Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Knitrospect

It's that time of the year again when one would naturally tend to be a little nostalgic and a little progressive.

So, the easy part first ... numbers:
17 pairs of socks
1 huge Christmas stocking
2 sleeveless summer tops
1 wrap (Clapotis)
3 sweaters
4 cardigans
1 dress
1 quilt plus some sewing projects

Things did seem to have slowed down a bit in 2008 on the knitting front. That's what happens when you're widening your range of interests. I spent quite some time fiddling with the sewing machine in the middle of the year. I consider that time well spent and I plan to do a bit more next year.

Now some thoughts and plans.

1. My proudest moment was when I finished my first ever full-size quilt:
Honestly, it's not a really difficult pattern. But I can't stop feeling amazed at the harmonious beauty. However, knitted afghan is still my most favourite. In the coming year, I see myself finishing at least 2 afghans. Sound ambitious? One is actually done halfway.

2. 2008 was my self-assigned "Year of Nancy Bush Patterns" for socks. I did that partly because very often I felt lost in the bizillion sock patterns available and ended up not knowing which one to make. Now I can say that the resolution served its purpose. For the first half of the year, I focused on making Nancy Bush's patterns and got myself into a good sock knitting groove. Once I was there, I was able to move onto other designers and patterns. Nancy Bush was like a safety net for me ... don't know what to make? Just pick one from hers and you are all set. :)

3. I have been pretty productive in socks last year ... largely thanks to Sock-A-Month Knitalong. The totally minimal requirement is an amazing motivation to make socks. Guess what? I'm definitely going to continue with the knitalong ... big surprise! The Sock Knitters Anonymous was one step beyond SAM. It requires a little bit more planning but again, no pressure ... just fun. So far, I was pretty good in keeping up. But I think 2 sock knitalongs are enough to keep me going while still leaving time for other projects.

4. I did quite a lot of one-piece garment knitting. Sometimes I liked it, sometimes I didn't ... especially when it was in the round. I know all about the many advantages of knitting in the round, but for me, knitting back and forth is still the most feel-right way. So, it would be very unlikely for me to change a pattern from flat knitting into knit-in-the-round.

5. The only colourwork project I did last year was Laila's Socks, which was a lot of fun ... and I love wearing the socks. I have yet to try a garment-size fair isle project. I think 2009 would be the time. Actually, I have everything I would need for the Palette Fair Isle Cardigan. This would also be my first experience at steeking ... ::gasp::

6. Recent discovery ... amongst my various handknits, Husband's most favourite is my first afghan:
This is his favourite cover up when taking a nap on the sofa ... in his words, "It's soft, warm and beautiful." Even though there would be new ones coming, I am not sure if he would allow me to retire this one! LOL!

Finally, it's time to say goodbye to 2008! With the projects I have planned so far (2 afghans, 12 pairs of socks, 1 fair isle cardigan, a lace stole, Unst), my 2009 schedule seems pretty substantial already. I just can't wait for the new year to come and this feeling has never been so strong ... do you feel the same?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

08:29 Mad About Plaid Socks (SKA November Mystery Socks)

Oh hi! How was everybody's Christmas? We had a great time here ... the meal was great, the Yule Log was delicious, the tree was smelling good and Husband loves his present. I tried not thinking too much about the mysterious package. Then, it turned out to be another package from my MIL. Since we received one from her earlier already, I didn't expect another one. More chocolates from France ... LOL!

I also finished my SKA Sockdown project in time. This is officially my last FO of the year.

Pattern: Mad About Plaids designed by Debi for SKA November Mystery Sockdown!
Another great design from Debi. I was just happy to be able to use some of the leftovers and add some interest to the otherwise very boring grey socks.
I am amazed by how beautiful the plaid pattern created by slipped stitches:
The fit of the socks is not a snag one on me, but they are very comfortable, especially the heels which feel like cushions against the shoes.

