Dear 2011,

The past year has been quite crazy.  I am very happy to see it finally drawing to a close and look forward to what the next year brings.

Looking back at the past year:

A massive blizzard in February shut down schools for 2 days.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Ellette had a fantastic 6th birthday in our own created Neverland.

 

Odin and I took a trip to Denmark in the Spring.

And I met family for the first time that I can remember.

Following Denmark was a brief excursion to France.

Upon our return, my studio looked like this for most of the summer…

As I had my hands full with the Janesville Renaissance Fair and the Custer Street Fair.

And later in the summer, the World of Faeries Festival.

Summer passed quickly when I wasn’t doing shows because we filled our time with beaches,

and fireworks,

and amusement parks.

I have spent the past year learning aerial acrobatics and look forward to continuing.  I will be in a performance in May that I am very excited for.

We welcomed fall with apple picking.

and Halloween.

Following Thanksgiving, we escaped to Texas and the Texas Renaissance Festival for a weekend.

And finished the year in Virginia.

For some reason, I thought I could finish a full afghan in the 10 days we’ve spent in the country.  Of course, I hadn’t counted on getting sick.  This is all I’ve been able to complete so far – a mere 40%.

And 2o12?

A new job, continuing passions and taking them to the next level.  Returning to Chicago and settling in to our lives there.  We are becoming more comfortable in our apartment and neighborhood and the lives that we are building.  We will also, thanks to our roommate, be adding a new family member to the mix (more about that later).

Tonight, we are going out to celebrate the coming of 2012 and kicking 2011 out the door.

How was your year?

Country Girl

Ellette and I went into the hills behind Joann’s house this morning to take pictures of her swing coat.  It is an absolutely gorgeous day.  Just warm enough for a heavy sweater with brilliant blue and cloudless skies.  Being out here in the country really slows you down so you appreciate it more.  Soon, we will be heading back to a big bustling city.  For now, we play.

You can see that there is no snow.  In winters past, this was the hill we would all clamber up with sleds and snowboards to fly down.  So far this year it has been clear skies and warmer temps.

I have ti fix the button on this and add another.  I made the button hole a little too loose.

It is still unblocked.  When I get home I will be able to steam block it and smooth out the wrinkles and stitches.  It is just a little too big, which is fantastic.  I made the sleeves about two inches too long, but we discovered that if we roll the cuff past the garter ridges, it is the perfect length and still looks great, so in the finishing process I took a little yarn and stitched the cuffs down.

Pattern: Swing Thing by Theresa Belville; Yarn: Cascade Eco+ in color 9453.  I used two balls of it, which is a lot but totally worth it.  I used a smaller needle than the yarn recommends for a tighter gauge, more durable, dense fabric, and what I had hoped would be a size 7.  I made a sweater out of this yarn before at the recommended gauge and it is pilling and lumpy.  These stitches are even, clean, and distinct by comparison, and I get the feeling that, if I can drill Ellette on proper care for the sweater, it will last a long time.

Recuperating

Yesterday, I was feeling much better.  Odin’s niece turned 8 and there was a big party for her.  Then in the night I woke up with body racking coughs and did not feel well at all.  I spent some time this morning slowly recuperating, drinking tea and sucking cough drops until the shower was free for long enough that I could sit in the steam and clear the congestion better.  Now, I feel functional again and should tell you what’s been going on.

Odin’s brother has been learning how to unicycle and there was unicycling going on in downtown Floyd, as well as inside Dogtown – a pizza, family friendly, ping pong bar.  They also unofficially opened their doors the day after Christmas for us to play ping pong, but because I wasn’t feeling well, I wrapped myself in my long coat and curled up on the couch to watch.

Christmas and Christmas eve were spent preparing for Christmas dinner.  Odin’s mom and others were busy in the kitchen with pies, salads, and more.  I made a quiche for the vegetarians.

 

Christmas day, Odin’s dad and others (including Odin) were up at 6am to start roasting turkeys over an outdoor fire.

I popped out later and started throwing knives with Odin and Ellette.

I realize most parents would not allow their 6 year old to throw knives.  1) We are not most parents. 2) They are not very sharp. and 3) We were close by at all times.  Mostly she wanted to take pictures of us throwing knives.

About 40 people ended up piled into the house.  Most of us crammed in to one room at once for the White Elephant game, which was fantastic.

