fall/almost winter surprise in Michigan.

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December, 2013-not too much, but some snow on the ground…

Most of our winters have snow on the ground by now. We don’t always get snow days by now, but let me show you a first weekend of December a couple of years ago…(and puppies, of course).

Now, we have green grass and mild temperatures. The weather is mild enough that I looked out my back window and saw green leaves in my backyard, in December. I had to investigate and found the cabbage I’d neglected for the past month and a half was still growing. However, we started having hard frosts at night. I had to pull it, no matter what size it seemed. I checked it, and I thought I had heads-nearly three inches I guessed. I pulled the cabbage, roots and all, and felt a smidgen of guilt for it as I did. Then I had an event(or perhaps needed sleep) and left Dear James to harvest the actual heads. He gave me the partially deflating news that I had no heads just leaves working at being heads.

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My cabbage baby, harvested in December(rare in Michigan, we usually put our gardens to bed in late October/early November).

I still found a soup to make with it. I even consulted dear James and we somehow decided on a Weight Watchers recipe. It’s pretty good, though I’m thinking of adding a bit of hot sauce and perhaps some smoked ham hocks…If treated like greens, they’d be pretty good. In the meantime, I found one tiny, almost 2” red cabbage head that I couldn’t bear to put in the soup yet. I’ll let dear James add it to his chili(everything goes into the chili). I have to show it to him first;-). With that note, yes, I do hope for snow on Christmas eve(just enough for Santa to pull his sleigh), and twice, perhaps in January, when I don’t have work or class. Until then, that s-word is banned from my tables…and my vocabulary, even if I do think snowmen are cute.

…it’s not my strong suit.

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They’re done! They’re done! Shh…don’t tell the recipient…if she’s in the room, close this blog;-)

On the good news front, I finished the Christmas gift socks, with plenty of time to spare. Then, out of the blue, I was provided an invite to a dinner function with silly Santa Hats…Oh, boy! I have red and white yarn, right? How long can it take for me to knit a Santa hat? Famous last words…I’m an inch and a half into the brim and thinking of sewing up the one the dog used as a toy for Christmas photos of 2013. That’s right, I’m wearing a dog’s photo prop.

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Scamp, interrupting the knitting to which I’ve given far too much attention…

I still had to cut a bear. I still had to sew a quilt. I just finished socks and now my needles feel bare. There are no socks on them:-(… I’m not crying tears, just the sad face. I have the bug. Then, after cutting out a bear, fighting exhaustion and somewhat ignoring the quilt and somewhere in there making a dinner the boyfriend won’t eat until tomorrow(he’s quirky that way), I have to knit some fuzzy dice. (Update, he made salad out of the chicken I made for dinner. I was kind of impressed).

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Briannag “helping” me knit the santa hat…(it’s too small…it may become hers after all). Yes, she is on my lap.

Only I had decided I could make my own camouflage with three colors of yarn, and some fair-isle knitting. The holidays are the perfect time to learn a new technique in knitting, right? How hard can it be? I’ve made lace. I’ve mastered cables. It’s only carrying the yarn in back, right? I’ve watched some tutorials–never mind that i’m not an auditory learner…and I either need to watch the videos forty times or read the transcripts with pictures. Gasp, you heard me right, I can’t stand learning from videos.

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Back of repaired hat…where I had to cover the tooth holes left by the “Brute” as I affectionately refer to Briannag (sorry about the horrid photo, it’s late and I’m getting tired.)

So, Tuesday night, I decided to bite the bullet and just try it. I reviewed some info and cast on the first row in the main color. Then I started switching colors. Then it didn’t look right. So I ripped it out. I’d only knit an inch of sixteen stitches. That’s less than one row of sock knitting. I increased to eighteen stitches and started switching colors every three stitches instead of four and realized I was breaking half of the rules already. I’ve never been great with rules. (Photos to come later, in case my nephew peaks…the youngest niece doesn’t have a facebook account yet and is good with just being 11).

As I knit, I realized this wasn’t quite the effect I wanted, and I needed to purl the other side. Here’s where that sense thing came into play: I love a challenge. I even need a challenge to keep my mind engaged on the knitting. But as I reviewed, I found a useful blog about color work by TECHknitting on blogspot: http://techknitting.blogspot.com/2007/04/how-to-knit-with-2-or-more-colors-part.html

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Santa hat–only one color, well aged…

I reviewed the info, and found some good advice was posted on part 2 of knitting with 2 or more colors…(I hadn’t read everything in part 1 yet, or if I did, I scanned it for keywords-I had knitting to work on.) But the sage advice I hadn’t followed looked like this: “If you try color knitting back-and-forth, you’re going to have to purl in two colors on every other row. This is not impossible, but it is more difficult that knitting in 2 colors–so leave 2-color purling until you’ve mastered the tension thing.”

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(Credit to Summer Photography of Lansing, MI) This hat did not stay on her head long…I forgot I had it, or she tested it more than I remembered…

Um, oops….I just don’t know how to listen and seem to prefer to jump in feet first before I ask if there are eels in the darned pool. I don’t know if I can stand eels or not, but I know I likely wouldn’t hesitate to go in after a book I hadn’t made copies of yet. (If you’ve seen Love, Actually 20 times like I have, you’ll get this. If not, what are you waiting for, go rent it!)

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(Credit to Summer Photography of Lansing, MI) Both the hat and the elf ears are reasons we don’t gift Briannag with hats…

Now for the update after real life happened. The socks are still done, I didn’t rip anything out. But I came home from work Wednesday night to my aunt’s friend calling me from Ypsi(over 2 hours away) to tell me my aunt Jane had fallen and broke her hip. She lives alone. I’m glad her friend was able to get someone to check on her. I went somewhat into planning mode and took the info. Then I called my dad and my aunt Maryal and updated them. Maryal called Jane in her hospital room to find out when surgery was scheduled. They still didn’t know at 10:30 that night, but Jane was adamant we not come to visit. I had the trip mostly planned in my head.

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My nieces(with permission) and sister-in-law at our Cup of Christmas gathering tonight. If I can, I’ll link to the photo including me tomorrow(or when it’s posted)

Slightly disappointed, I’ve kept my phone with me, and learned my aunt Jane was scheduled for surgery this afternoon. It happened closer to evening. They finally returned her to her room about 10:30PM. I’m amazed however, because the report is that she’ll be discharged in a couple of days and able to get around with a walker. It’s been a bit of an ordeal, but I was still able to wear the dog photo prop hat I’d re-sewn and knit the pouf to complete. Briannag is waiting for me to leave it unattended, either one…trust me-these Santa hats are soft and make good toys.  Oh, and I got the bear cut out…now I have to figure out the best way to sew it…Wish me luck.