Thursday, December 28, 2006

Technology is Wonderful When It Works!

Can you tell that I'm home today and messing around with the blog, finally?! I decided to switch to Blogger Beta today and change my template at the same time. It has taken some doing, but I think the sidebar is back to normal now, except for the pictures that go along with the KALs. I still have to figure out how to put them back in. All in all, though, making changes to the template is easier now with the new version.

The other thing I have to say is that I finally played with my new umbrella swift and yarn winder earlier today, and all I can say is I am in love! Everyone who works with yarn should have one of these. I wound 2 skeins of yarn in less than 10 mi
nutes, and without the tools it would have taken me 30-45 minutes at least. So tools=good!

A Look Back at 2006 - and Forward to 2007!

I have just been counting up how many items of various sorts I made and/or donated in 2006, and even I am a little bit stunned! I divided the items between those I donated straight to various charities and those I donated to my guild to sell. Straight to charity - 51 items! And another 22 to the guild sales! I also managed to make 6 gifts and finish 5 items for myself.

To put this in perspective, and to explain why I am rather stunned, when I started to keep track of what I made each month in 2004, I had a yearly total of 33 items donated to charity. Then, in 2005, I dropped out of crochet guild for a year. I belonged to a knitting guild that wasn't nearly so active, so my charity work for the year slumped to 6 items. So to jump up to 51 items this year is amazing to me! After all, I am still working the same 35 hours a week I always have, so the fact that I found the time to make all those additional items means that I was really motivated! Also, in addition to the guild's 3 donations a year - preemie items & chemo hats to the hospital, as well as the Salvation Army sets - I also participated in 4 other charity drives that I found here on the Internet.

So, what's ahead for 2007? Since I like to challenge myself each year, I think I will set a goal of making 100 items to be donated, either to charity or to guild sales. That's only another 25 items over what I did this year, so I think that is doable. I have found patterns that I am comfortable with, and I learned a lot this year about sizes and gauge, especially in crochet, all of which will help me work faster. I may also pick and choose what I make a bit more, and focus on those items I can work up more quickly. (That also goes for KALs and swaps.)

Beyond that, I have any number of projects I would like to finish and techniques I would like to learn. High on the list is finishing the Fair Isle hat I started last February. My dh would really like to wear it some day. I think the hang up right now is once I finish knitting, I have to weave in all the ends (and they are legion)! But, as we used to say in graduate school, "nothing to it but to do it".

Before I get there, however, I have 2 deadlines to meet in January. The Knit Mitt Kit Swap needs to be sent out on January 16th. I still have to make the bag and fill it with everything one needs to make mittens. I promise that I am starting the bag today. January is also the month that the red scarves get sent to OFA. I have one knitted scarf about half done, and I would like to try and make another, probably crocheted. If I get those done, then they will be the first 2 towards my goal of 100 items.

Tomorrow is definitely going to be a road trip to Webs. Saturday and Monday we have 2 more family get togethers. And next Tuesday, when I go back to work, I have to be in early for a staff meeting. I will be back later next week, hopefully with an impressive FO to show you all.
So I am going to take the opportunity now to wish you and yours a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Very Happy Christmas

I hope everyone had a great holiday! We had a lovely day, but I guess it was a lot of work, because boy was I tired yesterday! It took me the entire day to recover! There were just 5 of us on Christmas - my dh and I, my mother and my dh's parents - so you wouldn't think it would have been that tiring. But we seem to believe in lots of presents, and we put a lot of work into having a really good dinner.

For dinner, we served a roasted stuffed pork loin. Side dishes included mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed onions, rolls, and extra stuffing! My MIL made a delicious pecan pie for dessert. We ate leftovers for dinner last night, and it was just as good a second time!

As for presents, well, I was completely spoiled. I got a gift certificate for my LYS and cash to spend on yarn. I also got lace blocking wires and a set of KIPer* bags from Knit Picks. My mom got me a wooden shawl pin as well, so I really do need to work on a lace scarf or shawl to wear it with! And my dh surprised me with a dual DVD/VHS recorder that also includes a Tivo-type hard drive. We have had no way to record anything from TV for a long time now, but once I install this baby I should have no problem. I can record up to 3 shows at once!

As it turns out, Webs is having a big yarn sale this week. So it looks like there may be a road trip on Friday to spend some of my gift money! However, I will be back tomorrow with a review of 2006 and a look ahead at what's in store for 2007.

*KIP=Knit in Public

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Almost There!

Well, I am almost ready for Christmas! We got the Christmas cards sent out and the decorating done over the weekend. I haven't had time to take any pictures, though. I was so hoping to get the shopping done last night, but it was not to be. So my dh and I will make one more foray to the stores tonight and that should do it. Since we are doing quite a bit of our parents' shopping as well, everyone's shopping should be finished by tonight!

