Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Projects List, Refreshed

I've been working hard to get through a bunch of projects this month.  It is the gifting season and everyone loves gifts!

I have finished:
  • stuffed monsters for the birthday party
  • A's birthday hat
  • my slouchy hat
  • longies for M with BBR's Joyce's Choice
  • a holiday gift for my  knitter's group
  • a set of mittens for my nephew, which shrank in the washer and were turned into coasters
  • pink and black pants for wearing with M's favorite tutu dress
  • the last set of fingerless mitts for my farmer friends
  • two pair of longies for M, one with cestari fine and one with wool from my friends' sheep
Yet to do this month:
  1. cowl for MIL
  2. holiday elf doll
  3. slippers for C
  4. mittens for A
  5. longies for M: KoolAid-dyed UFO pants, and my surprise yarn set.
  6. stuffed toys for the kids' stockings
  7. dog sweater
  8. Christmas stockings for C and I
 It's only a FEW more items than I can realistically finish.... snicker.... We'll see what gets done!

And here are the finished project pic for some of the above:

Woof Review

Who We Brought Home

Who He Is Now!

Since Frank's first birthday went by in November without any fanfare or special notice, I thought I'd post this small photo comparison.  He was 7lbs when we brought him home last January and is now somewhere between 35 and 40lbs.  You can easily see the Labrador in him now, where as a puppy he looked more like a beagle.   Now if we could only get him to stop chewing on things, live would be perfect!!!!  This morning, I took away a plastic outlet cover, a wool coaster, and a Christmas ornament, all within about 5 minutes of him being out of his crate!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Many Faces of .... um.... Squirrel

True to my promise, I have been cooking up all the wild game that my husband has been bringing home from the hunt.  True to myself, I have really been trying to like it.  Mentally, I'm fine with it. Eating it, though, has been a bit more of a challenge.  I've always been a squeamish eater.  I don't like seafood.  At all.  I don't find it comforting to eat outside of my comfort zone.  It's a darn miracle that I love tofu.  But I was and am determined to gain a taste for wild game meat.

So far, I've tried cooking squirrel 4 different ways.  My kids have eaten every single recipe without any more complaint than they give any meal, so I know it must be at least palatable. And yet I still find myself uneasy with the squirrel.  So far, I have tried:

Squirrel Stew
Squirrel Crock Pot Stew.  This recipe was edible but not delicious.  Undoubtedly, it was recipe error, not user error.  It was plain and basic and the little I did to perk it up wasn't enough.

Squirrel Curry

Tofu and Squirrel Curry.  This one was sure to please, I thought.  How can it not be good, chopped up and smothered in coconut milk and strong spices?  WRONG!  The tofu was great, but the boiled squirrel had a horrible texture.

Squirrel McNuggets.  This one was a definite improvement.  I deboned it, breaded it, and pan fried it up with chicken pieces.  Served with a multitude of dipping sauces, my youngest found it irresistable and asked for seconds.

Squirrel with Pan-Fried Noodles
Squirrel McNuggets
Squirrel and Pan-Fried Noodles.  Pan-fried noodles with green peppers, olives, garlic, and butter have long been a comfort food favorite of mine.  This was, in my opinion, the best way to hide the squirrel.  I'll admit it. I'll do anything for olives, butter, and garlic!

Still, though, I'm not quite there yet. I have to find a way to separate the critter from its bones in a way that does not involve either boiling water or 2 hours and a sharp knife.  I'm stumped, I tell you.  It must be time to return to the crock pot.

My husband says I'm not good at cooking meats to begin with, so I'm not to lose heart.  Never-the-less, he's volunteered to cook up the next batch of squirrels that come home with him.  I'm honest enough to admit that I'm relieved.  maybe I'll find it more edible if I don't spend 4 hours cooking it.

The Toy Library

One of my husband's perennial complaints around this time of year is that the kids have "too many toys!"  It is true that we become inundated with new belongings this time if year, but can you really blame the 2 and 4 year old for having been born, respectively, a few weeks after and a few weeks before the big Christmas gifting season?  It's not their fault that they're December and February babies and that they're so darn cute that people like giving them toys.  That's ALL our fault. 

Around this time of year, I try very hard to moderate my husband's tendencies to "toss it all!  It's not like they won't be getting new stuff soon."  I agree that we can easily get too many toys, but I also know that the girls get attached to certain toys.  We always have to dance a careful compromise to not hurt anyone's feelings.

This year, the issue is compounded by my youngest child refusing to clean up her anything she has played with.  It's like WWIII every night when it's time to clean up the playroom.  Tears and tantrums, threats and ultimatums, it's always a hard road to get the room clean.  Her sister and I usually end up doing most of the work, letting the little one out of most of her work. This week, we decided to put an end to it. 

