Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Boot Cuffs

These Boot Cuffs, by Rebecca Gunderson, were the beginning of a Christmas knitting/ childhood movie marathon.  Obviously I changed my mind about knitting gifts this year.

It's all really subtle, at first.  My daughter was finally taking an interest in all of my knitting books and patterns.  This is something I've always wanted, like having a family running buddy, other than my dog, that will run farther than to the corner and back with me.  So when she requested a Dreiecke hat for her best friend and, after flipping through Island, an Arbutus cowl for herself, I thought, "Okay, I can do that."  I started to think of how cute a pair of Becca's Cabled Boot Cuffs would look in the same color of City Tweed as her cowl and how I could probably eek out a pair for myself too before Christmas.  Okay, I can do that.  This led to archeology: my digging through ancient stash to find odd skeins of yarn for making all of the women on my husband's side of the family a pair.  Okay, I can do that too.  Since I was already knitting for them, surely I could modify the cuffs to make matching ones for their daughters…

So here I am boot tops deep in Christmas knitting after all.  And it's okay.  I know my daughter and her friend will love their gifts and if the rest don't, no harm is done.  It's the thought that matters to me and it was good tv knitting, either way.  Since both of our children have been gone a few days, my husband and I have had total control of the tv and are watching movies from our childhood.  Yesterday it was Star Trek, The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country and tonight it may be Stripes or Groundhog Day.  All of these cuffs will probably be done by tomorrow.

I'm using size US 2.5 circulars and various skeins of Wool-Ease and Patons Classic Wool.

I'm staying motivated by knitting two at a time.  For those where I only have one skein, I'm just knitting one in each color at once, so I won't have to divide skeins.  If I don't pause between pairs, my gauge should be consistent.  These are a last minute gift that can be done in time!

Also, they are really cute and truly do the job of making my outdoor boots completely warm during our first "real" cold spell of the year.

   (ravelry, kollabora, and flickr)  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Out of the Queue, Onto the Needles

Every once in a while I tie up loose ends.  I finally finish that project I was collecting old plates for or knit that sweater whose pattern page was dog-eared for years.  This vest is one of those.  Teresa Gregorio was one of the first designers I remember seeing when I joined Ravelry.  I added Corona to my library and just kept Sexy Vesty in mind.  I was probably intimidated by the fact that it was not an official pattern, just notes for a size 35".   I even got extra Stroll Sport for it a year ago, but still it sat in my queue.   Then I got some more books and some more yarn, and some more patterns and some more yarn, and … you get the idea.

Recently, I've tried to be honest with myself about how some projects just aren't going to happen.  I'm like everyone else on Ravelry.  I get swept up in the current of the most recently published collection.  I like seeing the forums all lit up with suggestions and modifications for the thing I'm working on.  I enjoy knitting along with others, whether it's a formal, organized group or not.  The community is the thing.

Even so, I'm extra pleased when I get one of my relatively "older" favorites off of the needles.  There's nothing more satisfying than shaking a sweater in my husband's face and saying, "See, I told you I'd do it!  This yarn won't be stacked on your side of the closet anymore because it's a sweater now.  See?"  Then I promptly hang it on his side of the closet.  (Actually, my husband doesn't guilt trip me about yarn.  He's developing hazy, knitter's eye.  He can blur his vision in such a way that he doesn't even notice the ziploc bags tucked into everything anymore.  He just moves them around to get to what he needs.)

(on ravelrykollabora, and flickr)

So the good feeling is really from the nostalgia of looking back to what I liked a few years ago and then using what I've collected, as far as tools or knowledge, to see it through to completion.  Nostalgia + creativity + progress = good stuff.  

This is an easy knit.  A one week kind of knit.  I should finish it today and get some photos for the Big Bang Theory Knitalong on luvinthemommyhood.  It's my version of a Penny vest.