I haven't made Christmas cookies in years because we get so many from my MIL and SIL. But I do have a chocolate nut loaf recipe that I usually make on Christmas Eve. So I have a little cleaning and a little baking left to do this weekend, and then I will be completely ready for Christmas.

Every now and again, when things stop momemtarily, I do feel as though I am fighting off the Christmas blues. But I think this has something to do with the fact that I haven't picked up either needles or hook for about a week now. When I do sit down at night, I am just too tired to contemplate a project. However, if I just hang in, I will have plenty of time next week to get back into knitting & crocheting.

I have been doing some reading, though. I finished up The Italian Secretary, by Caleb Carr, on Sunday afternoon. I had been reading it since November, so it was time to get it done! It was a pretty good story on its own, but it was supposed to be an updated Sherlock Holmes story and as such I didn't think it was satisfactory. Then, Sunday night, I read The Christmas Guest by Anne Perry. It is our December book on Whoduknit, and I enjoyed it so much I finished it the same evening! Anne Perry has written 4 of these short "Christmas mysteries" so far, and I am now reading her current one - The Christmas Secret. They are perfect reads for this time of year, at least if you like mysteries!

I am working today, and if all goes well, only half of tomorrow. Then I will be off work until January 2nd. I just love when the holiday falls like this, and I can take 10 days off and only use 4 vacation days! I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to the break. I probably won't blog much until next week, but then I will be back with my own year end review. Until then, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday, and that Santa brings you everything you could possibly want!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So Much Good News!

This morning seems like a good time to give you an update on all of the various charity drives I was involved in over the past few months. Every single one was so successful it brings tears to my eyes!

Soaring Eagles Project - 676 hats as of yesterday! We were so worried we wouldn't even get to 300! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed making those hats. Everything will be given to the children tomorrow. I still wish I could be a fly on the wall at that school tomorrow!

My guild's Salvation Army donation - per Dee (in an email to the guild), 70 hat, mitten & scarf sets, along with various other items, including some spare hats and scarves, ponchos. and baby items. We also collected 3 large bags of toys. I am very proud of my fellow guild members as well!

60 Scarves in 60 Days - also per Dee, 80 scarves were actually made and donated during this challenge! Another unqualified success!

And finally, even though I never did get any mittens made and sent, From Hearts to Hands collected 654 pairs of mittens, again far exceeding the goal of 300!

I will definitely participate in these or other challenges again next year! The only thing I would like to do differently next year is to try and have some items made before next autumn. I enjoyed what I did this year, but it would be nice not to leave everything until the end of the year and then rush to get enough done. So we'll see how it goes. But for now, I am going to bask in the glow of this year's successes for a while longer!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This Week's Accomplishments

I just want you to know that while my head has been in the clouds this week after our terrific guild meeting, my fingers have still been busy on a few small projects!

First up, more hats! After I sent my box off to Oklahoma last Friday, I didn't quite know what to do with myself. I had been so geared to making hats for 2-3 weeks that it didn't feel right to stop! So I made 2 more hats over the weekend and finished them up last night.
The purple one on the left is a chemo hat that will be donated to the guild early next year, and the pink one on the right is the start of next year's Salvation Army donation. I also started a scarf to go with it, but I don't have a picture yet.

Then I realized that I needed to make a couple of pairs of baby booties this week, so I whipped them up yesterday.

And no, I didn't have time to start my shawl yesterday. I need to finish Christmas cards tonight, so maybe I can start it over the weekend, if the decorating doesn't take too long!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

One More Doris Chan Post

Dee very kindly sent along some of the pictures she took at Sunday's meeting, so I thought I would do one more post on Amazing Crochet Lace.

As I looked throught the book initially, one of my immediate favorites among all the patterns was the Blue Curacao Shawl. The shape of the shawl looked so comfortable. Trying it on Sunday confirmed my suspicions. This shawl will stay put around your shoulders, but it's long enough that you could drape it and pin it in place if you wanted. However, I didn't like the feel of the mohair used in the model. So I took a look at my stash this week, and I found some yarn that I had gotten free several years ago when I belonged to a knitting guild. It is a smooth wool/camel blend in a very light brown, and I seem to have just enough for this project. This may be a crazy thing to say this time of year, but I need to start this project soon!

The other project that jumped out at me was the Moebius Shawl. It also looked perfect to wear at work. And again, trying it on confirmed what I thought. It is light and comfortable but warm. I really want to make this shawl out of the yarn used in the book, Ritratto. I just need to decide on a color. The blue is beautiful and would probably work with my wardrobe, but there is also a violet (#84 on the shade card) that really caught my eye. However, I will try to wait until the new year to buy any more yarn, so I have some time to decide!

