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Two things have been missing from my blog lately: me and crochet.

Me?  That’s an easy one.

My brilliant, fabulous, incredible and now highly-educated little sister graduated from law school on Saturday.  I so want to call her a lawyer and send cute little notes with an “Esq.” on the end, but she says I’m not allowed until she passes the bar.  Details, details.  (I still inscribed the book I bought her with her name, Esq.  It’s fun, and I’m freaking proud of her.  So sue me.  I’ll have a good lawyer soon enough.)  So, we were up in Virginia for a long weekend celebrating, watching her speak (yes, she was elected speaker by her class!), and sight-seeing in D.C.  (Pictures of that to follow later…)

Crochet?  Ah, never assume that the absence of crochet from the blog equals an absence of crochet from my life!  I’ve been working for the past month solely on Heather’s graduation present…and since it was in her school colors, I exercised an awful lot of restraint and did NOT post the progress here.

However!  Graduation is past, and the gift has been given.

When I read about Laughing Purple Goldfish’s Event Plaid, I knew immediately that this is what I would make for Heather’s graduation gift.  After a few trips to Goodwill for sweaters to frog and a session with my Wilton’s and Kool-Aid dyes, I had three green yarns and a gold.  Perfect for a George Mason U. grad.  (This is the largest project I’ve made completely of reclaimed yarns.  Yay!)

(Note: The original pattern is out of print, but this blanket is made using the same technique.)

The whole idea of this blanket is to utilize the numbers from an important date to create the pattern.  Heather’s graduation was on May 16, 2009, or 5-16-09.  The numbers I would use to make the blanket, therefore, were 5-1-6-9.  I needed four yarns for this; the first would be used for five rows, the second for one row, etc.  Voila, a pattern!

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It was going well, until I got to the third yarn in my pattern, and I quickly realized that I would run out of my third and fourth yarns if I kept up that pattern.  I modified the numbers and ended up with a 5-1-3-6 pattern.  I’m not sure if anything important happened on May 13, 2006, but we’ll just assume it’s around the time Heather decided to move to Virginia for law school and call it done.

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I have to agree with Sharon’s assessment that this is an ugly, ugly pattern until the very last bit is done.  The pattern is worked in dc, ch1 spaces for row after row.  It’s not very attractive.  The magic happens after the crochet portion is done and the weaving begins.  Weaving is done in the same row patterns, obviously worked in the other direction.  Once the strands are woven through and the tassles tied, the plaid is obvious and incredible.  I can’t imagine a color combination that wouldn’t look great.

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I learned an important thing during this process.  This pattern takes forever.  I mean it.  It just goes on and on, especially when you want a blanket of some size, like I did.  I really wanted to give Heather something she could snuggle under on the couch.  I managed to watch several great miniseries on DVD with Mom and Dad while crocheting this thing.  The weaving took a lot longer than I expected, too.  Thank goodness for Mom.  She spent most of the day and evening last Wednesday working on the weaving, and it saved me a lot of anguish and scrambling.

It was worth it, though.  I finished the weaving on the road on Thursday and tied the tassles that night in the hotel room.  It’s one of my favorite pieces ever.

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Here’s an idea of the size…Heather says it will be perfect for her office someday.  She wants a chaise where she can curl up and read briefs and cases, and of course, she must have a blankie for the space.  This one has the added bonus of being very tartan-like, which speaks to our proud Scottish heritage.

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She looks pretty happy with it, don’t you think??  It even matches her eyes.

IMG_9186Cozy Girl, Esq.

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Sorry to keep my fellow crafters, crocheters, and other fiber-loving friends in the lurch for so long.  Life has been hectic!  The house went under contract last Thursday, and we close on the 31st.  It’s chaotic, but we’re excited.

However, chaos has not kept me from the yarn.  It’s just kept me from blogging about it.

My birthday yarn, picked up at The Lamb Shoppe in Denver, is scruuuuuumptious!  Queensland Collection’s Kathmandu Aran Tweed, in Moss Green.  Oh, Yum.

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I bought three balls of this, and I’ve used less than two to make my new hat (to be posted later).

I’ve been frogging sweaters in the evenings since I got back in town, and my yarn collection is growing.  Most of it has a specific purpose, but I’m not at liberty to share just yet…in a couple of months, definitely!