Yarns: Elann Sock It To Me Essential 4-Ply in Colour Grey Shadow (7620) (just a little more than 1 ball); leftovers of Fleece Artist Basic Merino Socks (Wild Flowers) and Inspirations Yarn Cappuccino
I always feel happy when I am able to use up some of the very early stash.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns 2.5mm

Cast On: 11-30-2008
Cast Off: 12-27-2008

I also finished one more GAA square:
This Meg Swansen Square looks simple but is great fun to make. I especially love the "mystery" (Meg's word) knots:
I think my finishing the GAA in 2009 is looking good. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Mystery

I missed Santa the postman today ... so now I am left with a mystery to ponder over for Christmas:
Completely no clue what this is going to be ... and I know this would drive me nuts! LOL!

Anyway, my most favourite snow man wishes Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, and Happy Holiday to those who don't:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Just in time for new year

... or maybe not. Narcissus are one of the traditional flowers Chinese like to display during Chinese New Year. Just by looking at the picture on the package, I thought paper whites were narcissus ... most probably they are kind of related, but definitely different ... the colour and the aroma. Anyway, my paper whites bloomed during the weekend:
Since Chinese New Year is still a month away, maybe I'll get a real narcissus bulb to see if I can have the real thing in time. :)

As planned, I picked up the GAA again during weekend and made the Maureen Egan Emlet Square:
I was hesitant in adding the embellishments at the beginning (because of the extra extra work) but now am glad that I did because the little bullion stitch flowers are so cute:
Okay, so they came with a price ... I didn't show you the back of the square ...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

08:28 Gabi

As I said before, Gabi would be the last garment project I managed to finish in 2008. For the remaining of the month, I would concentrate on finishing my SKA socks for this month (to be more accurately, November) and making a couple of squares (hopefully) for the Great American Afghan.

But to be honest, the GAA is a lot less interesting to me than the GAAA. Some of the squares just seem not too fun to knit. Yet, I am not one to quit easily. :) I would give all the squares a try. If I fail, I think I would just substitute them with doubles of those that work. The most important thing is to be able to move on ... since I already have my eyes on another afghan project.

Yesterday, I wore the freshly finished Gabi and concluded that I need to be a bit more careful. The large kimono-style sleeves in lace means I would easily be caught by door handles ... which already happend more than once yesterday ... hahaha ...

Project: Gabi designed by Marie Wallin from Rowan 43
One interesting about this project is that it is not a very photogenic piece of garment. At least you need to have a photographer to try and find the best angle so that the beauty of the piece would show. For someone using a self-timer at a cluttered home, it is almost impossible ... not to mention the darker plum colour I chose! :)
The rib peplum turns out to be looser than I expect. Besides, ribbing in the mohair yarn isn't really that elastic. So, I think if you have a narrower hip than I do, you can pick up less stitches for it.
I think the best way to wear this is a camisole of contrasting colour underneath so that the beautiful lace would pop. But you know, to survive yesterday's weather, I need a long-sleeved turtle neck sweater ... hehehe ...

Yarn: Rowan Kidsilk Night (67% Super Kid Mohair, 18% Silk, 10% Polyester and 5% Nylon) in colour Macbeth 5 balls
The difference is very slight, but I can say that Kidsilk Night is not as soft as Kidsilk Haze, perhaps mainly because of the shiny bits (which I assumed to be the polyester). Don't get me wrong ... Kidsilk Night is still very very soft ... and I love the little glitters though some may think they would make the sweater a bit over-dress for daytime. :)

Needles: Denise US7 and US5

Cast On: 07-27-2008
Cast Off: 12-18-2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sparky instead of Pearly

Not much knitting news as the 2x2 ribbing is pretty boring, but I did pick out the buttons for Gabi ... instead of the pearly ones I first had in mind, I chose this sparky one:
I think it would go well with the Kidsilk Night.

Last night, we watched "The Great Escape" ... a great movie but I am always hesitant in watching it because (1) it is pretty darn long (close to 3 hours!) (2) though there were a lot of positive things celebrated in the movie, I always find the story very sad ... or heavy. However, since it is a really great movie, once you start watching, you would just get drawn into the story.