Enter:  the toy library.  We packed up all of the Little People, all of the toy dishes, the toy food, and dress-up gear.  Left in the playroom is the toy kitchen furniture, the doll stroller, the Little People buildings, books, and anything large.  Removed are all of the little pieces and parts that make the mess.  We allowed them to keep a small volume of toys that would not drive us crazy trying to get her to clean up.  Everything else is in the toy library.

If one of the girls wants to play with something from the toy library, all she has to do is make sure the toys in the playroom are cleaned up.  If they are, she can check out a new toy.  It must be returned before anything else can be taken out.  At the end of the day, the child listed as responsible for checking the toy out is charged with returning it with all of its pieces.  It's simple, really.  I don't know why we didn't try it sooner.  The playroom looks neater.  The children are more excited about what they're playing with because they had to anticipate playing with it and earn it by cleaning something else up.

The best part of this whole deal is that when I refused to let the littlest play with a new toy this afternoon, she threw a fit, then quietly put every single toy away.  When I went to check on her, the toy room was clean and she had accomplished it with absolutely no adult supervision and nagging.  I'm definitely impressed with her effort and reminded once again, that kids are capable of more than we give them credit for.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Never-Ending Project List

As I come to the close of my current knitting project, it's time to decide what will be next.  I like to think about this before I finish my current project because often I'll need a few days to wash, dry, and cake up the yarn for the next project.  Planning ahead by 3 days means I won't have down time between projects unless I want it.  This time, as I finish up a pair of longies for my youngest, I find myself conflicted as to what should be next.

As a way to calm myself down enough to pick a project, I decided to write out all of the projects that I've been throwing around this fall.  In an old fashioned Pro and Con list, I came up with 14 projects and 4 UFOs to finish.  It's no wonder I was having a hard time figuring out what needed to come next!  Without further ado, here is the current list of projects that I'd like to pick from.

New Projects:
  1. Mittens for A
  2. 1-2 sweaters for A
  3. Longies for M out of Ellyl yarn
  4. Longies for M out of Irish Meadow  yarn
  5. Stuffed monsters for A's bday bash
  6. Dog sweater
  7. Hat for C's client
  8. Mittens for C
  9. Hat for A (she only has balaclavas!)
  10. Coasters for the living room
  11. Dishrags (a gift truly for myself)
  12. Mittens for M
  13. Slippers for A (I have had the leather soles for 3 years, waiting for her to grow into them!)
  14. Sweater for myself (I don't have ANY sweaters that I made for me.)
  1. Turn M's pink footies into longies
  2. Crocheted yarn bag (I have the squares all done, just needs assembly)
  3. My cardigan (I stopped working on it when C told me the color was not good for my complexion.)
  4. My mittens (horrible pattern, horrible fit.  needs severe re-working!)

The question now is what to do next?  I have the yarn on-hand for probably every single one of those projects.  Which is most important?  Which is most time-sensitive?  Who's begging the loudest?  I'm pretty sure I left something out, too....

Monday, November 7, 2011

The First Deer of the Season

We butchered our first deer of the season.  Aunt C shot it with her car.  It's really a somewhat interesting story, if you care to read.  If you don't like hunting, then please, move on to another post.

So the story all begins when we went out to dinner on Saturday night.  Aunt C had some Culver's coupons she wanted to use and the husband wanted to stop at Farm and Fleet, so we headed north to the 'Boo (a city near us.)  On the way home, we suddenly had reason to thank God that we were in the right lane, rather than the left as we came off the bluffs.  Spread across the entire left lane was a HUGE buck that had been hit, very recently, by a car.  This prompted a lengthy discussion on how we had all seen a seemingly large number of deer along the side of the road this season.  This, then, spilled into a conversation about what a shame it is to see so many deer hit, killed, and abandoned by the side of the road.  It seemed a waste of venison and antlers that could be put to good use of the carcass had been tended correctly.

After returning home, Aunt C headed back to her home.  Less than 10 minutes later, we received a phone call from Aunt C.  It seemed that she had shot us a deer... with her car!  To be honest, the deer ran into the side of Aunt C's car as she sped past on the highway.  It hit the side of the car, not the front. It's neck was broken and it died immediately.  But, since we had just been talking about not wasting deer hit by cars, the discussion opened up of, "Can we take the carcass?  Should we?"

The men in the family were uncertain.  They knew they were going to have to do the field dressing.  It was 8pm and already dark.  My husband and I had a discussion that basically ended in me saying, "Personally, if I could be of any help to your dad with field dressing it, I'd go and leave you here with the kids.  Since I can't, I'll defer to your decision."  It seems he has an aversion to salvaging the meat because he considers it roadkill. 