I love the diamond/ argyle-ish stitch pattern and deep neckline.  It's knitting up so fast in the evening as I re-watch the Star Treks of my childhood in order (in honor of the Big Bang guys.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lazy Beekeeping

I haven't been writing very much, but I have potential posts stacking up in my evernotes that need to be set free.  So this one is about our honey harvest that happened a few months ago and stayed buried in my computer until today.  Go, little post, run free on the web…

I'm all about natural beekeeping.  We don't control mites for our bees, we don't feed them sugar water, we don't introduce new queens, and we don't open the hive constantly to check on them.  I love it when natural lines up so well with lazy.

I thought I'd share our new and improved lazy method of honey extraction from the hive that survives.  There aren't many photos because, you know, everything is messy; but there are more of the extraction process in a post I wrote last year.  Besides, my phone was sticky for a week.

All you need is:

-a hive with supers
-a leaf blower (yes, a leaf blower)
-3 five gallon buckets with lids
-a couple of mesh paint strainers
-2 rubbermaid tubs that fit the super frames (stacked)
-a smaller tub for catching wax cappings
-a hand crank extractor
-a large spaghetti strainer
-a small kitchen strainer
-a couple of milk crates or cinder blocks (something to stand the extractor on so a bucket can go beneath it to catch honey)
-the New Order station on Pandora

This is a seriously minimal investment for 8-9 gallons of honey a year.  One harvest will cover your investment.

This year we not only went low budget, we also went low key.  I never even donned a bee suit.  My husband removed the supers while I was busy the day before, blew them off with the leaf blower to shoo the bees away, and put them inside the sealed rubbermaid tubs in our garage.

It is so much easier to separate all of the supers the day before so that you aren't having to put on your gear to get another batch of them while sweating over the extractor.  The bees didn't find our operation until the very end of extraction the next day.  So we were free to work outside in comfortable clothing the whole time.

On extraction day we set up our smaller tub with an upturned cup on the center to balance a frame on, and cut the wax cappings off with a regular, old kitchen knife.  We meant to buy a hot knife, but forgot.   Last year we used my grandmother's old electric carving knife, but we burnt the motor up on it and it shook so much that it was difficult to use.

I expected it to be difficult to use, but it sliced right through with such ease I was surprised.  I don't know why anyone would bother buying a hot knife when a normal knife can slice the cappings off with precision and requires no special care.   Or maybe I just have the unusual strength of a beekeeping beast.

When a frame was de-capped we'd load it into our extractor that was set off of the ground on a couple of milk crates.  It holds two frames at once.  After taking turns spinning it, we would remove the frames, which were now clean of honey, and set them back in one of the rubbermaid tubs.  Any comb that stayed on the frames we left for the bees to reuse.

When the extractor was getting too full to turn, we'd put the second bucket under the spigot, placed a kitchen strainer over the bucket, and poured the honey through it.  Once the pouring was finished, we  put the lid back on the bucket.  If you're working outside, you must keep lids on and work quick because the bees want it back.  We just repeated this process over and over until all of the honey was extracted.  This was two bucketfuls.

I then scooped up the wax cappings, from the bottom of their tub, and placed them in a large spaghetti strainer set back inside the tub with the lid sealed tight.  This would strain out any excess honey from the wax and comb.  The tub of wax and the buckets were all set on our kitchen counter to rest for a few days so impurities and air could rise to the surface.

After a few days, I opened a bucket and used a spoon to glean any air bubbles or collected "stuff" off of the top before straining.  There was no visible "stuff" but , you know, you gotta try.  We set the unused bucket into our sink, lined it with a paint strainer and poured honey into it.

We gathered the edges of the strainer and lifted slowly, letting the honey drain through while removing any debris from the final batch.  No one wants chunky honey.  We repeated this with the other bucket of honey and what had collected at the bottom of the wax tub.

The honey was then ready to be poured into jars.  It's pretty low- maintenance.  We'll probably split our hive or get another or something in the next year or so.