Besides, I made 2 discoveries last night. First, I saw the young actor who would later come Dr. Ducky Mallard, one of my favourite cast members in NCIS. Second, the "Cooler King" Steve McQueen reminded me of someone ... I spent 1/3 of the movie time trying to figure who it was. Finally, I got it ... Damian Lewis! Obviously, I was not the only one!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Taking shape

Finally there is some much-needed rain and snow storms here. It has been said for quite some time now ... that the possibility for compulsory water-rationing next year would be really high. I don't know how the rationing would be executed here, but no matter how, routine habits would be affected. I am just hoping rainfall and snow content would be able to ease the crisis ...

Still working on Gabi and she is taking good shape:
Plum on red doesn't really show too well. There are still 2cm + 15 cm of 2x2 ribbing to go ... pretty boring. I still have no idea what is the best way to wear Gabi; but the loose fit and big sleeves are kind of nostalgic of the 70s Hippie style, so maybe long flowing big skirt and long boots would be great.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I really can't explain this

I finished Diva in May ... a little more than half a year ago. So, I really can't justify this:
Yeah, for the last couple of weeks, I have been wearing the cardigan with these 2 ends dangling around. All I need to do is to pick up a darning needle and thread them into the i-cord. I know ... I'm going to do it after posting this. ::grin::

Remember the Cascading Leaves Socks I just started? They are no more:
There is nothing wrong ... except that the yarns shouldn't be used for socks. Jo Sharp's Alpaca Silk Georgette is a very lovely, super soft yarn. However, it is also one that screams "HAND WASH". I do not hand wash my socks ... and am not planning to change that. So, there is a new plan. I haven't made any smoke ring before but it would be a great and practical accessory for the cold weather.

I have also been working on Gabi:
Hopefully, this would be my last garment project in 2008. ;)

Monday, December 08, 2008

08:27 Cardigan Cozy

I thought I would never see this again ... actually I had been prepared to brace the gas price going over $4. Today, the price for the premium grade gas is below $2! Even in the high-price days, we didn't really complain ... Husband is from France, so to him, gas prices here are always cheaper than in Europe; I didn't drive in Hong Kong, but I do know that prices are way higher there too. Actually, I think that the really high prices in the last year has helped to bring the consciousness of getting independent from oil ... it seems new (driving) habits are starting to take place and the drive to explore other sources of energy is given momentum. So, while I am happy not having to break the wallet every time I fill up the car, I think having the gas prices maintained at a certain level is not really a bad thing.

Since it is December already, I've been thinking about my knitting in 2008. On the whole, I'm pretty happy with my projects, though not all of them turn out to be practical ... but I did have a good time working on them and that's the most important. However, one little regret/disappointment ... it seems I won't be able to finish my 2 afghan WIPs. During the weekend, I saw Dawn's beautiful Picnic Blanket ... so, I am going to set finishing the two afghan projects as one of my 2009 goals.

Now, the FO. One word of caution ... please ignore the grossly incorrect size I chose to knit. I knew I wouldn't have enough yarn before I started, so I chose to make the small size, hoping to push my luck. Besides, my gauge turned out to be tighter (I hate swatching with KSH). So, you should imagine the cardigan be put on a less ballooned body ...

Pattern: Cardigan Cozy from Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines
The Romi shawl pin turns out to be the perfect accessory for this cardigan. It is like wearing a shawl with sleeves ... great! Though I don't mind it being larger ... LOL!
It would be wise to use stitch markers for the cables ... I almost lost my places at the beginning. Also, I knitted 3 rows in garter stitch before all the bind-offs.
From the book: "We have had to keep the samples for this airy cardigan under lock and key. Everybody who sees this wants it."

Yarn: Rowan Kidsilk Haze (70% mohair, 30% silk) in colour Lord (3 balls)
I think the miscalculation of the amount of yarn required is the only complaint I have for the pattern. Though I learned from a Flickr comment that 2 balls were definitely not enough, I already had my mind set on making it using the 2 balls in my stash. Sometimes, human minds really work in a strange way!
Thanks to Ravelry, I was able to track down one more ball to finish the project. Though the dyelots are different, after washing, it was barely visible ... perhaps only when you pay really close attention.
It is always a lovely feeling wearing something made from KSH ... the yarn just makes you feel pampered. I bought a cashmere sweater for Husband recently ... KSH feels almost like cashmere!