100% wool, definitely the softest yarn I’ve ever felt.  I already used some of this to make my winter hat a couple of months ago.  The rest, I dyed green:

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As you can see, some of it has already made it onto the ball winder.  It’s sort of a pain, because the sweater I reclaimed for this yarn was knit using three strands held together, and I’m going to need it in individual strands for my project.  Worth the effort, tho’!

This orange is 100% virgin wool.  Either laceweight or light fingering, I haven’t really checked it yet:

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Photographed on clover in honor of St. Patrick’s Day this week.  (Sorry for the overexposure; it was really bright out that day.)

Next, an Abercrombie sweater, 80% lambswool, 20% nylon.  Very soft and – of course – my favorite color:

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This goldenrod is 100% cotton.  It’s the first cotton sweater I’ve reclaimed, I think, and I like it a lot:

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…and last but not least, (surprise!) another green sweater frogged for your viewing pleasure.  (And my crocheting pleasure – yippee!)

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And so ends the parade for today.  Wow, my feet hurt…

I have been crocheting lately, just not saying much about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that a friend of ours had lost her sister.  It was not a sudden death, but of course, it is a tragic and heartwrenching loss.  I decided on the spot that our friend would need a hug, so I spent the week crocheting this for her.

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Pattern: Feather Stole by Elizabeth Myers
Yarn: Reclaimed Acrylic/Angora
Hook: I’ve already forgotten (oops…E, maybe?)

If you like it, if you want to compliment it, I ask instead that you visit the Scleroderma Foundation and make a donation with our friend’s family in mind.  Even if you can only manage a dollar or two, please consider it.  This is a disease that – in its most serious form – can completely debilitate its victims, with no known cure and unknown cause.

I’ve felt oddly out of crochet mode since finishing the stole.  I’ve worked a bit on a hat and some other things for the Mattaponi project.  I know I’ll get back in the mood shortly.  I have too many unfinished projects and too many hanks of yarn tempting me from their drawer in the closet.

Today, Mom and I visited Knitch for some yarn fondling and to find her a set of DPN’s.  (She’s going to knit her first socks!)  Yarn was fondled, and DPN’s were purchased, after which we headed out for an amazing lunch.  I needed a few hours of not thinking about the near future.

In a couple of weeks, Jason and I will be driving to Seattle, where I’ll leave him to find a room to rent, and I will hop a plane back here.  Again, Mom & Dad come through, offering to watch the boys while I’m gone.  I’m decidedly unthrilled at the upcoming indefinite period of single parenting, not to mention missing my best friend in the world like crazy.  Still, I know it’s what needs to happen, and it is only temporary, after all.  Jason’s already lost one position to a Seattlite, for the sole reason of distance.  One that we know of, that is.  He needs to be local to get the interviews.

We’ve had two showings in the past three days, after a drought of more than a month.  I hope this is a sign of things to come, and that the rebate for first-time house buyers in stimulus package encourages more lookers and an offer or two.  As our Realtor says, “Everyone wants a deal,” but what ‘everyone’ fails to realize is that they’re already getting a deal.  Regardless, we can’t afford to be too choosy.  Serious offers will be considered and counter-offered, and a deal will happen.  Someone is going to get an incredible deal, indeed.

Last week, we had parent-teacher conferences.  Kalen’s consisted of, “Any questions?  No?  Here, sign these forms…he’s doing great.”  Nicky’s was nearly as simple.  Consequently, I spent too much time just chatting with the teachers, wonderful women all.  Okay, not too much time; nothing but good can come from being friendly and on good terms with your children’s teachers.

The boys have taken the news of Jason moving very well, which leads me to wonder if they really grasp it.  They had been prepared for the possibility of his getting a job and moving before the house sold, but this is a quick decision and thus a quick blow.  We’re working on assigning simple chores that will help them fill Daddy’s shoes and give them some responsibilities and distractions.

Forgive my stream-of-consciousness, a literary style I greatly despise.  My brain seems to be in that mode lately, though, so I suppose it’s best to just let it go.

[Note: I came up with all sorts of punny, cheesy titles for today’s post: Sock It To Me, Sock-cess, Put a Sock On It…aren’t you glad I resisted temptation?]

Back in November, in the midst of Christmas crafting, I made a pledge. I promised myself that January would be dedicated to making something (maybe even more than one something) for myself. Just for me. I’ve gotten a bit side tracked on other projects (more on that another day), but I have, in fact, kept my promise to myself.