So he's okay with hunting and eating squirrels but venison killed by Aunt C's car was just too "redneck" for him.  Thank goodness this blog is fairly anonymous, because he'd be unhappy if anyone he knew was informed that we processed a "roadkill" deer.  Giggle.

The way I saw it, it's death was as quickly accomplished with the car as it would have been with a bullet during hunting season.  We knew the "hunter," we knew when it had happened (10 minutes ago, so it was still fresh), and we knew from a first exam that the neck and hip were broken, but it wasn't smeared across the road.  It was fresh, solid, and in one piece.  The women of the family ended up making the decision to process the deer and the men in the family headed out to handle the field dressing, tagging, and police/DNR management. 

The next morning, I upheld my half of the bargain and did as much as I could to help in the butchering and processing of the meat.  It seemed only fair that I should do those parts that I physically could, since that was my excuse for staying home and knitting while my husband field-dressed the deer in the dark.  In the end, we have 7 gallon-sized bags of venison now.  We decided that because of the warm weather, we wanted to process the venison as fast as we could.  In order to speed up the trimming and cutting, we decided that other than the tenderloins, it was all going through the grinder for jerky, sausage, and general cooking.  No need to waste time cutting the perfect roasts and steaks.  Cut it, trim off the fat and silverskin, bag it, and drop it in the cooler.  Later this week, I imagine we'll wash it, chunk it, and grind it. 

I think I've really acclimated to eating venison.  Last year, I remember that the smell bothered me a little when we butchered the deer.  This year. it just smelled like meat.  A little beefy, and a little gamey, but meat all the same.  For dinner, my MIL served up one of last year's roasts.  It seemed fitting to eat venison after spending the morning processing venison. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When the Poor Get Hungry

When the poor get hungry, what do they do?  They go hunt squirrels.  Well, that's what we did last week.  After Governor Walker's budget cuts went through, we lost 40% of our grocery budget each month.  We're now trying to stretch every dollar, every meal, every THING we can.

We are not a vegetarian family, even though we do eat plenty of vegetarian food.  Choosing to be ominvores, we must accept the burden meat can place on our food budget.  Let's face it, meat is expensive. Even good old ground beef, the least gormet meat available, is over $3.50 a pound unless you either find it on sale or buy it in such large quantities that you're afraid to open the freezer, lest a block of ground beef falls out and lands on your foot.  I'll be honest.  I'm not great at remembering to thaw meat enough ahead of time to get it into the recipe I plan on cooking that night anyhow, so stuffing my freezer is not the best answer.

My husband's family hunts.  They hunt regularly, but not fanatically.  He grew up hunting for small game and deer.  Hunting hadn't been an activity he'd participated in for several years, but last year, when we moved closer to his family, he decided to get back into it.  He brought in a doe and after the family effort to butcher and pack the meat, we had a freezer full of venison.  We've steadily worked our way through the meat and are almost out, just in time for fall hunting to begin.

Now, I know that many of you are not meat eaters, nor fans of hunting, specifically, but in defense of our actions, I have to say the following.  If I'm going to eat meat, I want the animal to live a natural, content life and I want its death to be quick.  In my mind, no hunter whose main aim is to provide food for his family, is going to do anything to prolong the death of his prey.  The point is to go out there, shoot dinner, and get home early enough to put it on the table before it spoils.  Wild game, be it large or small, is a fine way to obtain meat in a way that allows the animal a clean life and a clean death.  You may have a different opinion. I encourage you to have your own opinion, but this happens to be mine.

A few weeks ago, when the tightening of the budget became a reality, my husband approached me about getting his small game liscense.  Yes, it would cost us money.  No, he wouldn't invest in it unless I approved.  Could we afford the fees if it meant meat on the table?  Would it be cheaper than buying meat?  Could I convince my family to eat small game?  We had a lot of questions, but in the end, we decided that we would try it this year.

On Sunday, the hunter went out and returned home victorious.  We had 3 squirrels to process!  Mind you, I had agreed to this little experiment and would go about doing the work to support my half of the adventure, but I still had some trepidation.  Squirrel?  For dinner?  I knew my great-grandmother loved squirrel, so it probably wouldn't hurt me, but would I like it?  Could I get the kids to eat it?

We did let the children see the squirrels.  We try to make a gentle point to them that meat comes from animals and if you are going to eat it, you have to understand and accept the sacrifice of the animal's life.  All food costs something its life and we want them to accept this and make good choices regarding how they eat.  We have no intention of making our children eat the squirrels, the deer, the rabbit, if they object to it.  So far, they have accepted what meat is and where it comes from, even after seeing it and petting it's fur.  I think they would have issues if the animal were to arrive alive, though, but I have no intention of having them face that situation quite yet.