Needles: Denise US8 and US10.5 (for binding off)

Cast On: 11-09-2008
Cast Off: 12-05-2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Can you see it?

For me it would be hard to miss:
I knew the dyelots were different, so I was completely prepared for this to happen. I thought alternating the new ball with the remaining of my last ball every 2 rows would be okay. Obviously, the difference would still be quite visible.

So, I ripped back 10 or more rows before the joining of the new ball. It's always a hard decision to rip a project using Kidsilk Haze ... anyone who has used this lovely yarn knows that ... the loveliness just vanishes when you try to frog. But there is a trick, though, which can make the hard task easier ... kind of like being caught in Devil's Snare (do you read Harry Potter?) ... you have to make the fuzzy yarn relax and go slow.

Then, I joined the new ball and switched between the 2 threads every row. Much better:
The new ball is more like stone-washed version of my own 2 balls, which are much richer in colour. But then, when you run out of yarn in a discontinued colourway, you don't really have the luxury to match the dyelot, right? :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mohair Craze

I am still waiting for the ball of Kidsilk Haze in Lord to arrive. Since it is coming all the way from England, it may take a while ... hopefully, it'll be here towards the end of the week.

In the meantime, I am working on another Rowan mohair project. Last time I showed you Gabi, I only had 2 pattern repeats done. Progress has been slow since I was struggling with memorizing the pattern. Now I am all familiar with it, the knitting has gone pretty smoothly:
I just finished one side of the neck opening and am now working on the other one. I like the lace pattern a lot ... it is very pretty ... although it won't be too visible when worn because the yarn is really fuzzy. We'll see.

New socks on the needles:
Cascading Leaves Socks
... a sock club kit from last year
I am happy that I can finally start it

SKA November Mystery Socks
designed by Debi

Oh, I eventually managed to get most of the ingredients for the Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie (except ground clove, I think). I haven't had pumpkin pie before ... but I can tell you that the one from Martha Stewart's recipe is delicious. The thing I like it best is that it is not too sweet and the combination of the various spices tastes great.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

08:26 Booby Socks

Last night, we watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on DVD. Since I like The Last Crusade so much, I had eagerly wanted to watch the latest in the theatre ... which we never did due to various reasons.

That turned out to be a good decision. I don't think I would be able to endure the whole movie sitting inside the dark. The story is weak, the romance seems cheesy, and the acting is unconvincing. I couldn't help comparing it to the 2 National Treasures movies, which I love and can keep watching and watching again. As I get older, my patience for bad movies seems to become thinner.

Perhaps that applies to everything else ... life is short, don't waste another minute on something that doesn't really please you. :D

Now this is something that pleases me:

Pattern: Booby Socks designed by Rosemary "Chappy" Chapman
This came with the yarn as Skacel's "Knit for the Cure!" kit promoting Breast Cancer Awareness. This is my first pair of socks with beads ... quite interesting to knit. I just wonder if the beads would get loose after wash.
I chose transparent beads so they are more subtle in the socks. I also like the star toe very much:

Yarn: Trekking Sport XXL (75% New Wool; 25% Nylon) in Pink Ribbon(1450)
The colour was said to be dyed solely for this kit. I like the Trekking yarn ... it is the type of yarn that you know you can rely on all the time.
It's interesting how knitting expands the range of colours in my wardrobe. I won't buy pink ready-to-wear items, but I tend to buy pink yarns on occasions.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns US1

Cast On: 10-15-2008
Cast Off: 11-27-2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Peaceful Thanksgiving

We are going to have roasted chicken (neither of us really love turkey) and apple pie tonight. I was pretty tempted to make Martha Stewart's Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, but I forgot to bring the shopping list to the store ...

