Friday, October 31, 2014

Knitting: Bowties are Cool socks.

My October socks are finished! October socks that I technically started in June. :) As I've mentioned before, I started these months ago. But since I knitted about 1/3 of the first sock and all of the second sock this month, I'm calling these my October socks.

These socks are a subtle tribute to the Eleventh Doctor and his fascination with bowties (see how the little stitches resemble bowties up close?). I used this pattern and followed it exactly except that I didn't do as many repeats on the leg section as the pattern said, but I'm thinking that was a typo, anyway. The yarn is KnitPicks Stroll Tonal in the gypsy colorway. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this yarn. The yarn itself seems fine quality-wise (though I haven't really worn the socks long enough to know that), but I've bought three skeins so far and I've been a little disappointed with the colors in all of them. The colors just aren't as pretty as they look on the website, and there are strange shades of color that pool in a way that I'm not crazy about. From a distance they look fine, but up It's not as bad with these as it was with my last pair, but you can still see those rings of darker color spiraling around the foot and leg. Maybe I'm just being picky (or knitpicky, ha). I love KnitPicks and have always been pleased with the yarn I've bought from them, but I do wish the Stroll Tonals were a bit more subtle.

Anyway, I'm happy with these. They'll definitely get a lot of use around Christmas time. :) And I think I'm finally out of my sock-knitting slump!

I'm participating in Liesl's Monthly Sock Challenge, and I'm also using these socks in the "Tender Tootsies" category of the Fall Essentials Sew-Along.

{Ravelry project page}

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: As You Wish, by Cary Elwes. I'm so excited about this book! The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, so of course I love reading behind-the-scenes stories about it. I'm several chapters in and it's good so far.

Knitting: Since I finished my niece's sweater, I finally picked up my Miette cardigan again (not that you can tell anything about it from this dark photo!). I had one sleeve completed and was halfway through with the second one, but I realized I wasn't happy with them. Because I had cast on extra stitches under the arm, I was having to decrease at twice the rate to get rid of those stitches, and it was making my sleeves look oddly shaped. At first it didn't bother me much, but I finally decided I'd rather do it the right way now instead of later regretting the awkward sleeves. Ugh...I hate having to redo knitting, but it won't take long. And after I fix the sleeves, I only have the button bands and neckline edging left! :)

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Knitting: Stella's birthday gifts.

So...this past week, my niece Stella turned a year old. How is that even possible? It seems like we were just sitting at the hospital, impatiently waiting to meet her for the first time. And now she's taking steps by herself and babbling nonstop and blowing kisses and doing any number of other adorable things. :) This has been one of the fastest years ever.

For her birthday, I made Stella a little knitted set. I love how the sweater turned out! The pattern (Granny's Favourite) was really easy, though visually a bit hard to follow at times because of all of the sizes included. This really is the perfect little girls' sweater. Stella's measurements did match up with the 12 months size, so that's what I made.

I used this pattern for the hat and followed it exactly, except I increased a few extra stitches for the ear flaps because I thought they looked too small at first. That, of course, made the whole hat a bit bigger. I added the I-cord ties and pompoms. The mittens were from this pattern and I made them slightly longer. As for the owl...I made some of these little owl puffs to sell at the festival earlier this month. Stella ended up with one of them and she loved it and even slept with it, but then it went missing last week during a shopping trip in town. So of course I had to make her another owlie. :)

Everything was made from KnitPicks Swish DK (in the colorway carnation). Five skeins of it was enough for everything, with a bit leftover. This was my first time using superwash wool with the intention of actually machine washing it. For Stella's previous two sweaters, I used acrylic, which I'm not a fan of. This time I wanted to use wool, but I wanted it to be soft and something that my sister-in-law didn't have to handwash. After reading some of the reviews of the yarn on Ravelry (horror stories of felting and pilling), I was so nervous to throw these items in the washing machine...but if anything bad was going to happen, I wanted it to happen with me and not her. Thankfully, the worst that happened was that the massive pompom I had on the top of the hat fell apart, so I replaced it with a little one like I had used on the ends of the ties (they made it through fine). I washed everything on cold delicate, then laid it flat to dry. But it wasn't drying quick enough and the sweater had stretched out a bit in the wash, so when it was still a little damp I put in the dryer on the lowest setting. It dried everything nicely with no ill-effects, and the sweater even shrunk up to its proper size.