I managed to clean the meat, cut it up, and prepare it.  I was still feeling very awkward about it, though. It wasn't until I had slow-cooked it long enough to remove all bones, and thus all identifying characteristics, that I thought I might be able to go through with it.  Once cooked, it really resembled pulled pork, stewed dark-meat chicken, and all of the other more generic meats that go into the stew pot.  Okay, I could do this.

Dinner came and out came the bowls and spoons.  Four hungry faces peered into their bowls.  Four noses twiched at the smell of bacon and cabbage, potatoes and carrots.  Yes, bacon was my secret weapon.  Who can resist bacon?  The stew smelled like bacon and bean soup.  After adding salt, worchestershire, and tabasco, we all took our first bites.  Amazingly, no one objected to the taste.  There was no gaminess.  There was no flavor to tell us that this was not, in fact, pork stew.   Our eldest liked it enough that she tipped the bowl back and drank the broth.  I liked it enough to actually fill up on it, rather than just eat enough to feel like I'd had a meal.

Next time, though, I plan on choosing a more adventurous recipe.  The one I had chosen was mild and bland and really not that exciting.  Is anyone up for barbequed squirrel sandwiches?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Doing the Potty Thing

A week ago, I came across a potty chart on Pinterest.  It was cute and I'd been kind of contemplating working one up, so I printed it off and took it home for M.  I didn't figure it would do a whole lot for her, but I figured it might help her move from 2-3 potties a week to maybe 5 or 6. 

I guess I was wrong.  We were sitting in the dining area eating dinner while talking about the chart and planning out how we might organize the payouts when M say, "Mimi pee pee, yeah!"  So, I got up and took her to the loo.  Who knew what we were starting?  Not us!

Now, a week later, she has earned over 80 stickers!  Granted, she gets one for recognizing that it was time to go potty, one for peeing, and two for pooping, but that's still a LOT of trips to the potty.  And for all of that, only 3 times has she been wrong about needing to go.  Plus, she's only been using 2-3 diapers/trainers per day, one of which is for naptime.  Go, M!  I finally have a sense that we're on the road towards big girl undies.  It's a relief!

For those of you interested in where I found my chart, here is the link.  I finally started printing them 4 to a page because we were going through them quickly. 

A Yarny Update

Things have been busy in my knitting life lately. I've had a very full schedule and it's been a lot of fun.  Well, for the most part.  See below.

This month, I worked on finishing up the yarn-testing for Shady Blue Acres.  I really enjoyed that project and look forward to working with more of their yarn when I take my payout.  It was really great to find a local yarn that I think might work really well for bullet-proof longies for my little Princess Linebacker.

Also, I am working my way through a custom order that is so far out from what I normally do that the change of pace has been a real eye-opener.  For this project, I'm knitting solid color longies with accent stripes at the cuffs and a duplicate stitch on the bum.  I'm knitting with a wool-blend yarn, as the recipient is potty-training and doesn't need full soaker protection.  While the wool-blend yarn split a little and caused me to have to drop back and redo stitches from time to time, I really do like the way it looks and feels once knit up.  It's silky and soft and the stitches are really even in a way you can't get with yarns like Blackberry Ridge or Cestari Fine.  Overall, other than the typical complaint of knitting with black yarn at night, it was a good project for me.  Please overlook the lovely flash photography...

Also on the needles this month were M's "hoohoo pants."  Last year I had knit her a pair of pants with owls on the pockets.  She loved them and wore them a LOT.   Sadly, this year, she no longer fit them, so away they went.  We were all sad they were going, but agreed that the proceeds would fund a new pair of hoohoo pants that would fit her this winter.  So I dyed up some yarn and picked up my needles and came up with this set.

My husband and I did a lot of online research while designing these.  we wanted something cute, but different from the standard owl cable.  I was fairly pleased with the results and ecstatic when I found the matching shirt in a box of hand-me-downs from  her sister.  Upon presenting the set to M, I discovered that while I loved it, she did not.  After a bit of convincing, we got her to try on the pants only to discover that the child had grown during the three weeks I was working on the longies and they no longer fit her hips and waist.  Good grief!  So, they've been traded for $70 worth of yarn.  

The last project that I worked on this month was a set of footed longies for a knitting friend.  She was gracious enough to send to me as working yarn a Purewool colorway that has long been on my "lust list" but never in my shopping cart since it is a fairly boyish color.  This is what I knit up for her:

It was great working with the colorway, Doni.  I loved it and realize now, that with the right embellishment, it can totally be done for a girl.  Yay!
Next on the needles will be a new set of longies for M, since I discovered that she only has two pairs, neither of which were knit by me!  It's her last year in longies and I want her to have something that Mama made for her with lots of love.  I recently traded her scrappy longies (the ones that Daddy didn't like) for a much sought-after set of colorway and trim to make her a new pair of longies.  They're Mosaic Moon's "Ellyll" colorway and I think they'll be just right... if I can convince her to wear them!!!!!