First, I finished my hat.

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Pattern: Driftwood Cap by Ellen Gormley (Interweave Crochet, Fall ’08 )
Yarn: Knitpicks Bare, DK weight, Dyed by Yours Truly
Hook: Handcarved, probably an H

I love it.

After I finished the hat, I recomitted to making my first pair of socks.  If you’ve seen my new Twitter feed over on the left, you may have read some of my frustrations and triumphs as I crocheted them.

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Pattern: Origami Turkish Socks by Deb Burger
Yarn: Knitpicks Bare, fingering weight, Dyed by Moi
Hook: F (Hero)

This pattern is unique for socks, in that you crochet them flat, based on the measurements of your foot, then seam them up, hopefully for a perfect fit.

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I have to admit to a lot of frustration at the beginning of this project.  My first two tries ended up with cuffs waaaay too large for my ankle.  I did finally figure it out, though, and once I got that fixed and started on the foot, it went really quickly.

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As you can see, the foot portion fits like a glove.  The cuff is a bit loose; it sort of feels like I’m wearing a loose turtle neck around my ankle.  But I can get used to that.

I’m ready to try my second pair of socks.  Jason bought me some Alpaca Sox when he was in Seattle last week, and he informs me that he’d like to see them crocheted up sometime soon.  See how he twists my arm?  Every crafter needs a good enabler.

As Jason suggested, I used my Kool New Yarn to make myself a hat.

Unfortunately, out of the thirty or so hooks I own, I can find every single one except my only “I” hook.  Seriously.  I have 3 “N” hooks, 2 “J” hooks, and multiples of several others, but I only have one “I,” and it’s nowhere to be found.

So, I used the hand-carved hook I bought for my Grandma at Fisherman’s Wharf when I was in high school.  It felt like it might be a little bigger than my “H” hooks (yep, I have two of those, too).  Apparently not.  The hat is approximately the right size for a seven-year-old girl (gamely tested by one of our friends at karate class).  I do not have the head of a seven year old girl.

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I briefly considered simply giving the hat to said seven-year-old, before remembering my pledge to do make things for myself after months and months of gift making.  Plus, I love that yarn, so I frogged it halfway and am adjusting as I go.  It really is pretty.

In dyeing news, I was so thrilled with the end result of this yarn, I decided to use the last two packets of Kool-Aid (orange) in the pantry.  But on what?  Ah-ha!  The ugly yarn I dyed last summer!  And we’ll add a bunch of yellow food coloring in for good measure.

Before, a greyed-out pile of pink and blue yarn.  Blah:

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During – I tried in vain to get a photo that didn’t look like overcooked pasta:

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After – much better:

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This is going straight into my stash.  It’s not a soft yarn, so I’m loathe to make a wearable out of it.  We shall see what it becomes!

Last summer, I bought a skein of Knitpicks Bare fingering weight, with the intent of dyeing it to crochet my first pair of socks during the Olympics.

Didn’t happen.

With the advent of the new year, and our major housework behind us for the time being, I was inspired to pull out that skein and do something with it.  I had told myself many times that January would be a month of crocheting purely for myself.  And if it’s going to be indulgently mine, shouldn’t it be my favorite color?  A semi-solid green was my goal, so I decided on the crock pot method, with lemon-lime in two glasses, lemon-lime and lemonade in one glass, and lemon-lime and blue raspberry in the last glass.

Step One:

Dye it!  (OK, for all of you in the know about dyeing, this shouldn’t be step one, should it?  Step one should be soaking the yarn.  I was a little over-eager and plunged right in.  Literally.)

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So, since I missed a step and shoved the dry yarn right into the dye, it exhausted instananeously.  The result of this was that not all the yarn got hit.  And I was out of any variation of green Kool-Aid, with a strict prior oath to myself NOT to buy a single thing for this project.  Dang.

After letting it heat up for a couple of hours, I crossed my fingers and over-dyed most of the skein with a mixture of blue and yellow food coloring, rinsed it, spun out the water, and hung it to dry.

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Ooh, pretty!

Even more pretty once it’s all skeined up.

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I’ve begun crocheting my socks, and I’ll give details on those once I figure out what I’m doing and can take a photo of some sort of progress.