So that's what I gave my niece for her first birthday, along with a copy of one of my favorite picture books: Extra Yarn. She loved the owl most, I think. :) The mittens fit her perfectly, as does the sweater, except for the sleeves being about two inches too long (I thought I was knitting them to the length of her arms, but apparently something got off). The hat fits with plenty of room to grow...she'll probably be able to wear it next winter, too.

Of course I have to include a few pictures of the birthday girl...

She liked the pizza, but as you can see, she was less than impressed with her first taste of cake and ice cream. :) And even though she knows how to feed her baby doll, she'd much rather drink the bottle herself.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spinning: fall bounty handspun.

After working on my last handspun for about a month and a half (off and on), I really wanted my next spinning project to be something easy. This yarn ended up being the perfect project!

It started out as this fiber from Quaere Fibre. The colors were lovely and very fall-like (the name of the colorway was even Fall Bounty), but the fiber itself was a bit more coarse than I expected it to be. It worked out fine, though, because I've been wanting to knit myself another hat from my handspun and this will work nicely.

I spun it as a two-ply fractal yarn, and the finished yarn is approx. 154 yards of light worsted weight. It only took me about four days to spin and ply it, and I didn't worry too much about consistency. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and I'm excited to knit it into a hat. (Probably another Barley, though I've already knit about 10 of those this year. It's a great pattern!)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

October socks (in progress).

I started these socks back in June. (Good grief!) I had a goal of knitting myself six pairs of socks this year, and this was my fourth. I was just a few inches away from finishing the first sock when I lost interest. Then I was busy knitting other things, like my cardigan for the sweater knit along (still haven't finished that yet) and things to sell at the festival and most recently, my niece's birthday gift.

Liesl has been hosting a monthly sock challenge that I've really been wanting to participate in. And I've been eyeing some of my pretty sock yarn, wanting to cast on another pair (but I have this "one sock at a time" rule). So I figured now was a good time to join in, and hopefully I'd be motivated to finally finish these socks! :)

Last week I finished the first sock, and today I started the second one. I'm pretty confident that this pair will be complete by the end of the month!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

On spinning (and the beginnings of a fall quilt).

Last Saturday, I spent most of the day spinning at a local craft fair. It's a festival that takes place every fall at a historical site, and they asked me to come and bring my spinning wheel. Since I was demonstrating, I could also have items for sale (without having to pay the vendor fee). I had spent the last two months or so preparing for the festival: knitting items to take, making several batches of goat's milk soap, cleaning and carding some fleece to spin while I was there, etc.

I'm not going to lie...I was pretty nervous about it. There was the basic fear of, am I going to sell anything at all? (It didn't help that the night before the festival, I had a dream that I only sold 2 bars of soap. That's it. I woke up terrified, ha!) But I also found it intimidating that I was going to be "the spinner" there. I'm not an expert by any means...I've only been spinning for two years and when I think about all there is to learn about spinning yarn, I feel like I know absolutely nothing.

But it was such a good day. I sold more than two bars of soap. (Really, I sold fifty bars. Plus over half of the knitted items I took. And three skeins of my handspun yarn!) And I got to talk about spinning all day long. Here's the thing...I'm an introvert and I'm awkward and I am so bad at making small talk with people I don't know. Quite often I'm bad at making small talk with people I do know.

But it's a lot easier when I'm talking about something that I love. I'm not saying that all of that interaction with strangers was easy. By the end of the day I felt socially drained. :) But I liked telling people that in the past, before spinning wheels, every bit of fiber in the world was spun on spindles, and I liked seeing their reactions. (It blows me away, too!) I liked explaining the process from sheep to finished yarn. I liked it when people told me they had an old spinning wheel in their attic that belonged to their great-grandmother. I liked being the one who got to introduce kids to the idea of spinning for the first time. (And this has nothing to do with spinning, but I loved it when parents bought a baby hat and immediately stuck it on their child's head. Because it was cold, and is there anything cuter than a baby wearing a handknit hat?)