And in case you are wondering if this book really deserves all the fuss everyone is making over it, I have to tell you that I had my copy of the book sent to me at work last week. Of course when it arrived, I immediately opened the package and started looking through it. What surprised me was how interested all of my co-workers were in the designs, even though most of them don't knit or crochet! So I really think this book is something special. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a shawl to start crocheting!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Truly Special Guild Meeting

Yesterday, we had (dare I say it) an "amazing" guild meeting! We had good things to eat, goodies raffled off, and lots of fun conversation. And if that weren't enough, we had presentations by 2 designers, Margaret Hubert and Doris Chan. My head is still spinning with ideas for new projects!

I actually missed some of Margaret's presentation because I volunteered to meet Doris at the LYS near my house, where she was doing a book signing, and escort her to the guild meeting to make sure she didn't get lost. But I was able to hear some of what Margaret had to say about adjusting patterns to fit each one of us.

Doris's presentation was equally fascinating. I realized that I am familiar with several of her patterns - I just didn't realize that she was the designer. For example, she designed the Sage Circle Jacket that is available for free from Caron's. She also designed several items in the Tahki Stacy Charles Spring 2006 Crochet publication which I had bought on vacation this year. I was especially fascinated to hear how she gets her ideas for her designs. It was an interesting glimpse into how designers do what they do. Did you know that publishers and yarn companies will often send a sketch and some yarn to designers and say make this happen? Besides that, Doris uses doily and table runner patterns from the 50s and 60s for inspiration, and many of her motifs come from those patterns.

Even better, Doris brought some samples of completed garments from her new book that we were able to try on. Now I am even more anxious to make a couple of her shawls, knowing that they fit like a dream! And we got a sneak peek at the book she has coming out next fall. I won't say anything except that it looks as good if not better than Amazing Crochet Lace. I can't wait to buy it!

Finally, I want to send a big thank you to Dee for inviting Doris to our meeting. It wouldn't have happened without Dee's enthusiasm and contacts, and our guild would have missed out on a great opportunity.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Salvation Army and a Box for Oklahoma

I had yesterday off from work, and as it turned out, I was able to spend most of the day on my charity projects once again. I finished up the last of the the 12 hats for the Soaring Eagles Project. The picture shows the 4 hats I made this week. (I will post a picture of all 12 hats over at 25 Things for Charity.) Then I went out and did some shopping. One of the local craft stores was having a good sale, so I was able to get a few goodies to put in the box for Oklahoma, as well as some stretchy gloves that will be the start of next year's Salvation Army donation. So the box is taped up and ready to go in the mail this morning. And yes, that navy blue and orange hat is even brighter in real life than it is in that picture!

At the end of the afternoon, I met up with Dee and Grace to deliver all of the guild's items to the Salvation Army. (Dee has some great pictures up at her site.) We got a tour of the place and all I can say is what an amazing operation. I stood there thinking that they aren't called an army for nothing. The logistics of collecting, sorting and getting toys, clothes, food and a turkey to 300 families are complicated to say the least, and yet they seem to have an incredibly efficient method for doing just that. I am glad that I went for two reasons. One, it made what we are doing in the guild much more real to me, and two, I have a better understanding of what the Salvation Army needs, which will help me as I work on next year's donation.

In the middle of all of this charity work, I received a package in the mail yesterday afternoon. I think I forgot to mention that I won one of the Knit unto Others prizes. Well, it arrived yesterday.

The picture does not do it justice. It is a skein of 100% merino sock yarn in the most beautiful shades of purple and green hand dyed by Kirsten. I am going to have to find a very special sock pattern to make with this yarn.

And I think that will conclude the charity portion of this blog, at least for a while. I was home quite a bit yesterday, and I realized that my house is not only filthy but chaotic as well, and I am not going to have a lot of time to deal with it this weekend. I also need to get cards out, decorate, wrap presents, you know the drill. And of course I am working today and tomorrow is the guild meeting. Oh well, there is always next weekend! It will all get done because it always does get done, but I can tell you that I am already really looking forward to the time off I am taking after Christmas! Have a great weekend!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another Yarn Purchase!