My favorite gift, by far, was the one given to Odin’s 13 year old niece.

Cold Hard Cash.  Brilliant.

On Tuesday, four of us snuck into Floyd for coffee and pastries.  The Red Rooster Roaster opened in Floyd a few years ago and is located beneath a coffee shop in downtown.  The owner bumped into us and, even though the roastery was technically closed, he let us in anyway.

I ended up leaving with several pounds of nice coffees from Sumatra, Guatemala, and Timor.  I have not tried any yet, but I had the Sumatra last year and it was delicious.

Following this excursion was Alena’s 8th birthday.  Ellette and Alena get along famously and there was even a sleepover the second night we were here (Thanks to Odin’s sister I was given Ellette-free time that meant I could finish that sweater in absolute secrecy).  Alena wanted an “Angry Bird” themed party.  The most angry birdish part of the party was the game that happened on the porch involving a slingshot, plush birdies, and a stack of cups.

 

The kids spent a lot of time in the dress up room into changing ball gowns and goth Alice in Wonderland dresses, then coming upstairs to attack the adults with balloons.  There was a pinata, which was great fun for the kids even though the parents did not look forward to the impending sugar rush, and of course gifts – and I only mention this because 8 year old Alena received a 30 foot length of rope that she was very excited about because she knew she could make it into a swing.  I found this highly amusing, because what other 8 year old would be so thrilled?

Today, I spent more low key, trying to get over this illness, which has not yet abated, and work on this afghan, which doesn’t seem to be getting bigger.  The boys are in the other room playing Axis and Allies, and considering how late they started it will be a wonder if they are finished by sunrise (no, seriously).

I promise knitting photos soon.

Post Holiday Stress Syndrom

The house was packed wall to wall yesterday.  The white elephant game lasted longer than I have ever experienced, and there was much laughter and good spirits.

I woke up this morning with an incredibly sore throat and aching joints.  I could not find a comfortable position and I could not get warm.  I hopped in the sauna for an hour and took a hot shower, then tried to recuperate quietly on the couch.

I had plans to show you the sweater, the afghan in progress, and a 50 dollar bill frozen in the center of a cube of ice, but those will have to wait.

The hardest part about being sick like this is that my wrists are so achy I can’t bring myself to knit.  I have been spending hours and hours staring off at nothing.  Talk about torture.

Quickly I Write

I meant to write yesterday, after settling in, but before I knew it the sun had set and plans were being made to go into to town for the Friday Night Jamboree.  My camera battery also died before reaching the Jam, so I can’t even offer you photos of the amazing country night.

The drive here was long and tedious, and I worked diligently on the sweater for Ellette, trying my best to keep it hidden from her.  She leaned over the seat at one point and asked, rather innocently, “Mommy, is that my present?” and I just said simply, “No, it is for someone else.”  I don’t think she believed me.

Still, in the 13 hours of the drive, I only managed to finish the hem and one sleeve.  Between last night and this morning, I was able to finish the other sleeve, do the finishing up, and add the ribbon and button.  I have to wrap everything quickly too.

I am writing quickly right now because, after spending a quiet morning in a rocking chair by a fire, I get news that in the next 30 minutes the house is going to be filled with an additional 7 to 10 people who will be staying the evening.  I decided now was a good time to tell you that we have arrived safely in Virginia, I have (finally!) completed the black hole sweater for Ellette, and I cannot wait for tomorrow.

I will write again on Monday, with photos of the sweater and mittens I was able to make as well.  For now, I have cleaning to help with and a shower to take.

Merry Christmas!

I Would Knit 500 Stitches and I Would Knit 500 More

Last night I was awake until the wee hours of the morning trying desperately to finish at least the body of Ellette’s sweater.  I hang my head in shame for my failure.  I did not make it.  I got really close though.  It took my about 15 minutes to knit each row, however.  So, despite working on it solidly for about 5 hours, I only worked a few inches.  At least I can be pretty sure she is going to love it.  And probably never take it off.

There was a miscommunication somewhere concerning our departure date.  I thought we would be leaving tomorrow evening.  Instead, we leave tonight after my circus class.  This means my afternoon is going to be spent scrambling.  Once I leave work, I pick up Ellette from school, drop inventory at Sifu, come home and clean, and pack, and clean, and load the car and make dinner.  Then, I spent an hour and a half climbing on silks and trapeze and basically, beating my body up in the most rigorous work out imaginable, only to come home, shower quickly, hop in said loaded car, and start driving.  At least I am not the one driving.