This is probably not the best picture of the colorway.  It seems a bit more orange than it is in real life. It's really a deep, dark purple with greens, brown, aqua, and lighter purple mixed in.  Here is the picture from the dyer's gallery.  Even that picture doesn't do it justice.

I also have Mosaic Moon's "Irish Meadow" sitting on my shelves that could become a pair of "hoohoo pants."  I'm also leaning towards decorating the pockets on them with dandelion flowers. I think M would really like that a lot.  If I can pull it off, that would give M 2 pairs of longies that I knit for her myself and I think I could rest happily then. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Listen Up!

We had another follow-up hearing test for M this week.  She finally passed with normal hearing in at least one ear!  Hooray!!!!!

Now, to figure out what she needs to progress in speech therapy...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ewe Need Darling Knits Hosts Little Poopie

I've been asked to do a guest vendor slot on Ewe Need Darling Knits' hyenacart shop. I've been working very hard to make this a good opportunity for myself and as of tomorrow, the sales can start!  I have quite a few things up for sale, from underwear to sweaters and hats.  Please stop by and take a look!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

I am BUSY this fall!  Goodness!  A week ago, I was saying that I wished I had more custom orders for this fall and now I'm full up.  Someone out there must have been listening.  Thank you!

In addition to the sample items I'm knitting for Shady Blue Acres, I have orders in for two pairs of very creative and fun longies, one pair of footed longies, three scarves, and a doll.  I think that will comfortably fill my time from now until December 15th just fine.  And put a bit more food on the table and buffer into the Christmas account. 

Additionally, A is in school 5 days a week, M still has her speech therapy sessions, I'm working 26 hours a week, and managing my knitting patterns.  Oh, and let's not forget the guest stocking at Ewe Need Darling Knits, coming up on September 30th.  Please take a moment to check out our listings at the end of the month.  They're not posted yet, but I hope to have previews up soon.  I will include both knitted items and toddler- and child-szed some boxer briefs for both boys and girls.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Testing, Testing...1,2,3,4

This month, I'm knitting up some test swatches for a great couple of farmers out in Richland Center.  This is there place, in case you'd like to know more about them.  For those of you adverse to clicking links, here's the basic backstory:

Blue and Skye run an organic farm.  On this farm they not only grow produce, but they raise heritage breeds of farm animal who are also fed organically.  Recently, Blue and Skye started raising sheep.  This fall, for the first time, they have yarn available from their sheep.  The yarn was spun by Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill, a local small business that uses antique spinning machines to produce high-quality yarns.  I volunteered to knit up some samples for Blue and  Skye to help sell their yarns.

Needless to say, we're all really excited about this opportunity!  I went to pick up the yarn last weekend as I happened to have a small break in my knitting schedule that worked perfectly for this test.  This is what I picked up from Skye at Madison's Farmers' Market:

From the left, it's Rambo/Romney cross undyed brown worsted, Rambo/Romney cross undyed white worsted, Jacob undyed grey (bulky), and Tunis undyed worsted.  I took this picture after I had washed them with Country Soaps by Marlene's wool wash bar.  (good grief, am I a walking commercial today?  Seriously, though, I love these businesses.)  I was hoping that the lanolin from the wool wash bar would soften up the yarn as well as scent it for me.  I really like the feel of lanolized wool when I knit and the aromatherapy can't be beat.  The washing, however, did not have much effect on the lanolin levels, as the yarn was pretty well coated with its own lanolin and for the first time ever, the scent didn't seem to stick around beyond the drying.

I hand-caked the Rambo/Romney yarns first as I have the most excitement for the project that I'm doing with that yarn.  Blue and Skye have left the designs up to me, so it's going to be a fun ride.  I love it when the client lets me just play with the yarn. The end results are always better when I have free-reign.  After much pondering of various patterns, I decided to go with the Ivyanna pattern that I've showcased in other entries of my blog.  It's a great little pattern in that it's easy to knit (which also means fast, which is important this week), uses little yarn (not much more than a skein for even the 18 mos size!), and allows for a lot of improvisation when it comes to colorwork and textured stitches.

I decided that I wanted to do a mushroom theme with the colorwork.  At first, I was looking at things like pawprints, snowflakes, and celtic knotwork, but after seeing this sweater:

I decided that reddish mushrooms on the brown and white Rambo/Romney yarn was a must.  I love the way the red pops on that brown, and the brown of the Rambo/Romney is very rich and lovely.

At first, I was worried that the yarns would knit up scratchy.  They aren't nearly as cottony as merino, which is the most common wool I use these days, but after knitting up 6" or so I realized that while they aren't cotton soft, they are smooth and not scratchy at all.  It's like comparing a rabbit to a turtle.  Sure the rabbit is fluffy, but the turtle is warm and smooth.  Both are really nice textures, but very different.

