Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Wrap-Up

I've been thinking about doing one of these end-of-year posts for a while now, and I've decided that if I'm ever going to do one, 2013 is the year to reminisce about. In more ways than one, this has been the best year of my life.

I know that I haven't blogged much this year. If anyone out there still follows this blog, you were probably surprised to see me again, I know I'm sort of surprised to be here. But blogging has had to take a back-seat to all of the other amazing things that have been going on over the last 12 months.
Let's recap, shall we?

Last December I quit a job that I hated, and that was sucking all of the life out of me. Immediately afterward, I felt liberated and free. I called my mother as I was driving home that day, and I was giggling when I told her: "Well, I quit my job!" It was such a difficult decision to make at the time, and then afterwards I was literally asking myself what took me so long?

In March, I started working at the local library. This has been my dream job since I was a wee little thing. I started out as a page (shelving books all day!) and have since gotten a job working for the circulation department. The pay's not great, but like I said, this is my dream job. I love what I do, I love the place that I work at, and I love the people I work with. That's more than most people can say. This job has also prompted me to make a very big decision.
Are you ready?
I'm going back to school! I'm going to be applying for graduate school to get my Master's in Library Science and hopefully become a librarian one day!

In August I got married to the love of my life. It was easily the most wonderful day ever. We got married outside in front of all of our friends and family. We had beautiful weather, and wonderful guests and even got to dance to some Beatles. What more could anyone want? This has easily been the high-light of my year, and of my life. My husband (and I really love saying that) and I recently celebrated 6 years of being together. I can't wait for the next 6 years, and the 6 years after that, and then the 6 years after that. I love you Puppy. :o)

I've also been a lot craftier in the last few months. I've gotten back into my crochet and my knitting (though not always successfully). I've even posted a pattern of my very own creation. I've been putting my ravelry account to good use, and actually finishing projects that I've started. I've been making lots of scarves for my friends, I've been knitting dish-cloths for our kitchen and I've even made my very own knitting needles! It's been a crafty year, and I know that we're going to keep it up in 2014. Right now my husband and I are working on an awesome and amazingly cool project that I can't wait to share with you all. More to come!

There's also been a lot of delicious home-made food and treats that I've experimented with this year (like Chinese food for Christmas), but I haven't really been blogging about it, or keeping tabs on it at all. Hopefully that'll change next year!

And last but not least, I've been reading ALL THE BOOKS! There will be a post on this topic shortly after the new year, so I won't waste too much of your time on it now. But let's just say that working at a library has put me back in touch with my ravenous appetite for books. I've read more this year than in the last two combined. And I have the numbers to back that up.

So I think that just about wraps up 2013. What a year. It's easily been the best year of my life, and I can't wait to see what 2014 will bring!

See you all next year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hand Made Knitting Needles

         Recently I decided that I really needed to brush up on my knitting skills, so I decided to make a few of Staci Perry's Traditional DishCloths in order to practice some of the basic skills (and pick up a new trick or two in the process). Her pattern calls for size 7 knitting needles, which I discovered… I don’t have.

         I have a set of five size 5 double-pointed needles and a set of straight size 9 needles which are still being used for another project (the cable scarf, if you must know), so I decided to use the 5s. I thought it would be a good way to practice using double pointed needles. And I was right. It was great practice, and the dish cloths came out fabulous, if a bit small.

         Fast-forward a few days, I was talking about the project with one of my friends at work who is also a knitter (though at a much higher skill level than I). She mentioned that I could just go out and buy myself a set of size 7 needles. She’s right, I could… but I didn’t want to spend the money. Especially since I don’t know what else I might use that particular size for in the future. I would rather wait until I had another specific project in mind.

Then a day or two later, she sent me this video:

         OMG! I didn’t even realize you could make knitting needles yourself! I had to try it! My husband and I were at Lowe’s picking up some items for another project we’re working on (Don’t worry, there’ll be a post about it!) and I decided to grab a dowel to try to make me some needles with!