Last night, I made the mistake of browsing Ravelry’s Kool Way to Dye group’s gallery at 10pm.  By 10:20, I was setting this up for a microwave dye with another hank of Knitpicks Bare (DK weight) I had on hand:

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(That’s a mug set inside a Corningware dish.  This time, I did remember to soak the yarn first, but it still exhausted so quickly I was left with big-time white space.  I remembered as it was happening that this is common when dealing with superwash.  Pretty when it’s what you’re going for, but not at all what I wanted.)

After a couple of spins in the microwave, I had something not at all like I wanted.  I had set out with the intention of doing a mostly blue skein with some reds, pinks, purples…or something like that.  This was not it.

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So, I set up for another dye.  More blues!  And, hey, let’s add a little grape to make it a purplish blue.

Ugh.  I didn’t even take photos, I was so unhappy with it.

At this point, I thought, “What the hell?  I hate it, so what’s the harm in really playing around?”  I put more water in the tea kettle and mixed up some orange for a little dip dyeing.  Then repeated with the packet of strawberry I had in the pantry.  Jason called it a “rainbow of fruit flavors.”

I went to bed with this hanging in the laundry room.  I was not happy.

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As soon as the boys were on the bus this morning, I went in to ponder my mess.  I was still not happy, but I figured, if all else fails, I can put it up for sale or trade on Ravelry.  Someone might like it.

So I reskeined it.

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Umm…that’s not so bad…

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In fact, that’s pretty darn gorgeous.  I’d call it a keeper.  Jason suggested I make myself a hat, and I think I will.

The garage sale is finished!  All together now:

Woo hooooooooo!

We loaded up the car for a Goodwill run after closing up shop this afternoon, and as we pulled in, Jason said, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Goodwill.”

Wha-?

So, of course, you know I had to initiate him.

The CD’s were on sale for 25 cents, so I left him browsing through those while I pored over the sweaters and searched for bargains in the woven shirts (aka bag linings to be).  Two Goodwill stores later (yes, we drove to the next town over to see what they had, too), and here’s my haul:

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The red and blue fabrics will be made into valances for the boys’ bedroom, because they need something up there when the house is on the market.  (The hardware for their pull-down shades is pretty bad.)  The sweaters (100% wool) are – of course! – going to be frogged for yarn for holiday gifts.  I’m pretty excited about those sweaters, because I’m drawn to more neutral tones when I shop, so my stash is limited when it comes to brighter colors.  Not for long!  The orange looks like it will be laceweight, but oh well.  I couldn’t resist the color.  And it’s lambswool.

We also snagged some filters for the cool mist humidifier ($1.51 each…that’s about 80% off retail price), a book for Nicky, and a Halloween decoration.  We’re heading back to the one near us tomorrow to see what’s half off.  I am in need of some bag lining fabrics, and tomorrow starts a new week (= new sale!) at Goodwill.

We just had a lovely trip.

Background: I love Seattle.  I’d like to move there someday.  I also have dear friends in the area.  Jason had never been to Washington, so we decided to check it out together.  He now loves it, too, and I am so happy.  (Both because we’re in agreement and because I’ve gotten to spend an entire, uninterrupted week with my husband.)

It was a quick trip, and our friends put us up for a long weekend, acting as both hosts and tour guides.  It was great fun.  To the surprise of several people back home, we had great weather, with only one partial day of rain.  (Yes, Seattle does have days of blue skies and white, puffy clouds.  I’ve seen it and have proof on my SD card!)

Sitting at our friends’ son’s soccer game Friday evening, I looked down and saw this:

My companions laughed at me for taking a picture of dirt, but I couldn’t help myself.  I’ve never gotten over missing brown dirt.  The Georgia clay is just too hard and sticky.  I’ve actually hurt my wrist and arm trying to dig a hole for a bulb in it.  And I love the smell of rich, dark soil, so there you go.

I spotted the next bit of proof that we were no longer in Georgia the next day:

Hmmm…one point to Georgia.  Pepsi has nothing on Coke.  I’m a Classic Coke girl through and through.

A few minutes later, however, all thoughts of Cola Wars had fled my mind:

Lake Washington and Mt. Ranier.  Le sigh.  The idea of being able to see a view like this on a daily – or even weekly – basis?  OMG, pure heaven.

