Monday, December 27, 2010

Obligatory Gift Roundup

This year's batch of knits, some already having flown their way to the four points of the compass:

A hat for my brother:

Fleeced Earflap Hat

A hat and mittens for his wife:

Trefoil Hat and Mittens

A scarf for my sister:

Slytherin Scarf

A hat for my sister (this is technically her birthday gift, but her birthday isn't for several weeks and I didn't see any point in her ears being cold in the meantime):

Beaumont Tam

Some fingerless mitts for a friend:

Veyla Mitts

And a blanket for my parents:

Lap Hap Blanket

Looking over the Ravelry statistics, I knit about half as many projects as I did last year and didn't spin nearly as much either. I was going to write another big retrospective post for the New Year but the numbers are a little depressing. I'm not sure what's up with the drop in productivity, but I'm going to think about it while I relax. I might have the solution for next year. For now, I'm going to give my wrists a rest and curl up with some tea and Sweater Quest for inspiration.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Raiding the Button Jar

I finished up my last official holiday knitted gift two days ago. Technically I still have other knitted gifts, but technically those don't need to be finished until late January.

My last holiday knit needed buttons, and I thought I already had the perfect ones, but turns out I only had four and the project needs eight. We were spending Christmas Eve and the day before with the husbeast's family, and I was puzzling over whether to walk downtown and see if the LYS was open when I remembered his mom keeps a button jar.

Button Jar

After dumping out the whole thing, I started by weeding out buttons that were too large or obviously wrong (for example, metallic with embossed anchors). After also putting back buttons that did not come in a set of eight and seriously considering the possibility of using deliberately mis-matched buttons, I was left with three choices. I picked my favorite, stuffed them in my pocket, and walked down to the LYS anyway to review their options. They were indeed open, and I had to talk myself down from purchasing several pattern books (has anyone else noticed that Aran Knitting is back in print?). But I still liked the button jar buttons better than anything the LYS had to offer.

I walked back to the house, pleased at my own frugality, and sewed the buttons on while the husbeast's aunt baked up a storm of cookies and we caught up on life. The husbeast was incredibly happy to have me by his side for this part of his family's holiday traditions.

I'm working on my last knitted gift today, and thinking about how things in our lives grow and change. I was also thinking about Stephanie's post about the solstice and lunar eclipse, which I did not get to see due to bad weather. Endings are sometimes a necessary (and healthy) part of life, and this year has had a lot of endings for me and the people around me. But those endings have been good endings, the natural death of an old part of my life.

This year, I won't be spending Christmas Eve at the church I grew up with, or Christmas morning opening presents with my parents and siblings. Change can make me anxious, exhilarated, energized, but rarely does it bring the sense of calm I find myself searching for at this time of year. This year is the first year I stuffed a wrapping paper bow on my own cat and attempted to take his photo, and the first year I got to spend the holiday with my new chosen family instead of settling for a phone conversation peppered with "I miss you so much." I don't know that I can say it's the happiest Christmas I've ever had (there was the year I got a telescope for Christmas), but it's been Christmas times three. Today is the calm in the middle of all the traveling. And I hope all of you get some calm, peaceful, reflective time in your holiday as well as this season turns around and the calendar turns over.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Holidays Are Here Again

and not everyone is happy about that.


But, there are upshots.

Starbuck and Tree

Starbuck has mixed feelings about the holidays. On the one hand, the humans have provided him with a toy tree. On the other hand, they keep trying to put that stupid hat on him.


I am zipping through my holiday knitting, which is good because I forgot that some of it needs to be ready to be shipped to North Dakota BEFORE Dec. 25th. I'm still playing the priority game (first knitting those gifts which will be given first), which has worked well in the past. We regularly exchange gifts three times a year (and this time it will be four), so there's a fair amount of wiggle room given that some projects must be finished by the 25th, some by the 26th, and some not until the 31st. I also cut down the list a bit this year, so even though everyone is getting something handmade, they are not all getting knits. Another help was the Bazaar Bizarre. Like a bad blogger I went and forgot my camera, but the new venue at Fort Mason was awesome (way less crowded). I ended up going on both days, and the husbeast and I picked our tree out from the Guardsmen Tree Lot on the next pier over. We loved getting our tree there and will certainly go back there next year. I probably spent more money than I should have, but I loved seeing some familiar faces.

