December 16, 2012

Secret Santa

I have the coolest knitting group.  Not only do they keep me sane through the stressors of pharmacy school and life in general, but we do all sorts of fun things together.  I've already shared with you our Knit in Public Day and our yearly knitting retreat, but now I'm going to tell you why our group rules:  Secret Santa Swap.

The whole process starts early in spring on our Ravelry board.  Everyone fills out the posted questionnaire, detailing out their likes, dislikes, sizes, and favorite yarns, knitted items and colors.  All that stuff you would want to know about someone you are making a secret gift for.  Then someone finds a friend to secretly assign everyone a partner to make a Christmas care package for.  

Each care package must consist of:
  • 1 knitted gift
  • 1 skein of yarn
  • 1-2 non-knitted miscellaneous things 
  • 1 Christmas ornament (or just another miscellaneous gift if your giftee doesn't celebrate Christmas)
Then sometime in December we have a nice dinner where we swap gifts and "ooooh" and "awwww" over everybody's pretties and squishies.

This year may have been my trickiest yet because my Secret Santa giftee does not like hats.  CRAZY, RIGHT?!  I mean, all I knit is hats!  I am known as the Mad Hatter in the group.  How could I be assigned the one knitter in our group who doesn't like hats.  But it's okay.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

I scanned my partner's questionnaire again and noticed that she mentioned knitted headbands twice.  A headband is practically a hat.  Plus, knitted headbands are in this year.  Or at least that's what my fashionable sister tells me.  Okay, so maybe it wasn't that tricky, but look how cool this headband is:

I just love those flecks of blue and pink.  Madelinetosh, you are my one true love!  (Sorry, Jonathan...)

I think it's pretty darn cute!  The pattern is the Parisian Twist Headband by Elisa McLaughlin.  I used a scrap ball of Madelinetosh tosh merino in Steam Age.  AND IT KNIT UP SO FAST.  Definitely a bonus!  I think I'll make myself another one after the holidays.

One of the many great things about my Secret Santa giftee is that she loves all the colors and all yarn weights.  I was pretty much able to dote on her with any skein of happy I felt like.  I tucked a nice Madelinetosh (I'm such an addict, I KNOW) tosh sock in Calligraphy.  It just looks so happy and squishy!

And here are some of the other goodies my care package included:

A cute pocket notebook for sketching pattern ideas!  My secret giftee sews too, so maybe she can sketch out both knitting and sewing ideas here.  ♥
A Chibi tapestry needle set!  It's a little container for your darning needles so they don't get lost.  :)
And the last piece of the Secret Santa Swap, the ornament!  I made a hexi-ornament and put a little heart on him.  :)
Here's the whole gang, ready to be wrapped up for my secret giftee!  ♥
Usually my sister does my gift wrapping for me because she has this amazing talent for making bows, but she was out of town the night before the swap party.  I was forced to wrap this thing on my own.  Like an adult...  Queue dramatic horn kick.  

Luckily I've picked up a little bit on bow making from my sister:
It's nothing like Jamie's bows, but I think it turned out okay!  :)
After sweating for half the year on getting my gift ready, I almost forgot that someone was making a gift for me!  Watching everyone open their gifts was magical.  Some gifts were so personal and touching that tears were shed.  (I've got lots a feelings, okay?)  

It turns out that my friend Nikki was my Secret Santa.  She made me the coolest hat/cowl ever!  Not only does it have pom-poms and buttons, but it has four stranded color work and an i-cord drawstring.  That's some serious love right there.  It's been a few days since the swap and I'm still in awe of it.

This is a skein of Classic Elite MountainTop Vail that Nikki hand dyed for me at the knitting retreat!  It's 200+ yards of baby alpaca and bamboo that is gorgeous to boot.  

She also sneaked in a pair of Knit Picks Harmony Wood interchangeable needles in a size I was missing as well as a handmade ornament.  I don't have a Christmas tree at my house, so she made me a decorative holiday window hanging.  So cool!

I was so spoiled by Nikki.  I played with my pom-poms all night.  I'm still playing with the pom-poms.  I love them.  Pom-poms are my spirit animal.  ♥

I love our group's yearly Secret Santa swap.  It's so great to exchange gifts with what has become my second family.  Seeing what everyone comes up inspires me to push my knitting to the next level to become the a knitting jedi master like some of our other group members.  Maybe next year I'll try some fancy bead work...  ♥

November 30, 2012

Christmas Knitting

It's that time of year again...  The time of year that I feel simultaneously loved and abused by my entire family.   Every time I think I'm finished with my Christmas list, my mom adds another relative who told her they really wanted to be on the Knit List this year.  Last year I knit for 26 people.  Twenty.  Six.  It was crazy.