We did do a bit of letterboxing on the trip.  Just two boxes after one of the kids’ soccer games, but enough to say we’d boxed in the PNW.  Jason and I spent a full day and a half just cruising around in our rented, electric blue PT Cruiser with maps in hand.  (He drives, I navigate.  This is one of our very favorite activities in new-to-us cities.)  Of course, we had to get souvenirs.  Jason added to his collection of beer glasses at our tour of the Red Hook Brewery.  Good beer!  It was a funny tour, although maybe not so much a tour as a verbal history with lots of beer samples.  I repeat: lots of beer samples.  For $1.  A must-visit if you’re in the area and enjoy beer.  Heck, I’m not even really a beer drinker, and I quite enjoyed myself.

My souvenir happened as we were driving around on Saturday.  When I noticed a yarn shop, Jason offered to stop.  (All together now:  Awwwww!)  So, here’s my lovely bit of wool:

(Yes, I carried it around in my bag until I found the perfect “Seattle” photo opportunity.  I believe I embarassed my husband and my host, but I was more focused on the yarn and the sign, so I can’t be completely sure.)  It’s Peace Fleece (Worsted, Georgia Rose colorway), and although it’s not local to the Seattle area, I thought the “giving back” aspect of it simply screamed Seattle, so I took it.  I’ve already begun crocheting it into a special something just for me, but that’s another post.

At the market, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this for my mom.  It’s thanks to her that I’ve never tasted a Brussels Sprout.  (And since they’re basically baby cabbages, I can’t imagine why I’d want to, anyway.  Blech!)

I should’ve asked them where they keep their evil cauliflower.  To my everlasting disappointment, I’m often only witty in retrospect.

Like I said, an all-around fun, lovely weekend.  We flew home yesterday to our kiddoes, and I must thank Mom once more for taking care of them, getting them on the school bus, etc. while we were gone.

Oh, I have one last photo to leave you with, as a reward for reading (or skimming, I’m not picky) this whole, long entry.  I never expected a photo out of the window of the plane to turn out so well.  It was taken shortly after take-off, over the Cascades.

Usually when my in-laws visit on Sunday afternoons, I crochet while talking to my mother-in-law.  Since I’m on a Hooking Hiatus, though, I was feeling fidgety yesterday.  I grabbed my seam ripper, scissors, and a sweater from my To Be Frogged pile and went to work.  I figured it was time to test my new skeiner/swift.  The results of one afternoon and evening’s work, with plenty of breaks for cooking, eating, blogging, and surfing:

J.Crew Sweater - 100% Wool

J.Crew Sweater - 100% Wool - 11wpi

Dress Barn Sweater - Silk/Acrylic/Wool

Dress Barn Sweater - Silk/Acrylic/Wool - 12wpi

Same yarn, different angle

Same yarn, different angle

Both sweaters unraveled in one afternoon and evening.  Wow!  (And I even got six good-as-new buttons from the turtleneck of the blue one.)  The skeiner is fabulous.  I need to glue a few of the joints, but other than that, it worked beautifully.  It took more time to find the right ends and unseam the sweaters than it actually did to unravel them into skeins.  With my old lap skeiner (a 2×4 with nails), it took hours to do what I can now do in less than ten minutes.  Wow, wow, wow!

I was so thrilled that I decided it was high time to name my new buddy.  I’ve noticed an affinity among craftsters to name their machines, from sewing machines to spinning wheels.  I like it.  But what to name my new indespensible tool?  Hmmm…it reminds me of a windmill.  It has no gender.  Commence with Googling.  (Have I ever mentioned how much I love the baby-naming process?  We’re done having kids, so maybe I should start naming everything in the house, just for fun…)  “Dutch unisex names.”  Schuyler: a Dutch surname that has been adapted as a unisex first name in English.  And “Schuyler the Skeiner” amuses me.  Sold.

Now that Schuyler’s in my life, I can see lots and lots of frogging ahead.  (Frogging: to rip apart a crocheted or knit item:  Rip-it, Rip-it, Rip-it.  I do so love a good/bad pun.)  What a fun, inexpensive way to build up a yarn stash.

How much do I love my parents?

Oh, a whole lot.

They came over last night.  With them, they brought my Christmas present…early, because they knew I could really use it.

Windmill Swift

Windmill Swift

What IS this thing?  It’s a swift/skeiner. And it’s mine, all mine!!

Isn’t it beautiful?  Mom and Dad said they had fun together while building it, which makes me happy.  I particularly like the wrapping.  I wonder if it will still work with the garland attached…sure it will.

Thanks, Mom & Dad.  I love it.

My boys

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