I know this is sort of a cop out post, but I had a post I wanted to write this afternoon about the swing jacket, and how it stretches out before me in an endless mass of purple.  How the bulky, tightly knit wool is starting to get really heavy and hurting my wrists, and I have put thousands upon thousands of stitches and at least a dozen hours into making it as perfect as possible for Ellette and I really hope she likes it and can’t wait to see her wearing it.  I wanted to write about the sacrifices we make for our children like staying up into the night for several consecutive nights to make something from our hearts that we can only guess they like (and risk them hating).

Instead, I am working on a list of things that still need to be packed and done so when I get off work I can streamline the process and not freak out.

Sometimes I envy people who stay home for the holidays.

Feels Like Cheating

I have discovered the coolest novelty yarn ever.

I am not usually a fan of novelty yarns.  I find they have a tendency to be gaudy and/or limiting.  But last summer, we stopped in a yarn store that had a weird ribbon yarn that twisted as you knit and was super fast and lacey.  It took me a minute to understand the process and then a month or so to realize, after seeing similar yarn other places, that I really kind of liked it.

When choosing presents to knit for everyone, I came to a halt trying to decide on something for Odin’s 7 (nearly 8!) year old niece.  I know she can be girlie and I know she can be sneaky and rough.  This yarn came to mind, and I went on a quest for the right kind.  Time started closing in and I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the store that had originally introduced me to this.  Then, the Windy Knitty had a sample of this – Berrocco’s Lacey – and I had Ellette pick out a color and purchased it immediately.  I figured it would be good car knitting and I could work on it last.  This afternoon, however, I ran out of presents to knit that weren’t for Ellette.  She watches me knit and i couldn’t risk her catching on that the perfectly lavender smallish sweater looking thing was for her.  I had an hour of nothingness while Ellette had gymnastics, so I brought it along and started, and finished, during her class.

 

It was so east and enchanting!!  And before I knew it the ball was gone and in its place was a 6 foot scarf that any young girl would adore.  And, in fact, many of the girls in the school were eying it up with a hint of possessiveness.  It happened so fast that I felt poor Alena must be getting the short end of the knitted stick.  Where was the time and care that went in to the others?  The display of affection and appreciation?

And then I remembered that she is 7.  At least if something happens to this scarf I won’t be too horrified.

If you are looking for a last minute gift, you should consider this!  It’s really not hard at all.  If you can count to 4, know the difference between A and B, and can pull a loop through another loop, you can finish this in no time.

All Hail the Mighty Mail

Just after posting about the end of the knitting being in sight, I added more commissions to my list.  Not many.  And they were for friends, so it was hard to saw no.  This weekend was a push to get one finished (sorry, I was so rushed I forgot to photograph) and this afternoon I popped into the post office to send it out to the recipient.

Now, quickly, count how many days until Christmas.  I can wait…..It’s not many, is it?  I was not surprised, when entering the post office, to see a line stretching the full length of the atrium.  Now, it is a well known and disheartening fact that the internet, UPS, and FedEx have all stripped the USPS of its business.  No one writes letters anymore.  Many POs are getting closed, and usually I wait a maximum of 10 minutes when I stop in to ship something.

Today, the wait was roughly 35-45 minutes.  But I am a Knitter, and I always come prepared.

Standing in line, I put my envelope in my purse, swung it securely over my shoulder, and held a bag of yarn around my wrist, while I steadily and quietly worked on Ellette’s swing coat, which, thanks to that stretch of nothingness, now looks like this:

I am probably about 40% complete at this point.  I know that I will be staying up late every night this week to work on it, and the other commissions I have to go.

The line did not move at a snail’s pace.  Considering the amount of people and the number of awkward packages that were being kicked down the line by people sick of holding them, it moved fairly steadily.  Or perhaps that was just the fiber fumes getting to me.

The stall came when I was third from the front.  A woman who had been standing in line at the self-service station had a complaint, and jumped in front of everyone else to voice her complaint to a clerk.  The two women on either side of me called out to her about how rude she was being.  The woman in front of me told the woman at the front of the line, who had two large boxes in her arms, to push that other lady out of the way because she was more important.