I'm not entirely sure I should keep advertising just how much yarn I buy, but I don't have a lot to talk about today, so here goes! I'm sure you all know that Herrschner's does a weekly yarn sale. I check it every week, and probably 50 weeks a year, I don't see anything that interests me. But every now and then, they will have a great sale on yarn I love, and I kind of go nuts. Well, last week was one of those weeks! So a box filled with this arrived at my house yesterday:

It is unfortunate that this sale occurred just as I am doing all my Christmas shopping. It is going to take a while to pay off this month's credit card bills! But how could I resist a sale that included Simply Soft Shadows and Tweed and Noro Kureyon. I realize that I missed Norovember, but everyone online raves so about Noro that I have to try it for myself. There are 2 skeins of Plymouth Dreambaby in the back of the picture, too. I have to say that I really love working with the new Simply Soft yarns. The colors are great, and the yarn is slightly thicker and softer than regular Simply Soft. I can't wait to get started using this yarn!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Caps for the Capital Again

In the midst of all the other charity work I am involved with this week, I keep hearing about Save the Children's Caps to the Capital Campaign again. I received an email newsletter from Bernat on Monday that mentioned the project, with numbers. Save the Children's goal was 250,000 hats by the end of the year, but apparently they have only received 24,700 so far. This is not so good. Save the Children does now have an interactive map up, so you can see how many people from each state are participating.

Then, this morning, Dee was kind enough to send along an article from the New London, CT newspaper that I found completely charming. Apparently the Lyman Allyn Art Museum has decided to decorate their Christmas tree with baby hats that will then be donated to Save the Children at the end of the year. The picture of the tree is just precious! I am glad to know that hats are still being donated to this worthy cause. Once I get my box off to the Soaring Eagles Project, and get some work done on the two swaps I am involved in, I will try to make a few more caps as well. I certainly have plenty of yarn scraps around from all the hats I have made in the last few weeks!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lovely Evening

After a delicious dinner at Appleby's with my dh last night, I made my way over to Borders to meet up with Dee and Grace, the president of our crochet guild. We spent two hours putting more sets together for the Salvation Army out of the various hats and scarves that have been floating around the club's stash. (Of course, I forgot my camera, but Dee should have some pictures up at some point!) Unfortunately, there was a dearth of mittens or gloves, but we will buy some to complete the sets. I'm not sure I have the exact number, but we should be able to donate between 60 and 70 sets to the Salvation Army this week, along with some baby items, some ponchos, and a couple of individual hats and scarves. Best of all, I may be able to help deliver all these items later in the week. Dee is still waiting for confirmation on when the delivery is going to happen.

It means a lot to me to be able to help with a donation like this at this time of year. I think it does more to put me in the mood for Christmas than all the decorations in the world put together!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Thoughts from the Weekend

Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts from the weekend:

1. We are coming down to the wire on the Soaring Eagles Project, and Rachel wrote to us yesterday to tell us that she has 118 hats so far. That's good, but nowhere near the 300 she needs. She is also trying to determine what to expect by Dec. 18th. I wrote back and said I would send 12, although I will try to make more if I can this week, since headbands are also acceptable. Rachel posted a pattern and some links to headband patterns on the site today. So if you have any time at all this week and can make a hat or headband, please do so. I think this is a really deserving project.

2. Speaking of the Soaring Eagles Project, my weekend knitting/crocheting once again focused on hats! Yesterday, I finished one crocheted hat, worked for a while on a knitted hat that isn't growing fast enough, and then made another crocheted beanie last night. I do love how quickly I can crochet hats! I used the "boy beanie" in Stitch & Bitch: The Happy Hooker for the second hat, and I really like the pattern. I will post a picture at the end of the week with what I accomplish this week. I was a little annoyed yesterday, though, because I was all set to hunker down in the afternoon and stitch during the UConn men's basketball game, but the game wasn't on TV. So I hunkered down with my Ipod and stitched to music instead. At least I hunkered down as well as anyone can while jumping up and down to deal with laundry at regular intervals!

3. Apparently a lot of people, myself included, are getting rather fed up with Bloglines. They really have been slow about picking up new posts from the blogs I read. So following a tip from Norma, I exported my feeds to Google Reader. So far, I am very happy with Google. It is much faster to pick up posts than Bloglines, and the posts are easier to read. I don't have to actually link over to the blog to read it, like I did with some blogs on Bloglines. I am still using both, and the links in my sidebar still reflect my Bloglines subscriptions. Actually, that is the only thing I can't find so far on Google Reader - html code to add my subscriptions to my sidebar. If I find that, I will probably drop Bloglines altogether.

There's probably more, but I am running out of time this morning. More tomorrow!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Knit Unto Others FOs!

This is my entry for Knit Unto Others. I have been very busy for the last two weeks, and I have finished 9 hats for the Soaring Eagles Project! I have 3 more hats started, and my goal is to finish those and make one more by next weekend. Then I will have a dozen hats to send to Rachel, hopefully in plenty of time of time for the December 18th deadline. Even more exciting, she has received over 100 hats already! I am starting to believe we will reach our goal of 300 hats!

Have a great weekend everyone!