The other factor that I'm curious about with these yarns is whether or not they'll pill.  The feel of the knitted yarn reminds me a lot of Gallway's Outback yarn, which I used for a pair of night-time longies for my older daughter.  4 years later, and they still don't pill.  They wear like IRON and I love them.  I'm hoping that this yarn will behave in much the same manner.  Unfortunately, I won't be personally using the garments I knit for this project, so the final verdict on that feature will have to wait until I have a garment of my own from this yarn.

So far, this is what my Ivyanna looks like:

I've actually done a bit more work since I took this picture, but you get the basic idea.  I had to futz just a little with the pattern to make the stripes work out on top, but it wasn't too hard and looks just how I pictured it.  I took the time last night to draw up the chart for my mushrooms.  They're much less complex than pictured above, but I intend for them to be much smaller, so that's fine. I also wound off about 0.5oz of the white Rambo/Romney yarn and set it to dye in Cherry and Black Cherry Koolaid.  It came out a lovely red, but after drying, my husband I agree that it needs to be a deeper, more burgundy red.  So, back into the pot it went.  I'll see the end results after I get home today, as the yarn was still setting when I left before dawn.

As I continue to work on these test projects, I'll update this blog entry.  Stay tuned for more!

I'll be doing the colorwork in just the two colors, brown and white.  I still think it will be beautiful and I'll have a great plan for my own project later!  Now.... hearts, celtic swirls, paw prints.... hmmmm......  so many options!

UPDATE 9-20=2011
I have finished the knitting on the Ivyanna.  It still needs some serious blocking, since it's colorwork, but overall I'm very pleased with the contrast of the white and brown yarns.  I had to relearn to knit English style to speed up my  knitting in the colorwork section, but I think that was probably a good thing.  It's also a very good thing that I didn't knit it in a size that will fit either of my children, or it might just stay with me forever!

9-22-2011 UPDATE
I still need to weave in the ends of the sweater, but it is blocked and nearly dry.   I also knit up a single fingerless mitt, which I really like. I"ll have to reuse the pattern.  It's this one... I started the second mitt, but decided to wait until I finished the Jacob hat.  It may seem like an odd decision, but I wanted to know if I needed a second skein of the Jacob to finish the hat.  According to the pattern, I won't but it looks like it's really close.  I can finish the hat by Friday for sure if I have enough yarn. If not, then I'll pick some up on Saturday.  I already know I have enough R/R yarn to finish the mitts, so that's less critical.  

9-22-2011 UPDATE at bedtime...
I had a frustrating start to my evening, what with having to frog the entire half of the Jacob hat that I had knit, but in the end, I"m feeling satisfied.  What happened with the hat?  Well, I was knitting along, using needles one size too small, and feeling like I had a pretty tight tension going.  I figured I was doing a fine job with the size.  Then I decided to take it off the needles and see just how big it was.  It was huge. In fact, it looked like a beret.  It was so funny-looking that my camera-shy 2 year old agreed to pose as Queen of the Funnies, with it perched on her head and a scrub brush in her hand.

So I frogged it and found a new pattern.  I'll knit that one this weekend.  

Feeling frustrated but motivated to do some profitable knitting, I finished up the second fingerless mitt.  I liked the pattern enough that I'll make myself a pair of fingerless mitts, very soon, I think!  I think that the white yarn will probably look dirty before too long, but the look of the white with the brown racing stripe is just so elegant.  I like them and hope Blue and Skye will, too.

After knitting two different projects with the Rambo/Romney cross, I have decided that I really like it.  It definitely has a different hand-feel than the merino wool I've been working with lately, but there is something very lovely about the Rambo Romney cross. It feels sturdy and yet not unpleasant to touch. I like it enough that I have an irrational desire to keep the scraps, despite the fact that I will need much more than an ounce or two to make myself something.  It's great stuff!

UPDATE 9-26-2011
The Jacob hat is done.  It was quite the adventure.  Even with the second pattern and knowing that I was getting gauge, I kept feeling like the hat was WAY too big.  So, I kept taking it off the needles and putting it on my head.  Each time, it fit just fine, and each time, I didn't believe myself.  But I finished it off and what do you know, it fits!  It's actually a really nice hat.  It's a big plainer that I was hoping to knit with this yarn, but I was afraid to put cables on it, since most likely Skye would wear it at market.  I didn't want anything too feminine for him and no 3 people can agree as to whether or not cables are masculine enough for a man to get away with.  So, no cables, but I do think next time, I will knit that hat with cables.

I did, however, modify the pattern to use K2tog tbl for the decreases and for the edging, I used the Rambo/Romney yarn and had to tinker with the crochet pattern to accommodate the smaller yarn.