Common misconceptions about spinning, which I gently corrected whenever I had the chance: 1) The drive band on the wheel is not the yarn that's being spun. It's completely separate. 2) I'm spinning wool, not cotton.

I came home happy, with stiff fingers and a neck ache, and smelling strongly of wood smoke because it was really windy and smoke from the blacksmith's fire kept blowing our way. (It turns out that spinning for six hours straight hurts. And if my posture is as bad as it appears in those pictures, then no wonder my neck hurt!)

(In case you're wondering, that ridiculously adorable little girl in the stroller is my niece, Stella, who will be a year old later this month.)

Now that the festival is over, I'm relieved that I don't have any crafty deadlines for a while, other than Stella's birthday sweater. I'm hoping to tackle some of the sewing and knitting projects I planned for FESA. Oh, and I've decided to make a fall quilt. Not just an autumn-inspired quilt, but an all-out Modern Maples full of orange and brown and leaves and acorns and foxes and...squash? Anyway, I'm so excited about it. I made seven blocks this week and this is my first time doing any kind of piecing besides just sewing squares together. It's addicting, even though I'm not very good at precise cutting or precise 1/4" seams.

(All of the festival photos were taken by either my parents or my cousin. I brought my camera along that day but didn't take a single picture! I meant to get pictures of my tables after we set them up, but oh well. I listed nearly everything I made on Ravelry, if you're curious.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

My favorite Psych episodes.

I just finished watching Psych this week, and I'm feeling a little heartbroken that it's over. (We get Netflix DVDs instead of streaming, so basically I've been getting one disc of Psych each week since January.)

Over the past couple of years, I've realized that I like detective stories. Monk, Psych, Sherlock, Agatha Christie, the Flavia de Luce series...I love a good mystery! But with Psych, it's not about the crime-solving for me. Most of the time, I probably don't remember much about the actual mystery or who committed a murder. Psych is all about Shawn and Gus and their friendship, the quirky sense of humor, and the spoofs.

It took me most of the first season to really get into the show. I kept comparing it to Monk, and while I still love Monk more, I've come to appreciate Psych in a different way. :) Shawn and Gus make the show, but I also love all of the supporting cast.

I tried to narrow it down to my top five favorite episodes, but with a show that's eight seasons long, that's pretty much impossible. So here are my top six(ish?)...

1. Office Space (season 7). It takes a lot for a TV show to make me laugh until I cry, and this episode did that several times. Gus finds his boss murdered and accidentally leaves incriminating evidence all over the crime scene. He goes to Shawn for help and things only go downhill from there. The beginning of this episode is so hilarious that I can't even begin to explain it. :) It's definitely my favorite episode of Psych.

2. Last Night Gus (season 6). The premise of this episode didn't draw me in at all, but it ended up being incredibly funny. Shawn, Gus, Lassiter, and Woody wake up in strange circumstances in the Psych office. They don't remember anything that happened the night before, but there's been a murder and the evidence seems to be pointing towards them, so they have to work quickly to solve the case. This episode is completely random and absurd, and I was so pleasantly surprised with it.

3. The Yin/Yang trilogy: An Evening with Mr. Yang (season 3), Mr. Yin Presents (season 4), and Yang 3 in 2D (season 5). All three of these episodes were so creepy and well done. If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Mr. Yin Presents, just because I love Hitchcock so all of those references were amazing. These were some of the most suspenseful episodes in the entire show!

4. The Pierre Despereaux episodes: Extradition: British Columbia (season 4), Extradition II: The Actual Extradition Part (season 5), Indiana Shawn and the Temple of the Kinda Crappy, Rusty Old Dagger (season 6), and Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster's Goblet of Fire (season 8). Wow...those are some seriously long titles. I'm a big fan of The Princess Bride, so of course I loved seeing Cary Elwes playing such a great character who was constantly taking me by surprise. I especially loved the last Despereaux episode because of all of the Harry Potter references. (Gus spending most of the episode in a Hogwarts uniform and searching for Rupert Grint and Shawn speaking in an awful English accent were highlights.)