         I still wanted size 7 needles, which are also known as 4.5mm. Unfortunately, I live in a country that had not yet embraced the Metric system, so I had to convert to inches. The closest measurement we were able to find was a 3/16in dowel. I think that’ll end up being a size 7.5ish needle. Close enough for $0.65. The next thing to do was to decide how long I wanted my needles to be. I like my knitting needles on the long side, so I cut my dowel down into four 11” pieces, with a few inches left over for a cable needle. I used a small hand-saw and it took about 2 min altogether.

         At this point, we were at my in-law’s house, “borrowing” their basement work-shop for that other project I mentioned. So I went up to my mother in law’s studio to “borrow” her electric pencil sharpener to sharpen up the ends of my needles. I didn’t really need four 11” double pointed needles, but it seemed easier than trying to find some sort of "bobble" to put on the other end...
          Next up was some medium-grain sandpaper (we didn’t happen to have any fine-grain laying around, but it would have been nice) to smooth everything down. I thought that this process would be tedious and annoying, but it actually went really quickly. In no time at all I had everything sanded smoooooooth. 

Knitting needles drying...
         Time to break out the Polyurethane. This stuff smells, and I would recommend working in a room with good ventilation (or outside if possible). We were still in the basement, and lazy, so we stayed put for it. Luckily, this also went pretty quickly. I just brushed on a few layers of the stuff and then set the needles down to dry. Since my needles are so long, I decided to Polyurethane them in two parts. I brushed one side, let it dry on the clean side, then flipped them over and did the same thing on the other half. The can of Polyurethane recommended letting the stuff dry for 3-4 hours between coats, which we did not do. I only waited about 30 minutes between finishing one half of the needle and finishing the other half. But we had pretty ideal drying conditions and only one very thin coat to do.1
          So I got my needles home... and they weren't quite done yet. No big deal, I just sanded them down again (even smoother this time) and hit them with another coat of Polyurethane. Perfect. Except, of course, they're not.
       This is my first attempt at making knitting needles, and of course, nothing is ever perfect. I'm really happy with the way these came out, but I can already think of some tweaks and improvements for next time. For example, these came out super-freaking pointy. Like, stab someone pointy. So next time I think I'll use one of those dinky little plastic pencil sharpeners to get a duller point. I can always sand it smooth. I would also use a prettier wood next time. We used poplar this time, but for ~$0.50 more, I think I can spring for oak.

Okay, so here's the finished product:

Four size 7.5ish knitting needles and a matching cable needle.

         They look nice, don't they? I'm pretty proud of them. Again, they're not perfect, but I'm happy... I might take some bolt cutters, chop the tips off and sand them down again but... I really am very proud of these, and pretty darn happy with the way they came out. They weren't hard to make, and a hell of a lot cheaper than buying new knitting needles!

Happy Crafting!

1. Tip: put your brush in a plastic baggie and stick it in the freezer between coats of the Polyurethane, it’ll keep the brush from drying and getting hard as a rock.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

10 Stitch Failure

       As you might know, I'm not much of a knitter. But that never seems to stop me from taking on really ambitious projects.
       For an example, I still haven't finished that cable scarf, but a few days ago I decided that I was going to knit a blanket. Yeah, I know... don't ask. Now, I have no idea how I even came across this pattern, and I'm not really sure what came first, the pattern or the tutorial, but I found it and decided that I had to knit it.
       It seemed easy enough, the only skills that you need to know going into it is how to cast on (which I can remember, if I try hard enough) and the basic knit stitch (which I know). Everything else you need to know, Staci walks you through in the video. I watched a bit of the video, and then went ahead and cast on my 10 stitches.
       I was knitting along, and it was actually going great. I got to my first (and then immediately after, my second) mitered corner, and it wasn't hard at all! I was knitting up this blanket like a pro! I was even attaching my knitting to itself with ease. I had knitted up a nice size piece:

I took a picture for my ravelry page 

       I actually had a lot more knitted than that, and now I'm kind of wishing I had taken another picture, but... oh well. I started out with some brown yarn I had laying around, left over from another project I had finished a month or so ago (maybe I'll post about it later?), and I wasn't really too crazy about it. When I started the blanket, I wasn't sure that I would actually be able to do it, so I just picked up some scrap yarn and started fooling around.
       However, when it became clear that I was actually accomplishing a blanket-like object, I realized that I was going to have to jazz things up, color-wise. For one thing, I don't have nearly enough of the brown scrap for an entire blanket, even just the lap-throw I was planing on. And secondly, I didn't particularly care for the color. So I thought I'd mix things up with some nice green yarn I also had laying around.

       And that's when everything went to shit. I have no idea what I possibly did wrong, but I certainly screwed something up. I attached my first row of green, flipped my work to knit up the wrong-side row, and counted 11 stitches... Fuck! What did I do? I tried tearing out just the last row of knitting to do it again, but that didn't work, and I decided that I should just take out the green and go back to knitting with the brown. I could try to re-attach a second color later.
       But that didn't work either! Suddenly, all of the rows that I had joined to my previous knitting started to come off! I was left with strips of knitting with angry raw-looking loops on the end! My whole blanket had come apart in strips!

       OMG! I still have no idea what I could have possibly done wrong, but I'm super upset with myself right now. Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh! I guess there's nothing for it but to rip everything apart, which is what I'm doing now. I'm frustrated, but trying to look at the positives. I wasn't really too into the brown color, and this gives me a chance to start over fresh. I was really just fooling around in the first place, and now that I know I can actually knit this thing, I can pick up some pretty yarn that I actually like, and make something I'm really proud of.

     I guess that means I'm off to the store to pick up some more yarn... As a great space-commander once said, "Never give up, never surrender!" I don't think he was talking about knitting, but it applies.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Very Simple Pot-Holder

         I've been making a lot of pot-holders lately, and I thought that it might be nice to share the pattern. It's super easy, and you do not have to be an advanced crocheter to learn it. It's actually a great pattern for learning or practicing the single crochet stitch, and when you're done, you've got something that can actually be used. Plus, this project is a great way to use up any scrap yarn you have laying around the house!

Very Simple Pot-Holder

         Any 2 colors of yarn (it helps if they are both the same type of material and weight)
         A hook size of your choosing
         A tapestry needle (for sewing in loose ends)

For this example, I used white and blue worsted-weight yarn (this is scarp yarn, and I have long since lost the labels, so I don't know exactly what kind of yarn I'm working with), and a size J (6.00mm) hook. 

The size of your pot-holder is going to depend a few things. 1, how bulky your yarn is. 2, what size hook you choose to work with, and 3, how many chains you start out with. All of the pot-holders I've been making have started with a chain of 21 stitches, so let's start there, shall we?

Use both of the colors of yarn to Chain 21:

Row 1:
Work a single crochet into each of your chains (skipping the first chain off of your hook) for a total of 20 single crochets. Chain 1 and turn.

Row 2:
*Work a single crochet into each of the single crochets from the previous rows (going through the entire stitch), totaling 20 single crochets.*
Row 3 - ?
Repeat everything between the asterisks until the pot-holder is the size you'd like it to be.

And that's pretty much it! When you're finished, just pull the working yarn through the loop on your hook to finish it off, and use your tapestry needle to weave in the ends. All done!

I like my pot-holders to be square, but I can't really be bothered to count rows, so I simply fold my work-in-progress in half along the diagonal, and when both sides are even, I'm done!*

So that's it. I'm having a blast making these pot-holders, and I hope you guys will too! If you have any pattern corrections or suggestions (believe it or not, this is my first time writing up a pattern), please let me know!

Happy stitching!

*A note on finishing: A lot of people like to block their finished crochet/knitting pieces, and I do too! I just haven't been bothering to block my pot-holders, and you'll probably find that you don't need to either. With some regular use, they'll end up blocking themselves.