Also, I think that this pattern would be great done with this yarn.  If I thought I could justify spending that much on yarn for one project, I'd knit up that sweater for sure.

UPDATE 10-6-2011

I have finally finished the Tunis shawl.  I knit up the Infinitude Scarf with 6oz of undyed Tunis yarn.  At first I wasn't sure about it, because it reads as a bulky-weight scarf and the Tunis is worsted, but I think that the loose gauge actually helps the Tunis yarn feel less rough.  It's more airy and fluffy.  The scarf really grew when I washed it, though.  It's definitely long, but since it's meant to wrap around the neck and head 2-3 times anyways, I think that's fine.

Of all three yarns, I can finally say that I think I liked the Rambo/Romney the best.  It has the nicest feel once knitted up and I LOVE the brown color.  It's so rich! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My New Space

This past week we were blessed to have the company of my mother in law.  She's a wonderful person who we all adore and her visits are always a whirlwind of fun and productivity.

This visit, we had three goals:
Set up my work room
Clean out the garage
Have a garage sale

Wouldn't you know, we managed all three?  We are much lighter in the "random crap" department and have gained not only our garage sale profits, but also a work room in the basement and space in our garage!  We are amazed at how much these projects changed our life for the better.  I, of course, adore having a dedicated art space again and DH is already contemplating how to fill my half of the garage with his excercise equipment.  Hmmm...  Maybe I need to ask him where he plans on parking his car this winter.

Anyhow, here is my new work space.  Not pictured is a child-sized desk for the girls, the spare TV and stand, and a china hutch with my Cabbage Patch softies.  I didn't figure those things were all that exciting to anyone but us. 

My lovely Miss A helped pick out the paper color for my bin labels (orange and purple) and I hope to get both kids involved in painting the walls and work benches.  So far, I seem to be the only one who likes the big table, though.  The kids fought over who got to use the little plastic child's desk and left me alone at the big table.  Maybe I need to plan a big, messy craft and insist that we do it at my table to make them like the big table.  Or do I really want to share?

I'd like to make space to move the children's art supplies over into my work room, but so far, I'm not sure how I'll do it.  I need to keep the scissors, crayons, glue, and of course, the markers well out of M's reach if I want to avoid any more toddler body art, so I'll have to set it up with higher shelves.  I think it's doable, with a little wiggling.

In other news, I have a guest vendor slot lined up for www.hyenacart.com at the end of the month.  I'm really excited about this and have finished 2 of 3 planned projects.  I'm about 99% done  with the last one, but haven't found myself in the right frame of mind to make that last connection to finish it.  It will be done on time, I'm sure.  I have the second ear knit up already, I just haven't attached it.  Talk about Lazy, with a capital L.  I had originally thought I was knitting a 6-12 months size, but I think it's actually 12-18.  Since it's for sale, that's just fine.  I really love how it turned out, but I will likely NEVER do another.  That loop stitch was a time-suck!.

Also on Hyenacart, my knitting patterns will be hosted by Apple Orchard Congo. They're still available for free, so it's not a wildly profitable venue for me, but building a good reputation for my patterns might mean that I will be able to charge actual money for any future patterns.  Since our finances could use a boost, that is a good thing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pumpkin Seed Hat

The Pumpkin Seed Hat is now live on Ravelry and will soon be available on The Apple Orchard on Hyenacart. Please feel free to leave me comments either here or on Ravelry.com. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rah Ahn!

The girls and I have been reading The Raggedy Ann Stories and The Raggedy Andy Stories at bedtime this month.  They both really enjoyed Raggedy Ann, but M doesn't seem to have any interest at all in Raggedy Andy.  I'd say it was an attention span thing rather than a sexist thing, but honestly, even I found the Raggedy Ann stories more engaging.  They're a bit more fleshed out and entertaining.

When my mother let us know she was coming to visit this month, I asked her to please bring along my old Raggedy Ann dolls and so, just like in the story, A and M now have Raggedy Ann dolls that have been in storage for 30 years.  And just like in the story, Grandma and Mama had to stitch and sew Raggedy Ann back to health and give her a warm bath.  Needless to say, the girls loved it.  M runs around asking for "Rah Ahn!"  Thanks, Mom!

PS, can you tell which RA has had her bath and which one has yet to take the plunge?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Wool?

Following up on my last blog entry, I thought that I'd discuss the reasons WHY wool garments are worth the expense.  "Why?" you might ask, is it worth up to $400 in time expenditure to create a wool sweater or longies for a child who will  undoubtedly destroy it or outgrow it in just a few months?