5. Gus Walks into a Bank (season 3). It's been a while since I watched this one, so I can't say much about it other than I remember really enjoying it. :)

6. The Break-Up (season 8). I wasn't sure what to expect with the last episode. Honestly, with the amazing finale that Monk had, I thought the Psych finale probably wouldn't live up to that. I was surprised by how good it was, though! It was everything I could have wanted in the final episode, really, and it made me laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time). I could see how it could have been a bit too sentimental for some people, but I loved it. :) I also loved the Monk reference near the end. (This was one of the best moments.)

Some honorable mentions that I also really enjoyed: Weekend Warriors (season 1), Tuesday the 17th (season 3- I don't watch scary movies so I'm sure I wasn't even catching all of the references, but this one was seriously creepy), High Noon-ish (season 4- while I'm not usually a fan of westerns, I love the idea of them so this episode was fun), Feet Don't Kill Me Now (season 5- Lassiter tap dancing...need I say more?) In Plain Fright (season 5), Lassie Jerky (season 7), and 100 Clues (season 7- right after watching this one, I watched Clue, and it was neat to see all of the connections).

If you're a Psych fan, what are some of your favorite episodes?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Yarn Along

Reading: The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie. I like to think of myself as a fan of Agatha Christie, even though I've actually only read a couple of her books. I have seen TV and film adaptations of her stories, though, and I collect her books from thrift stores, intending on reading more of them. I needed a short break from the Harry Potter series, and October seemed like the perfect month for a mystery. :)

Knitting: A cardigan for my niece's birthday gift...she'll be a year old soon! I only have a couple weeks to make it (plus a couple of extras with the leftover yarn, hopefully), but I'm enjoying it so I think it'll knit up quickly. I'm using this pattern and KnitPicks Swish DK weight in carnation.

I kind of love it when my current knitting project and book match, and I expected that to happen this week. I thought I'd still be reading Rainbow Rowell's book Landline, which would have coordinated nicely with this sweater (the spine and back of the book are gray and pink). But like all of her books, it was so addicting that I finished it over the weekend. So it cracks me up that now my project and book couldn't be any less "coordinating"...I'm reading a murder mystery and knitting on a sweet pink baby sweater. :)

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spinning: cluck handspun.

I was drawn to this Falkland fiber from Spun Right Round (in the Cluck colorway), even though these aren't really colors that I would wear. Since I wanted to spin it but not necessarily knit it for myself, I knew I would try to sell the finished yarn.

(It was interesting because all along, I was thinking of these colors as very summer-ish. They reminded me of watermelon and fruit. But then while I was spinning it, there was a point where the light blue color was covered up on my bobbin with the other colors, and I was shocked to realize how fall-like the yarn looked then! Isn't it funny how adding one color can change the whole look?)

But I wanted to use it as an experiment, too. First, I wanted to see if I could spin fine enough to end up with 3 ply fingering weight yarn for socks (and also to see if I could get enough yardage for socks from 4 ounces of fiber). Also, I wanted to divide the fiber up into quite a few thinner sections before chain plying it, to see if I could get a variegated look instead of thicker stripes.

Well, I ended up with 432 yards, which is enough for socks. I even spun a little thinner than I had to (the finished yarn was about 16-17 wpi) I need to spin slightly thicker when I really spin for socks. I tried to add plenty of twist, but somehow my spinning wheel tension got off at one point and I wasn't putting enough twist in, so when it came time to ply I had trouble with the single trying to drift apart at that point.