We may go shopping for a real Christmas tree later this weekend. That would be my first real Christmas tree ... exciting ...

But for today, most probably I'll stick to CNN for the updates of the Mumbai attack. At a time when world peace still seems so out of reach, I just hope all of you can manage to have a peaceful Thanksgiving at home with your families.

Monday, November 24, 2008

You've got to love Ravelry ... seriously

This is the present state of my Cardigan Cozy:
I seamed one sleeve to make sure the fit is alright. The yarn left from the second ball would allow me to go another 4 or 5 rows ... so I need one more ball. I thought of using a different colour but this midnight blue is pretty unique and seems not to go well with the black I have in stash.

The real problem is: the 2 balls I used are gift from Joy a while back and I suspect that the colourway (Lord) has been discontinued as I couldn't find it anywhere, not even on eBay. I went to 2 LYSs and checked the current blue colourways ... not close. So, my only hope is an odd ball in someone else's stash. Before the age of Ravelry, this would almost be impossible. But through the yarn search, I was taken to Emma in Devon, UK ... and now I am waiting for the 3rd ball to come. YAY!

Now, I'd like you to meet 2 new friends:
Mr. Tipps ... he is very very sweet.

Edgar is relaxing on his favourite spot ... the top of the sofa.

Husband and I have been having piano lessons for almost 2 months. These are our piano teacher's cats ... aren't they gorgeous? The lessons themselves are enjoyable ... but the cats add to my eagerness to be there and harrass them with my hugs and scratches and chasing after them!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Half Blood Prince is one of the Harry Potter series that I like most, so naturally I've been waiting eagerly for the movie to come. Can anyone tell me why the movie was delayed to July 2009? The trailers were out ... I just watched the latest one. It is painful to have to wait that long.

And then there is the new James Bond movie. We watched the last one in the movie theatre ... and decided that as long as Denial Craig continues to be James Bond, we are not watching the movies in the theatre anymore. I have nothing against Denial Craig personally, just that he really is not the James Bond type ... at least to me. I like Pierce Brosnan the best (Husband's favourite is Roger Moore) ... and I think he was his best playing James Bond. Denial Craig is more like Jason Statham (the Transporter) ... kind of beefy and mixed martial arts type (I can totally see him fighting in the UFC cage) but lacking the subtle elegance and nobility of James Bond.

But there is more. I read somewhere that Tom Hanks will continue to play Robert Langdon in Angel & Demons. Am I the only one (besides Husband) who finds this casting wrong? There is completely nothing in Tom Hanks that speaks Robert Langdon ... I thought this was pretty obvious in The Da Vinci Code, no? I always thought Johnny Depp would be the perfect Langdon. ::sigh::

Well, sorry for bothering you with these movie whinings ... just have to get them out of my chest. ;) You come here for the knitting, right? Here you are:
I bet you have very little idea what this mess is ... LOL ... Cardigan Cozy from the latest Mason-Dixon book. The two extensions on the 2 sides are the sleeves knitted back and forth and will have to be sewn. I am about one inch down the armpit. I am still wondering how long a cardigan I can have with that remaining yarn.

Then, the sock:
There is a different name for each of the pattern band (you can click on the photo to see the larger version). This pattern is quite fun to work with, but with the pink yarn plus the beads, the socks are very girly ... :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Keep going ... keep going ...

I haven't blogged for a week, but I've surely been knitting ... on one single project.

This is my 3rd or 4th attempt at the Unst Lace Stole ... never got past the 8th row. Really frustrating ... the most difficult lace project I've encountered so far. So, I put it away for how many months I've forgotten.

Last week, I felt that maybe I was prepared to start again. I got past the 8th row ... only to have to rip back 3 rows at the 15th row! LOL! Anyway, I am determined to get this done this time ... so I kept going.

Now, I have 2 pattern repeats done:
I think it's worth the effort. 8 more repeats to go before I am to do something different.