It took all my resolve not to tell these ladies off.  Instead, I concentrated on my knitting, with maybe a small smirk at the serenity the work gave me, and tuned out the bitter whispers of impatient customers.

And I thought.

Most people do not use the post office anymore.  That is a fact.  People are relatively used to getting what they want, when they want it, and, unfortunately, many people are not accustomed to having to allow for extra time because crap happens.  They do not think, it is the week before Christmas and if I have x-amount of things to ship, there are probably y-amount of people needing to ship packages as well.  There are probably c-amount of people working at the post office right now that give an average of t-amount of time to each customer.  Instead, they think it should not be busy and tension should be nonexistent.

NEWSFLASH!

This is the busiest time of year for the post office.  Problems will crop up.  People will be in a hurry. The best thing you can do is relax.  Bring a book, a crossword, your knitting – anything! with you to pass the time for effectively.  Do not take it out on the people who are doing their best to make sure your package gets to where its going (and I wonder if they have ever been tempted to put your item in the wrong pile so it is late reaching it’s destination).  Don’t get snarky if someone else is having a rough day and their to-do list is all jumbled.  Take it as a sign that you need to smell the roses for 5 more minutes.  You’ll suffer even more peace of mind in this bustling season.  Oh dear.

I made sure to smile to the gentleman that helped me.  I had everything ready and was polite and cheery answering the standard questions of where is it going, when does it need to be there, no I do not want to pay extra to get it there earlier.  I wished him happy holidays and left that place feeling calm instead of frustrated with the woman who cut in line.  My package is still being shipped and I added a few more rounds to my knitting.

With Ellette home, I have not been able to work on her jacket, and instead have been working on a commission.  I was given a ball of yarn, already wound, and have no idea what it is or what the colorway is, but I am totally enchanted with it.  Do you know?

In Sight

The finish line is in sight!  I am finishing up a custom order as we speak and begin working diligently on the sweater for Ellette.  I still have a small amount of the Phedre mittens to complete and put in the mail before we leave on Thursday, but Hope springs eternal.

Observe:

This is the Honey Cowl by Madelintosh.  I absolutely adore their yarns.  Although, the yarn I used was actually Lana Bambu from Cascade (if you follow the link, the color I used is number 17.)  I used two skeins to make a fat cowl long enough to wrap twice.  And I dare not say who this lovely little piece is for, lest the recipient be reading and spoil the surprise.

I also had Ellette photograph the gifts for Odin’s mother.

This is the Leafy Muff, from Jane Austen Knits (which I am totally in love with.  I want to make just about everything in the publication!).  I believe the outer is Malabrigo, held double and the inner is Ariosa, by Classic Elite Yarns.  It’s a supersoft merino cashmere blend that I find delicious.  I know his mom is going to love it.

These are the mitts to go with the muff.  Belladonna, which is a wonderful pattern offered by Knit Picks.  This was relatively easy to knit up.  The most tedious portion was working the lace detail around the cuff.  After that, however, it was a piece of cake and went so quickly.

And for the record, I was totally freezing my bum off standing on the snowy beach with no jacket on just to get good photos of the knitting.

Grams

I added an afghan to my holiday knitting – as in, it has to be knit within this season, preferably by January.  I mapped it out (an original design), did a yarn search, and placed an order.  When the yarn arrived, I was worried that I had not ordered enough, so this afternoon I made a swatch.

I also wanted to test the needles I had.  I then, weighed the swatch, which is one square of a modular knitted afghan (i.e. successful swatch means one piece of the puzzle done).

Turns out, I more than likely over estimated the amount of yarn I would need, which is a lot better than underestimating, since we are leaving town in a week and I don’t know if more yarn would have arrived by that time.  This is going to be my “in the cabin in the woods” project.

At knit night, I knit a new swatch with smaller needles and it looks much better.  I don’t know how the modular construction will affect the potential stretching of the cotton/acrylic yarn, but I know that cotton stretches, so a tighter gauge would be ideal.

I also did the finishing up of many of my holiday projects, which I can hopefully wrangle someone into photographing this weekend.

I have settled on a pattern for Ellette, and now it is just a matter of adjusting the sizing to fit a size 7.  So far, I think it is working.  Although, I had to rip out the yoke several times.  This weekend, I need to make a big push to finish it on time.  It’s just a matter of having the recipient hanging around waiting for attention while I am trying to make her present.

This is exhausting.

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