I had every intention of knitting up a sample of this yarn in the round, on size 2 needles, with 64 stitches (which is my basic sock recipe), to see how the colors worked out. I took this skein and two others of my handspun to the craft fair I went to over the weekend (more on that soon), mostly just to have some handspun on display because I was sure that it wouldn't sell. (Especially with the price I put on this skein...the fiber itself cost me $16 and I worked on spinning it off and on for a month and a half.) I ran out of time before the festival to knit the sample, so I figured I'd just do it afterwards and then list the skein in my Etsy shop. I was so (pleasantly) surprised that all three of my handspun yarns sold at the craft fair! :) Of course that means I didn't get to knit that sample, but oh well...

I think I'm going to spin some fall-colored Cheviot wool next. It'll be a quick spin, probably 2 ply worsted weight, and I think I'll use the yarn for a hat. Maybe after that I'll try spinning more sock-weight yarn. I'd love to knit up some handspun socks this winter!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire {Book + Film}

I've read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire more times than any of the other books in the series. That much is obvious when I look at my copy of that book compared to the's really worn and the spine is loose. It was my favorite book in the series for a long time. This was also the first book that I bought on the actual release date, which I did for the rest of the series. (I was nine! Goodness, that makes me feel old.)

Rereading it now, I still really love this book! I love the whole setting of the Triwizard Tournament and all of the new characters that come with that. Especially Rita Skeeter! The subplot with her and Hermione is one of my favorites. Since I've read this book so many times, I pick up on the subtle foreshadowing about Skeeter...I love how J.K. Rowling drops hints.

It's interesting to see Hermione and Ron's relationship starting to change here. Also, I appreciate all of the background information about Voldemort and the Death Eaters. I had forgotten that we first find out about Neville's parents in this book.

I remember being completely shocked at the ending when I first read it. This is when things start going downhill (for the wizarding world, I mean, not the quality of the series!), so I'm always equally excited about and dreading the next book. (It doesn't matter that I know how things end. I still get caught up in it all!)

I noticed several mentions of knitting in this book: Mrs. Weasley (of course), Dobby knitting socks (colorwork socks, by the sound of it!), and Hagrid darning socks. And I might be forgetting something...

Now on to the film. I feel like I was being extra critical with this film, for some reason, because almost all of the notes I jotted down were negative and wondering why they changed things. For example, why was Barty Crouch, Jr. there with Voldemort and Wormtail at the beginning? In the book he hasn't joined them yet. Then they go and show that it was him casting the Dark Mark in the sky at the World Cup. I just feel like they made things a little too obvious in regards to Barty...they watered down the mystery too much.

I also think it's weird that the kids didn't seem to know that they were going to the Quidditch World Cup. And that the students from the other schools arrive before they even announce the tournament. And the entrance of the other students is a bit they're putting on a show like the teams at the World Cup. Okay, I'll stop now. :)

In the film, the first task is so dramatic. It looks like Harry and the dragon managed to demolish half of the castle (or at least most of the roofs). He was supposed to be the fastest at completing that task! I guess they have to make it more "action-packed" for film. I hate it when Harry's being all obnoxious and arrogant at the party afterwards instead of feeling bad about Ron. Being someone who hates conflict in real life, I also hate it when fictional best friends are not speaking to each other. :)

It cracks me up that everyone has shaggy hair in this movie...Harry, Ron, Fred and George, etc. I remember how longer hair like that was so popular when I was a teenager, so it's sort of comforting to know that trend has been immortalized in film. Another random thought: I love it when the twins talk in unison. For some reason it reminds me of the Beatles-inspired vultures in The Jungle Book.

I think the best part of this adaptation by far is the end scene in the graveyard. Voldemort is creepier in the movie than I imagined in the book...ugh. That whole scene is incredibly well done. They did a good job of capturing the right atmosphere and I really like how they did Priori Incantatem.

I do feel like the film fell short with the Barty Crouch and Rita Skeeter subplots. They just cut so much out.

One more thing...I have to mention that this movie almost kept me from watching Doctor Who. When I found out that David Tennant was the next Doctor, all I could think about was the awful, twitchy character he plays here. I had such a grudge against him that I didn't even want to start watching the second season of Doctor Who! If you would have told me then that David Tennant would become my favorite Doctor, I would have laughed. :)
What do you think of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Where does it rank in your favorites of the series?