I cut the list back extensively this year.  I'm knitting for maybe seven or eight people.  Even with the cutbacks, I am still nowhere near done with my Christmas knitting.  That's probably because my sister requires three items.  Christmas, her birthday, and her college graduation all in one month.  I have finished one of her gifts though!

Happy socks!  Made in Knit Picks Felici self-striping sock in Afternoon using the Socks 101 pattern from Knitty.  I love this yarn so much.  It makes such great, vibrant socks.  Plus, being able to actually wear them around and throw them in the washing machine helps a lot!

I've knit my dad a hat for ever holiday for the past 6 years.  He has well over 20 hats.  I am the Mad Hatter, after all.  This year, I decided to do something a little different.  I'm sure you guys have already seen the amazing Alex Tinsley's Howlcat, the hat that is also a cowl.  Or is it a cowl that's also a hat?

Made with Madelinetosh vintage in Steamer Trunk and Madelinetosh tosh merino light in Moorland, and modeled ever-so-sweeetly by Jonathan.  

Some socks for my boss using the Socks 101 pattern again. (Truthfully, I've never tried another sock pattern.  I really should branch out my sock game one day...)  They were too big for my tiny feet so I couldn't take a picture of them on, but I swear they are super cute!

I made this hat for the other pharmacist I work with.  It's another Alex Tinsley pattern Maelstrom Beret in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tweed in Prussian Healther.  The skein didn't have quite enough yardage to make the hat, so I had to do the decreases early, making it more beanie than beret, but that's okay.  It's still pretty cute!

And that's what I've got done right now.  I still have a ton left to finish before December 25th.  I also have finals next week and the family Christmas card to draw the week after.  Feel free to place your bets on me losing my mind before this is all over!

I guess when all the gifts on my Knit List are all unwrapped and worn, it will be worth all the stress.  I am very lucky my family and friends appreciate hand knits enough to request items from me instead of wrinkling their noses at yet another knit hat.

...but this is still a lot of knitting to do.  Oh man, oh god, oh man.  I'm going to breathe now and get it done.  I'll see you guys later!

P.S.  I've got one of those Tumblr things now if you are interested in pictures of my WIPs and cat.  ♥

October 29, 2012

The Day We Dyed

This weekend was my knitting group's yearly knitting retreat.  Every fall the group rents a cabin in the woods to spend the weekend knitting, dying yarn, playing games, or whatever strikes their fancy.  This was the first year I had the weekend free to go and I am oh so glad that I did!  Not only did I have a ball spending the weekend away with my favorite nutty knitters, but as a knitter that had never delved into the world of dying, I was happy to have my support group walk me through the process.  

I had a plan in mind when I brought my two skeins of natural Malabrigo Lace to the dying party. (Yeah, we made the dye/die joke the entire weekend.)  I had heard about people dying their yarns with coffee and tea.  I'm a tea junkie so I made a few cups of earl grey and chai and then threw the tea bags in the vinegar mix for good measure.

Wet skeins totally look like intestines.  Way less yummy than dry, smooshy yarn!

I dyed the second skein with the teas too, but then I splashed burgundy dye on it.  We were all puzzled when the burgundy turned bubblegum pink after a few minutes in the oven. It was weird, but we rolled with it, adding light browns and yellows to tone down the pink into a more dusty pink.

Look at all that yummy yarn!
 I didn't get pictures of everybody's goodies, but Nikki's tye dye yarn was my absolute favorite!  I can't wait to see what she makes out of it!

After I got the hang of it, I was kicking myself for only bringing two skeins to dye, but lucky for me, Shelley didn't have time to dye all her mini-skeins she made for hexipuffs and she asked me to dye them for her.  UM, YES PLEASE.  

It was so much fun.  You can see where I tried to mimic Koigu and Malabrigo colorways.  I'm a fan, you know.  :)

Waiting on the yarn to dry was probably the hardest part of the entire process.  I kept pacing around, checking the yarn every few hours until the group told me that the yarn usually doesn't dry until the next morning.  Devastating!  

It felt like Christmas morning when I woke up on Sunday to find my yarn ready to wind up and go.  I'm so in love with the cream color the tea gave the yarn and the pink one is reminiscent of Malabrigo's dusty colorway, which makes me pretty happy.