Monday, November 10, 2008

08:25 February Lady Sweater

At this moment, there are 2782 February Lady Sweaters either already finished or in progress on Ravelry; but the more impressive number is 6670 ... that's how many knitters have put this sweater onto their to-knit list! Holy moley!

But once started, it is easy to understand. Needless to say, the finished sweater is beautiful and obviously a very practical piece of garment. And the knitting is just fast ... despite the evil sleeves, it is still fast. So much so that I may even make a wool version later. :D

With February Lady off the list, I started the Cardigan Cozy. However, there is a catch. 2 balls of Rowan KSH is obviously not enough. So, I may have to think of some way to incorporate my other lace mohair leftovers into the cardigan without making it look ridiculous. ;)

Project: February Lady Sweater by flintknits (based on Elizabeth Zimmerman's February Baby Sweater)
I have been undecided which size to make for quite a while. At the end, I decided to make the M size because I was using cotton yarn ... just to be on the safe side in case the sweater shrinks. I think I could have made the S and still have a comfortable fit. Obviously the sleeves are waaaayyyyy too bit ... but they are not really "in your way" sort of big, so I can live with that.

Yarn: Naturelle 8/8 cotton yarn in cone (74% Recycled Cotton; 24% Acrylic; 2% Unknown Fibres) Col: Charcoal
I got this from a knitter's destash. The charcoal colour has some white flacks here and there, so it feels coarser than the pure milk colour. But I really really love this colour!

Needles: Denise US 8

Cast On: 10-26-08
Cast Off: 11-09-08

Here is a closer-up of the wooden buttons I got from Daiso:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Once again stranded on Sleeve Island

Why are sleeves always taking so much more time? Always. Even knitting in the round. I am still struggling with the second sleeve:
Some of you mentioned the colour of my February Lady ... yeah, I heart this charcoal grey a lot too. It is a little bit darker than what you see in the picture. It is a cotton yarn from Elann a long long time ago. The way it works here is ... until the big rain storm hits, a thick cotton cardigan plus a turtle sweater underneath can last until after Christmas. A few days ago, I tried putting on my Diva (hehehe...) in the morning, but have to take it off once the fog was cleared and the sun out.

Yesterday the postman brought a big smile on my face:
I'm sure you would have read quite a bit about Classic Elite Knits and Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia. But so far I haven't come across anyone reviewing Country Weekend Knits. I have to tell you, if you like classic designs, it is very possible that this is "the One" for you. There are altogether 25 patterns, and these are my favourites:

Favourites from "Country Weekend Knits"
1. Wheat Cable Cotton Sweater, 2. Tree of Life Aran Jacket, 3. Short-Sleeve Cotton Shirt, 4. Lace Cardigan in Eyelet Pattern, 5. Jacob's Ladder Sweater, 6. Fountain Lace Short-Sleeve Sweater, 7. Eriskay Gansey, 8. Classic Cotton Crewneck, 9. Chevron Aran Crewneck, 10. Cable and Moss Aran Tunic
Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

You can go to my Flickr set to see the larger images.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Obama

There are enormous challenges ahead ... but I think I can sleep well tonight.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pack your Election Day Backpack

I am not a US citizen, so I would just glue myself to the TV tomorrow. But I'm sure you are. Are you ready for tomorrow? Yes, it is unfortunate that people who want to exercise their constitutional right have to sacrifice their time and probably salaries to wait in the long line to cast their vote. In view of what is ahead, I think you can at least get yourselves a little bit more prepared by packing your Election Day backpack. These are items I would bring if I were to vote tomorrow:

- a small knitting project, of course ... most desirable is a simple sock;
- a bottle of water;
- energy bars, trail mix, chocolate ... anything that would fill your stomach and give you energy;
- an iPod (or similar device) with loads of your favourite music and podcasts, etc;
- if your cellphone doesn't have a camera recorder, bring a camera ... video your vote;
- lightweight rain poncho and an umbrella;
- documents you need for voting;
- clothes for layering ...

Have I missed something?

This is probably what would be going on here through the Election Day ... February Lady and Obama:
Yeah, my new project. I was truly surprised at how fast it was knitted up: