Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Year in Knitting

For the fourth year now since I've been knitting hardcore, I feel the need to do an accounting of and document my year's fibery achievements. Actually, I feel the need to create a spreadsheet about them, but it being nearly midnight and I'm on my second glass of Saki, it's best that I just blog about them.

In 2010, I finished 52 WIPs! I originally thought this was a record, but in doing a quick calculation (because I can't find my calculations for past years anyplace...though I know they're around) based on my Ravelry projects page, I see that in 2007, my first big knitting year, I amassed 53 FOs. (That was the year I did a LOT of the same project, over and over...mitts, hats, felted bowls...that had to bump that number up.)

Still, 52 is nothing to sneeze at. It means I averaged one FO per week. Considering the year that this was (adjectives I might use: stressful, chaotic, unsettled, aggravating, scattered), I think that's pretty good.

Just for the sake of comparison, in 2008, my FO tally dropped to 46 and stayed there in 2009. Those years, though, I also was doing larger projects, and I'd also started spinning, which vied for some of my knitting time. So, still, pretty respectable.

(Just a note here that I realize I'm coming at this as if it is some Olympic-grade competition, which it clearly is least not anywhere but in my head, and I'm only competing against myself.)

Because I know you won't be able to sleep unless I give you the specific break down of my FOs, I've done the math for you (because I care, dontchaknow ;))...

This year, I knit:

8 Shawls
8 Pairs of socks
8 Stuffed things/toys
7 Hats
5 Sweaters
4 Scarves
3 Cowls
2 Cozies
2 Baby sweaters (both test knits)
2 Dishcloths
1 Dog sweater
1 Pair of mittens
1 Mutant blob of a blanket

Numbers aren't everything. I like to think I'm also becoming a better knitter, not just a prolific one. In general, I feel confident that the more I knit, the better I get at the craft in general. I've definitely become a far better continental knitter this year, to the point that I hardly ever throw anymore, unless I'm binding off. As far as techniques, I learned how to do applied i-cord and got far better at cabling without a cable needle. I'm much more confident in my lace knitting abilities, and I am more sure than ever that I hate feather and fan. (I'm not sure that last one counts as an achievement, but it is most certainly a fact.)

I did some test knitting this year, which I enjoy doing. And I continued to spin, though I didn't have the time to spin as much as I'd have liked. (Tour de Fleece was a big fail for me this year.)

One very big achievement this year in my knitting world wasn't even directly related to the craft but instead facilitated it: my new knitting room/office. Right now, it is doubling as my grandson's bedroom while he's visiting, but I'm looking forward to much more creating and inspiration from that room next year.

Looking head to 2011, I want to continue to challenge myself with the projects I choose to make. I want to be more selective in what I knit and what yarn I use, because life is way too short to knit things you don't enjoy, and there's too much good yarn out there to knit with fiber you just aren't loving.

I'm planning to do a stashdown the first four months of 2011, leading up to Spring Fling at the end of April. (Yes, I got in again! Third year! Yeay!) Except for special circumstances, I really want to be good and knit only from my stash. I've joined Stashdown 2011 and Year of Stash Socks on Ravelry to help me with this goal. I'm also going to be more active in putting yarns up on my trade/sell page at Ravelry. I know I'll probably always have a stash of SABLE proportions, but I'd really love to get it down to a little more manageable size.

I also want to make better use of my pattern resources. I have so many books and pattern PDFs that I have never knit from, and I want to change that. My goal (not just for this coming year, but ongoing) is to try and knit at least one pattern from each of the knitting books and magazines I own, and if I can't find even one pattern I like enough to knit, or if the book/magazine doesn't have something else meaningful in it, then I'm going to get rid of it. (That said, I'm not going so far as to say I won't be buying new books and magazines. If I'm not allowed to buy yarn, I have to have SOMEthing to get me by, ya know? ;))

Lastly, I intend to put more energy into designing this year. Check that. I intend to put more time and energy into writing up my designs and publishing them. I actually did design a fair few projects this year, and I managed to get a few of them up on the site. But I have so many more I want to release. I really want to focus more time and attention on that. I said that last year, and it didn't really happen. I hope to change that in 2011.

So, those are my reflections on 2010 and my thoughts toward 2011. I hope you all have some good things you can carry with you from this past year (I know that for a lot of people, 2010 kinda sucked, but still, you have to find value in the small, bright points where you can, you know?) May 2011 be good to you, contentment, and always lots of fibery goodness. :)

Happy New Year, my friends!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's that Time: Finish or Frog?

Every year around this time, I get the urge to knitting, if nothing else. I like the idea of starting a new year with a clean slate. If I can't do it in every area of life, I can at least do it with my WIPs.

A couple Januaries ago, I dedicated that month to finishing up a whole bunch of WIPs. At the time I had something insane like 17 WIPs, though, so it really was called for. Right now, I technically have four active WIPs, plus eight in "hibernation" mode. (Two of those can barely be considered hibernating, though, as they were either not actually cast on, just planned and never gotten to, or JUST cast on and then never worked.)

So, today I'm considering the fate of these projects. Three of my active WIPs will remain...the Buttoned Up cowl (which I will hopefully finish before the new year rings in), my MIL's white shawl of doom Haruni (which I'd planned to have finished first for Christmas, then for her early January birthday...she's been informed her birthday project will be late) and my Caldavos cardigan, which, for some unknown reason, I cast on right before I went into high gear on gift knitting.

One WIP, a pair of plain stockinette socks I started in some Opal Harry Potter yarn (Harry & Ron colorway)...they're going in the frog pond. I'm just not feeling them. I think the colorway is weird.

I keep trying to figure out what the different pattern sections represent. I mean, I get the blue & white is sky and clouds. OK. But the Orange and yellow and green? Quiddich field? Is the orange supposed to be Ron's red hair? I can't remember at which point in the movie sequence this yarn came out, so I can't figure out if the patterning is significant to a particular movie's plot. See, all these questions would just make these socks incredibly stressful to me if I wore them, so even though I'm through the heel turn on the first sock, I'm frogging. I have way too much beautiful sock yarn to waste my time knitting socks I don't like.

Moving on to the hibernating projects. Let's start with the oldest...

This is a Tube Shawl I started for myself back in May of 2007. The pattern is by Leigh Radford and is out of the book AlterKnits. I made the smaller scarf version that year for my mom out of some beautiful red Douceur et Soie mohair and silk, added beads to the edge and sewed a chiffon insert, as the pattern suggested. It was pretty. My mom had already moved to FL by the time she got it that year, though, so I doubt she's ever used it. This larger version I'm making with Ovation kid mohair and silk, and it it very pretty. The shawl takes three balls to make. I'm not even through the first. Even though I love the yarn and I think it would make a beautiful shawl, I don't love it enough to finish it. So, my compromise to myself is to knit through the remainder of this first ball and bind off, creating a lofty, soft and warm cowl. And! Changing it from a shawl to a cowl means it is actually about 70% finished! Score! :)

Next is a Traveling Woman shawl I started for my mom earlier this year. Again, being in FL, she doesn't need heavy wool things, so I started this out of some Misty Mountain Farms Highlight, a merino/tencel blend. The colorway, though...meh. Really not liking it at all, at least not for a Traveling Woman, which I think looks much better in a solid or semi-solid. I stuffed it in a drawer before I started my Christmas gift knitting, and I think then I knew I'd never finish it. Time to frog.

I have a pair of socks I was casting on for the girlie, and I think I cast on the first sock and got a couple toe rows done before I set it aside, working instead on other Socktoberfest socks. Since my Riff socks ended up fitting the girlie instead of me, I didn't feel quite the same drive to knit her another pair of socks. I like this yarn well enough, but since I've got a pair of mittens to make for her yet, I think I'll frog that little toe and put the yarn back in the stash.

I also have a Rowan Lima sweater that I queued up to begin knitting, and then I never got around to starting it. I can't even frog it since it wasn't yet on the needles! LOL So, I've deleted the project. To be knit another day!


That leaves three projects in hibernation. My Norwegian Rose socks, of which I still need to knit the second and will indeed do...some day; an afghan I started back in June 2008, that I'm pretty sure I won't have enough yarn to make as big as I would have liked, but I'll finish it at some's a good pick up and work on project when I need something mindless; and lastly, an Olivia stuffed toy, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, I'm not so sure. I have to dig her out and see how far I really am on her. I may just frog her. Knitting tiny stuffed things? Fun. Larger ones? Not so much.

See? That knitterly housekeeping makes me feel so good! If only all other housekeeping could be as easy. ;)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Isn't he cute?

I think he needs some friends... ;)

On Christmas Eve, I decided I needed a break from my two remaining gift knitting projects, so I decided to knit up this little guy. I think he is just adorable. I would love to make an entire army of them. The thought of it reminds me of the Calvin & Hobbes comics where Calvin builds dozens of miniature snowmen in his yard.

This pattern is Mochimochi Snowmen, pattern by Anna Hrachovec, which I did in some leftover Queensland Collection Kathmandu DK and some random sock yarn leftovers for the scarf and embroidery. (The pattern calls for it to be made with sock yarn, but I didn't have any scrap white sock yarn, and I liked the texture of the Kathmandu for him, and since size really wasn't an issue, I went with it!)

The pattern can be purchased through Ravelry, but it is also in the first issue of CraftSanity magazine, which I don't think I've mentioned yet. (Forgive me if I have, but it's worth mentioning again!) It is available in both print or PDF format. I purchased the $3.99 electronic version of the magazine so I could check it out, and I LOVE it so much! Everything is printable, and there are some really fun patterns in there, not just knitting but crochet and sewing, as well as recipes and some paper crafts. There are a couple nice interviews as well. I highly recommend checking it out!

In addition to my little friend here, I am also working on the Buttoned Up cowl, from Cathy Carron, that was also featured in this issue (excerpted, I believe, from the book Cowlgirls). Pictures of that to follow, as soon as I get it finished up!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, my friends...

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
Whether or not you're done with your gift knitting (I'm person is going to be getting a hat au needles, I fear), or your cookie baking, or your last-minute shopping, I'd like to wish you all a peaceful, warm, and meaningful Christmas. I hope you will be surrounded by the love of those who mean the most to you, and if that isn't possible, then may you be comforted in its absence.

I am so blessed in my life on any given day, and I often overlook it because I focus on the small, the petty, the unimportant. This Christmas season, however, I'm reminded of what is most important. My house is very full right now -- small house + six people + one dog = kinda crazy! LOL -- and we are bound to get on each others nerves before it's over (eh, it happens), but these are the people who mean the WORLD to me. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Lastly, I've posted some version or another of this in past years, and I do so again now because the song is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Twisting & Turning

That's what life's doing these days! At least it feels like it. I'm getting down to the wire with my Christmas preparations. Though the holiday is still a week away, I'll be gone for three days next week as I go down to North Carolina to pick up our oldest son and our grandson to bring them home for Christmas. So my self-imposed deadline for getting most everything done is Sunday. Two days away. And we're doing Christmas with my in-laws tomorrow, so not even a full two days. Still, I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be able to meet my goal.

In the mean time, the Christmas knitting continues. Just when I tell myself I've knit enough gifts this year, I think of something that would be perfect for someone, and I can't help but cast it on! My latest project was this cowl...'s my own pattern, a twisted cable ribbing made from some Frog Tree 100% alpaca sport weight that I've had in my stash for a while, just waiting for the right project to use it. It is appropriately named Twisting & Turning, and I've got the pattern mostly written up...I just need to proof and format it. I'm hoping to be able to get it published here before the end of the weekend, so if you're looking for a fast, last minute gift, maybe this will work! (Seriously...I knit this in a day. And no cable needles necessary!)

Friday, December 10, 2010


I had good intentions of posting a couple more freebie patterns well in time for Christmas knitting. However, I've run into a couple hiccups in them, mainly in sizing, that will require some extra test-knitting time on my part so I can make sure things are accurate. Unfortunately, due to the Christmas knitting that still remains for me, I can't do that just now. So! I do apologize. I will get the patterns out as soon as I can, if not in time for Christmas knitting, then in time for some relaxing, post-holiday, curl-up-with-cocoa-under-an-afghan-and-watch-the-snow-coming-down-outside knitting. I don't know about you, but that's some of my favorite kind of knitting. :)

Here's a little tease, though...a swatch I'm working up in Malabrigo Rios, Sunset colorway...

Have you knit with Rios yet? Oh! My! Goodness! It is sooooo soft and squishy! It is my new favorite superwash worsted weight yarn. Actually, I'm being redundant in saying that, because I already shared one picture of a Christmas gift in progress that I made out of the Playa colorway, and I said the same thing in that post. But honestly? It bears repeating! It's just that good! And in a package from The Loopy Ewe today, I got a third colorway, Lettuce, that I can't wait to knit with. I hope they come out with more colorways for Rios, because I am totally smitten, and at $13.60 per 210 yard skein, I think it's an affordable option for gift knitting when you want to give something that doesn't need to be hand washed but you want it to have a nicer feel than, say, Cascade 220 Superwash (not that I'm bashing's often my go-to, non-hand-wash, gift knitting yarn, mainly due to the multitude of colors available).

So, even though I don't have time to polish these last couple patterns right now, they will hopefully be the first of several I plan to publish in 2011. Interestingly, the more I work on writing up these patterns, the more pattern ideas I seem to get. I think that is the way of creativity. I remember that was always the case back when I was working as a freelancer. The more I wrote, the more ideas for writing I'd get, which is a far better problem to have than writer's block or - in this case - designer's block!

In the mean time, I've done a little housekeeping and rearranging here on the blog, including adding icons over there in the right sidebar that link to each of my available patterns. All but the Call Before Digging pattern are free (F), so please enjoy them. Maybe one or two will make the perfect gifts for folks on your list this year!

On another note, remember my nice, neat, new yarn room? Yeah...not so neat right now! Ack!

I put the card table up last weekend, brought all of my Christmas wrapping supplies up from the basement and set up camp for gift wrapping. I must admit, it's really nice to have the option of using this space in here for this task instead of having it spread throughout the whole dining room the entire month of December. Of course, when you supply the universe with a horizontal surface, it will attract matter, as you can see! In addition to my projects that keep landing there, my daughter has been making use of the space as she's worked on some of her own Christmas gift crafts (which I LOVE that she's making gifts, and they're turning out really well, too!). What you can't see is the ironing board she also had up, effectively making it an obstacle course to get to my desk. I tidied up a bit right after I took the picture. ;)

How's your holiday crafting coming along? What all are you making this year?

(ETA: I've needed to turn comment moderation on. If you comment & don't see it post right away, that's why! Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Free Pattern: Slipped Stitch Kindle Cozy

Next up in my free pattern offerings is a lovely little slipped stitch pouch that will be the perfect place to keep your KindleTM safe and clean when you’re not using it. It is also just the right size to store a large MoleskineTM notebook or other similarly-sized journal. This quick knitting project will make a great gift for the reader or journaller in your life.

ETA: I designed this to fit a 3rd generation Kindle, with about an extra inch of space width-wise. The extra room should allow the pattern, as written, to accomodate the slightly larger 2nd generation Kindle as well. 

The pattern is written to be knit flat and then seamed. Knitters will need basic knitting skills as well as slightly more advanced techniques such as casting on stitches over small bound off areas using the Backwards Loop cast on method and Mattress Stitch for seaming.

Yarn: Approximately 150 yards of sport weight. Sample was knit using just over half a skein of Enchanted Knoll Farm Sport, Cleopatra colorway.

Needles: US7 straight or 24” circular needles, or needle size necessary for you to get gauge

Additional Tools: Tapestry needle, three locking stitch markers or safety pins

Notions: Three ¾” buttons (or buttons to properly fit your resulting button holes)

Gauge: 5 stitches per inch in Slipped Stitch pattern.

Finished Size: 6 ¼” x 9”. (Note that this is designed for a roomy fit for a KindleTM. If you would like a snugger fit, cast on six fewer stitches, adjust the length as desired in the first two sections and adjust the placement of the buttonholes in the third section to fit the narrower width.)


RS – right side
WS – wrong side
K1 – Knit one stitch
K – Knit
P1 – Purl one stitch
BO – bind off

Slipped Stitch Pattern

(Note: All slipped stitches are slipped as if to purl. All WS rows are purled.)

Row 1 (RS): *K1, bring yarn forward, slip next stitch to right needle, move yarn to back, repeat from * to last stitch; K.

Row 2 (WS): Purl.

Row 3: With yarn forward, slip first stitch to right needle, move yarn to back. *K1, bring yarn forward, slip next stitch to right needle, move yarn to back, repeat from * to last two stitches; K1, bring yarn forward and slip last stitch.

Row 4: Purl.


Section One (Inner Panel) –

Cast on 37 stitches.

Row 1 (RS): *K1, P1, repeat from * to last stitch; K.

Row 2 (WS): Knit all knit stitches, purl all purl stitches.

Repeat these two rows once more to create four rows of 1x1 ribbing for the edge of the inner panel.

Begin working in Slipped Stitch pattern. Continue until fabric measures 8” from cast on edge, ending on a WS row.

Purl the next RS row. This creates a fold row.

Section Two (Outer Panel) –

Purl this WS row.

Begin working again in Slipped Stitch pattern. Continue until fabric measures 9 ½” from the fold row of Section One. End on a WS row.

Purl the next RS row. This creates a second fold row.

Section Three (Flap) –

Purl this WS row.

Begin working again in Slipped Stitch pattern. Continue until fabric measures 2” from the fold row of Section Two. End on a WS row.

The next two rows will create button holes.

Button Hole Row 1 (RS): Work 6 stitches in pattern,* BO 2 stitches, work next 9 stitches in pattern, repeat from * once; BO 2 stitches, work remaining 4 stitches in pattern. (31 stitches)

Button Hole Row 2 (WS): Purl across row. Using backward loop method, cast on two new stitches at each of the three places were stitches were bound off in the previous row. (37 stitches)

Resume working in pattern until flap is 2 ½” from fold row of Section Two. End on a WS row.

Work four rows of 1x1 ribbing as you did at the beginning of Section One.

Bind off (loosely) in pattern.

Finishing –

Fold the inner and outer panels together at the first fold row, right sides facing outward. Using locking stitch markers or safety pins, secure the inner panel to the outer panel at the corners of the cast on edge, making sure the cast on edge is even with the fold for the flap. (The cast on edge will NOT meet the fold for the flap but should be about an inch shorter. Just use the flap fold as a guide for getting the edge of your inner panel lined up straight.)

Using a tapestry needle, seam the inner and outer panels together using Mattress Stitch. Begin seaming at the bottom fold and work up toward the open edge. After seaming the first edge, recheck to make sure the upper edge of the inner panel is still even with the flap fold. Adjust if necessary.

With pouch lying flat, outer panel downward, fold flap so that it overlaps inner flap. Using stitch markers or safety pins, carefully mark the site where your three buttons will need to be attached. Open flap again and using the rows of the fabric as your guide, make sure you’ve marked all three buttons on the same row so that they are even.

Sew on buttons.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Free Pattern: Fast & Easy Finger Puppets

As promised, here is the first of a few fast and easy patterns I've designed recently for gifts. This one actually came at the request of my daughter, who wanted to make finger puppets for a friend and for her nephew. They're quite beginner friendly!

Fast & Easy Finger Puppets

If you’re in need of a really quick gift for a kid, these finger puppets are just the thing! They take very little yarn and very little time. You’ll likely spend more time embellishing them with the stitched on faces than you will actually knitting the puppets themselves. And they are a great way to use up leftover yarn from other projects.


Worsted weight yarn scraps. Each puppet uses approximately 3 grams of yarn, which is about 6 – 7 yards of worsted.

Other small bits of decorative yarn for embellishing.

US4 needles. I used two 8” DPNs just because these are small pieces and they easily fit on them, but use whatever US4 needle you prefer, straight or circular.

Tapestry needle.


Using long-tailed cast on, cast on 12 stitches.

Work in stockinette stitch (Row 1: knit; Row 2: purl) for approximately 2”, ending with a purl row. If you are making the puppets for a small child whose fingers are shorter, adjust length accordingly.

After reaching desired length, k2tog across all stitches (6 stitches remaining).

Next row, p2tog across all stitches (3 stitches remaining).

Break yarn, leaving an 18” tail. Leave the last three stitches on the needle (or place them on a small stitch holder or waste yarn) while you embellish your puppet.

Using contrasting yarns, stitch on eyes, mouth, or whatever features you wish to add. Weave in the ends of your embellishment yarns, or simply tie them off as they will be inside the puppet and not visible. (Hint: when stitching on knitted fabric, try to insert the needle in between strands of yarn of the stitches rather than into the gaps in between the actual stitches. Your embellishment stitches will stay closer to where you want them that way.)

Once your embellishments are complete, thread the tail of your working yarn onto a tapestry needle and run it through the remaining three live stitches, pulling it snug to cinch them up, forming the top of the puppet’s head.
Using the tail yarn, which is still attached to the puppet at the top, use mattress stitch to seam up the two edges of your puppet’s back down to the cast on edge. Weave in ends.

Now add hair! You can create a braid and stitch it to your puppet’s head (such as on my brown one), or you can thread individual strands of yarn through the top of the puppet and tie them off to each other for a spiky hair do (like my red one). Or channel your inner beautician and create your own innovative hair style!


Use different yarns to make up the body in order to give your puppet a bottom and top ensemble.
Knit the last few rows of your puppet with a fuzzy yarn (such as fun fur) to make the hair an integrated part of the puppet (like I did on my purple one).

Use beads or small buttons for eyes. However, if you’re making this for a small child who may choose to gnaw on the puppet as well as play with it, you may wish to forego using anything that could be a choking hazard.

In general, have fun! Mix it up! Be creative!

Pattern and images © Lisa M. Beamer, 2010. Reproduction of pattern is permissible for personal, non-income generating purposes only.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gift Knitting!

I've been busy-busy with a lot of Christmas gift knitting lately, as I'm sure many of you have been too. Much of my knitting has also meant some designing on my part. Since several of the patterns I've designed for gifts lately are pretty fast and easy, I thought I'd share them here. So, stay tuned for some upcoming fast and easy (and free!) patterns that just might fit your own gift knitting needs!

While we're on the subject, let me remind you of my original Fast & Easy pattern, the fingerless mitts. It's available in its original form (knitting flat and then seamed) as well as version two, in which you knit them in the round.