I might have to make dying yarn a regular thing.  Yes?  Yes?

August 3, 2012

Snake Skin



Pick out any two fun colors you like and zig-zag them right up into this snake-skin-ish cowl in no time! I promise it won’t bite. ;)

June 20, 2012

Tutorial: Octopus Hexipuff

About a month ago the tiny owl knits community made Miss Owl herself a beekeeper's quilt of her own!  I was struck by the love of the community and found myself crying right along with Stephanie in the video.  In addition to the amazing love in the video, she showed all of the puffs in the quilt.  There were two octopus puffs (one made to resemble a lost member's Ravatar) and I was completely inspired to make an octopus puff for my quilt.  

I didn't see any instructions on Ravelry, so I just winged it.  I thought I'd share my notes here in case anyone else wants to add a little weirdness to their quilts as well.

Here’s how I made him:

Just knit the puff like you normally would, but instead of binding off, knit the first 5 stitches on one needle like an i-cord. Once it is sufficiently long (an inch and a half maybe), k2tog, k1, k2tog, then continue on a 3 stitch i-cord for a three or four more rows, then k3tog and tie off.
Then do the same for the next five stitches on the needle. And then move on to the next needle and do the same! Once you’ve made all four legs, stuff the puff part of the octopus, then whipstitch him closed.
Oh, and then put some eyes on him! :)
I left a bit of yarn hanging from the end of each of the legs like so:

You can use those tails to tie him into the corners of your quilt!

He's taking over!  I may make a few more...  Maybe a squid too!  :)

♥ ashley

June 17, 2012

Knit in Public Day 2012

As many knitters know, World Wide Knit in Public Day happened last week.  Every year the website announces a week that knitters all over the world can group up and knit out in the public arena!  Technically our group knits in public every week at our local book store, but truthfully as far as the usual Books-A-Million crowd goes we are just as much a part of the scenery as the furniture we sit on.  We agreed we needed to change it up a bit. 

The biggest question when planning an event like this is "Where the heck are we going to put this thing?"  There are not many places in a middling town like this where a group of women can sit and knit for hours.  Restaurants will let you hang around as long as you are ordering food.  Starbucks only has enough seating outside, which in our June Louisiana heat would be considered a suicide attempt.  Other than our usual bookstore meeting spot, there weren't many options for us to choose from.  We landed on the food court in the mall, with an extra credit evening meet up at the nearby pub.

We had a great time and more than a few funny looks.
Mhmmmm... Green tea and alpaca...
Crystal bought us each a Ravelry button to put our usernames on.
Crystal's knitting bag fielded a few questions for us.
Shelley working on a little surprise for our evening event.

Later that evening we met up anIrish pub for a slightly more intoxicating knitting experience. (I promise we didn't get too crazy!  We had pointy needles after all...)  Shelley and Laura had called the owner to reserve us a table and, to our surprise, they were okay with us doing a little yarn bombing.  As soon as I sat down at the table, Laura passed some green yarn over to me and said, "I think JFK needs a hat."

So make a hat for the JFK bust I did.  The clover is a little wonky, but gimme a break 
I only had an evening to work on the thing!
May his head stay ever warm behind that bar counter.
Laura made a festive hat and scarf for the gnome inside the bar.
What a cozy gnome you are!
Britney and Whitney worked on clovers to keep the place lucky.
Once we started yarn bombing the columns, we became a beacon for all drunk people to talk to us.  Shelley didn't even get her Irish flag on the pole before a drunk guy bought it from her. She was still able to contribute to the bombing with an Irish hexipuff (you know, from all that beekeeper's quilt stuff).  Nikki and I put up two column cozies.  Nikki kept to the Irish theme with hers, while mine was a bit more 70s sunset in nature.
There were more people than this around.
I swear we didn't scare them off!!
After the yarn bomb dropped, I enjoyed a tasty beverage with even tastier yarn.
No hexipuffs were harmed in this process!
We had a great evening full of yarn and laughter. Angela even suggested we should make Enoch's a weekly knitting event.  We could call it Drunk Knit Night, or DK Night for those of you who enjoy DK weight yarn. I for one am all for spending more time with these awesome ladies.  Knit Night is my weekly therapy session and one of the few things I look forward to every week.  The World Wide Knit in Public Day was just an excuse for us to squeeze two Knit Nights in a week.  It makes me wonder what people without knitting groups even do?  

They probably knit.  That sounds okay too. 

We are truly not your grandmother's knitting group.