Lastly, I wanted to say how happy it makes me to see all the Ravelers who have added the Sluggish Mushroom mittens to their favorites. It was a little heart-stopping to wake up the day after I posted the pattern and find so many hearts! You can now buy the pattern directly off the blog in the right-hand sidebar, in case you're a knitter who is not on Ravelry. Thanks everyone!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

There and Back Again

As I get older and gain the ability to take a very long view, I'm starting to see themes emerge in my life. Not everything is cyclical, but some things sure are. We return to places and people we find comfortable. Sometimes it's a rut, but sometimes it's a return to a problem, puzzle, or challenge.

Okay, enough with being all cryptic, I am going somewhere with this and I should get down to it. Several weeks ago, I realized that I would be sadly unable to attend Adrian's fabulous Mitten School. I was trying to think of something fibery I could do, or something I could splurge on to console myself. Something that was less expensive than a plane ticket to Kansas, but would present a learning opportunity (as Mitten School certainly would have done). And I got to thinking about Kristine's mitten contest from last year, and how it wasn't happening this year because they've just moved to a fabulous new store.

Hey! What about the failed initial mitten design from the contest? The two- five-color Arts & Crafts Tile-inspired one? Couldn't I do something with that? The idea hit me and stuck like a bad tv commercial jingle. If I wrote another mitten pattern I'd be working on mittens and feel a bit better about not attending the workshop. Furthermore, a small part of my brain started telling me that if my pattern turned out to be popular, I'd feel even better about not going to the workshop because it would be proof that I didn't really need instruction on how to knit mittens. Well, at this point I starting feeling bad about that little selfish egotistical part of my brain and all its ungrateful thoughts about education. Of course I could have gotten something valuable out of the workshop, and even making up a new mitten pattern wouldn't change that (no matter how wildly popular it ended up being).

I dug out all my old notes from the mitten contest, and starting thinking about more mittens. I pulled out all the mittens I've ever knit, and starting thinking more about things like thumb length, gauge, and the like. I asked myself: just how pointy do I like the tops of mittens to be? I figured that this year, I would try to draw more inspiration from Adrian's mitten patterns, which all have this whimsical vintage quality that I just adore. No external deadlines this year, only self-imposed ones. If everything went according to plan, I should have another pattern ready in time for the holidays. And I really liked the idea of making a new pattern every year. Maybe next year I won't do mittens, or maybe I will, I thought. But for this year, I give you the Sluggish Mushroom mittens:

Sluggish Mushrooms

I kept putting off taking photos of these mittens. I was a little apprehensive about publishing the pattern right away, because many of my test knitters (who knew that the mitten pattern is supposed to look like mushrooms) had friends or strangers commenting on their lovely jellyfish mittens! So I waited and waiting, trying to decide if I wanted to literally go back to the drawing board and try again with the chart. And then I decided that, like a good book, the individual knitter's interpretation and experience that they bring to the pattern are part of what makes the creative process so rewarding and fulfilling on both ends. So it can be like one of those optical illusion pictures. One way it's a duck, one way it's a guy with a big nose. But just in case, I decided I should take pictures with lots of mushrooms around the finished product.

Sluggish Mushrooms

It was overcast and drizzly today, and a short stroll through the park rewarded us with a nice little colony of mushrooms. The husbeast was helping me photograph, and after we had both finished taking shots of the mittens lying flat I pulled one pair on my hands to get some photos of them on a human being. While I was putting my camera away, he spotted a slug and I started saying "ohmygodohmygodnowaynowaynoway!" in a high-pitched voice.

Sluggish Mushrooms


Now down to the details. The pattern is available for sale both on Ravelry and directly here if you're not on Ravelry (just click the "buy now" button above). I would like to sincerely thank my test knitters for all their help and feedback.

Sluggish Mushrooms

It's very nice as a designer when the process shifts from a solitary one to a social one. I loved their color choices and seeing the pattern come to life.

Sluggish Mushrooms

They were the ones that really encouraged me to publish the pattern before the holidays, and it's always nice to hear someone tell you that although the task ahead might be hard, that they will help you out and believe you can complete it.

Sluggish Mushrooms

Thanks Eujean2, TK, PinkViking, Firesarah, and everybody else at Purl Jam for everything. I couldn't have done it without you.