Let's start with the "they'll destroy it" argument.  My children have actually never ruined a wool garment.  Never.  Granted, I'm conscious of their activities and change them into scrubby clothes when needed, but even with near-daily use, they've never destroyed anything I've knit for them.  I have destroyed a few pairs through pure laundry stupidity, but the kids haven't.  Yes, I've had to sew up a hole where the carseat buckle got stuck on the yarn and Daddy pulled a bit too hard to get the child loose, and sure, kids get grubby here and there, usually on the knees or butt.  However, as long as I keep food, paint, and mud away from the woolies, we're good for whatever the day throws at us.

In fact, I have many pairs of longies that both of my children wore.  Here, for example, are both girls in a pair of longies made from an old sweater. You'll want to notice that while my first daughter is only 2 months old when wearing this pair of longies, my second daughter is 8 months old.

Now, the "they'll outgrow it" argument against wool for children.  Let's look first at wool pants, or longies, as they're called.  You'd be surprised to learn that when you cloth diaper a child, their hip circumference and rise measurements don't change as much from early infancy through toddlerhood as you might think.   In the early months, the all-liquid diet of an infant ensures that your diapers will be bulked up enough to fill an 18-19" hip measurement with only a little slack.  By the time your child is potty-training, you'll find that their hip measurement, over those training pants, is STILL 18-19"! So the longies your young infant wore as pants the winter they were born:

Are still going to fit them as a toddler, 2 years later.

Sure, your child may be a summer baby and a winter toddler, but there will me multiseason overlap in their wardrobe if you invest in some capris or longies.  

As for sweaters and multiseasonal use, you may be surprised to find that my 2 year old, who wears a size 2T, has a 20" chest where my 4 year old, who wears a size 5T, has a 21" chest. Here is the same sweater on both girls, who at the time of the pictures, were wore size 5T and 18 mos, respectively. 
 So if I knit up a short-sleeve, or sleeveless sweater, such as in my previous post, I can count on my duaghter to fit into it for at least 2 winters, maybe even three!  The biggest difference is the length from neck to waist.  In this case, the sweater can be knit long for the toddler and be just a tad short for the pre-schooler, OR I can be smart, save the leftover yarn, and simply undo the hem and knit on a few extra inches when the growth spurts come! Three seasons of wear for only $30 in yarn is NOT bad!  And if you remember from my last post, that $30 of yarn actually provided enough yardage for TWO Ivyanna sweaters, so that's two children and 2-3 seasons per sweater, all for $30.  This does assume, however, that I knit it myself and not pay someone else to knit it.
Personally, I knit, so my only investment in woolen garments for my children is the yarn and my time.  If I look at really cheap yarn, the stuff that's only $6 for 4oz at your local craft store, you can make a pair of medium-sized longies for only $8 worth of yarn.  A lot of people don't like cheap yarns, but personally, the fact that they felt in the crotch and bum never bothered me since it adds to the ability of the garment to contain diaper blow-outs.  Cheap yarn isn't as soft and it often pills more than expensive yarns.  I have found, though, that after a few rounds of washing and lanolizing, even cheap wool feels pretty nice on the skin.  And as for pilling, I own a sweater shaver and for the once or twice a month that I have to use it, I actually find I enjoy the process.  The kids even fight over the honor of being allowed to run the sweater shaver.  

That doesn't mean that I don't have many woolen garments for my children that are made from expensive yarns. I do.  For the most common expensive yarns used in children's clothing, it would cost me about $30-60 for the yarn for the garment.  "Yikes!" you say.  But let's remember that the child will wear the longies for up to 3 years.  The yearly cost of that item is now $10-20.  My child has non-woolen garments that cost me that much per season's use.  Also remember that longies, shorties, capris, and skirties will double as diaper covers during the first two years (or more!) of your child's life.  This means that one pair of $30 longies can replace 3 diaper covers which would have cost me $45.  

And let's not forget resale value!  Used woolen garments can often be resold online to other cloth-diapering families.  Often, you'll find that you can resell the used garments for at least the cost of your yarn.  So, in the end, a pair of longies that may have cost me $30 in yarn to knit, will save me $15 in diaper cover cost, and sell for $30 when I'm done with them.  Essentially, the longies have just paid me $15 to use them for 3 years.  Do you have any other clothing items that PAY YOU to use them?  I don't!

The final component to why I would encourage you to use woolen garments on your children is the "easily recycled" nature of wool yarn.  I can knit a pair of longies for my daughter, have her wear them for 3 years, and then simply take them apart, wash the yarn, and knit her something new!  Maybe I'll knit her a hat and mitten set, maybe a sweater vest, maybe a pair of slippers... the possibilities are endless.  Fro example, my youngest daughter has in her wardrobe a pair of longies that she wore from late winter to early summer last year and will wear again from fall to spring this year. I have been eying the yarn in those pants with a great deal of longing since they arrived nearly 9 months ago, just waiting for her to outgrow them so that I can have a new winter hat and mitten set!