(on flickr, on instagram

Eventually, I'll write up a post about rendering the beeswax.  But I've got that whole lazy thing going on and I have a vest to make, friends.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Every Last, Little Scrap

I did something today that I consider a very desperate, and slightly tacky, move.  I tied scraps, lots and lots of little yarn scraps and clipped yarn ends, together to make about two yards of knotted yarn to use for binding off my Bernadette cardigan.  Argh.  Knots are the worst, but I wasn't about to spit splice 20 pieces of yarn together.  Who wants a row and a half of that?

And this was discontinued Gynx organic merino Aran.  I was thrilled to get a sweater's worth of it when it was on sale.  But there was no more to order if I ran out, so I really had to work to get a sweater out of it.

The photo above was taken before I added the button bands and collar.  The way they were added determined how I handled my yarn shortage.  Normally, I would've just picked out the bind off edge and removed a couple of rows worth of yarn from the bottom ribbing to have enough for my last two collar rows.  Only, I'd already attached my button band to the very bottom edge of this ribbing on both sides.  Then, the collar was attached to the tops of these button bands.  So to get to the yarn at the bind off edge of this sweater, I'd have to rip out the collar, both button bands, the bind off edge, and then pick up all of those stitches again.  Picking up stitches is enough Greek mythology-type torment in itself.  So I could either be all perfectionist over it, because of my hate for knots, or just suck it up and start tying.  I tied.

The pattern called for 500 yards of Aran to get a 33" size.  The goal is at least 2" of negative ease, so that size will work well for me.  Somehow it took all of my 543 yards of my yarn.  I ended up reducing the ribbing at the sleeves by two rounds on each one and my bind off is a bit tight along the sides of the neckline, but I think I can still get a lot of length when blocking.  There are lots of stubby yarn ends hanging from the inside of my sweater that I'll have to deal with, but I'm very thankful that the fit seems fine.  It's only slightly snug, which I was prepared for after blocking my swatch.  (Yeah, I swatched. See, I'm classy about some things.)  It should fit perfect in a few days.  Now, for buttons.  I may have enough odds and ends buttons in my cabinet to work for this, but I'm thinking vintage navy ones would look especially cool.  However, this would involve ordering and patience, or making a trek to a hobby store.  I am a lazy, knot-tying kind of girl, so...

Monday, November 4, 2013

So Bernadette

I'm so excited about the Big Bang Theory Knitalong hosted by Shannon of Luvinthemommyhood for all of us Big Bang Theory fans.  The timing was perfect since I'd just gotten a few skeins of Aran in Gynx Yarns' discontinued organic merino.  It's the bamboo colorway and is quickly becoming Hetty, a cropped cardigan that is extremely Bernadette.

The funny thing is I always think of Bernadette when I peruse Andi Satterlund's cropped sweater patterns.  I've been wanting to make one of her designs for a couple of years but hadn't gotten around to it, so I think the time is now.

I didn't really start until Nov. 2 and it is moving along quickly.  The construction is different from any I've tried.  At least I think so.  I have now joined the fronts with the back to work back and forth from the arms down.  My camera just wouldn't capture the tonal shifts in this semi-solid green.  It is so vibrant!

The Knitalong officially began on October 31 since BBT usually has a good Halloween episode.  Check out Heather's collection of BBT related sweaters and accessories.  Since I've had Sexy Vesty in my queue for a long time, and since it is very Penny, I'll probably make it too.  I so want to do something Howard-ish.  His outfits make me cringe, but something inspired by him would be very fun.  However, my queue is a mile long, so the Bernadette sweater and a Penny Vest it is.

I wanted my Bernadette double as a NaKniSweMo (National Knit a Sweater Month) project too, but after some sketchy math, I realized it isn't 50,000 stitches.  So no organized nakniswemo for me.  It's not like I need another KAL.  Lately, every month has been Knit a Sweater Month, and I'm enjoying the Big Bang KAL anyway.  I've even ordered Season 1 to watch the episodes in order from the beginning.

If you knit, even if it's just sort-of, join us in the Big Bang Theory knitalong.  Heather has several small accessory patterns that were worn by cast members or you can go all the way, like Amy Farrah Fowler, and make a cardigan to go under your cardigan.