Tuesday Tip Day: Don’t Be Afraid!

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I’m leading with this, because I actually spun something. I spun something that’s semi-consistent and it’s getting easier!  Craft-fear, begone!

I would think this tip would be unnecessary to even discuss if I hadn’t been experiencing my own “craft fear” for the last four years.  But, maybe you’re like me.  Maybe you’re the type who doesn’t open her books all the way for fear of creasing the spine.  Maybe you’re hesitant to use a fresh pack of colored pencils because they all have perfectly sharpened tips.  Maybe you have a cabinet full of the “good china” you received as a wedding gift and have never actually used it to eat.  Maybe you collect blank journals, only to shelve them and never, ever consider actually writing in them because that would be desecration or some such nonsense.

That’s right: nonsense!

I do this.  You should not.

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Saturday Night Hooking: San Diego Knit & Crochet Show!

This post comes to you a single day late, because instead of writing about yarn yesterday, I was walking among aisles of it.  The Knit & Crochet Show ran from Wednesday until Saturday, with the first days devoted entirely to classes.  Despite the fact that I am officially on summer break (I recently landed my first teaching job, which now makes my summer a “break” instead of “unemployment”), I decided to forgo the classes and simply attend the marketplace yesterday with my friend Kathy.

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I hastily snapped this photo after waiting at a red light for a while. I promise it -just- turned green. This is about when I started getting really excited. A convention FULL of yarn!

Now, back in October of 2011, I attended Vogue Knitting Live, which is held in Los Angeles.  I’m going to be honest when I say I expected the marketplace floor to be as big as my previous experience.  The Knit & Crochet Show is cozier, and to be fair I didn’t take advantage of any of the classes that were offered (and that list was extensive!).  So, all I can go by are the three aisles of knitting shops, which were each dense with their yarn and roving offerings (as well as beads and bags and notions).  What I will say is, though Vogue Knitting Live is a bigger show, it didn’t give me nearly the one-on-one attention I received yesterday.

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Happy Twenty-Thirteen!

Ah, the new year.

Typically, this is when we begin to swear off junk food, promise to eat thirty servings of vegetables every day, commit ourselves to nine days of exercise each week, and promptly forget that we have all-consuming jobs and responsibilities that make slicing out a part of our day and reserving it for resolutions feel impossible by the second week in January.  And while I, too, will be making good-health commitments to my body along with most of the rest of the world, my resolutions have a lot more to do with making the most of those tiny slices of time.

See, I started a new job in November that’s tacked on an extra two hours-ish of commute time to each of my days, and pairing that with taking one class a month to finish my bachelor’s degree has made the initial transition trying.  I decided to take a month off of school for December, considering the new-job-exhaustion I was feeling and the likelihood of transforming into a full-fledged Scrooge over not being able to bake as many Christmas treats as I wanted or to make sure each and every gift was as perfect as possible.  And, while that time off did help, I now know that in order to experience a holiday season as magical as I expect for myself and my loved ones, I’m going to have to prepare sooner.  A lot sooner.

That said, I am resolving to begin now.  I know plenty of crafty people who create the entire year and stash their future presents for gift-giving situations and it’s time for me to become one of them.

The second important note is: to create with variety.  Here I am speaking only about knitting, but that could translate into any of the other homemade things in which I dabble.  Christmas rewarded me with four volumes of knitting stitches that will help me — finally! — create my very own knitting pattern.  More than homemade, I love the possibility of being original, so I expect to get a lot of use from those books.  (Thanks, Mom!)

And the third, and final, craft-related resolution is to use that spinning wheel!  I’ve been so intimidated since my first attempts of making a giant mess of my roving, but over the last year I’ve seen such an improvement in my knitting, I expect that, too, just needs time and practice.  I can hear my friend Kathy right now: “Just fifteen minutes a day, Katie.”  It’s enough to practice but not enough to get angry about the errors.  I think that I should be able to spare that much!

Hopefully you’ve all recovered from any party-induced weariness by now and have written your own (small!) list of resolutions.  By announcing them to the world, I give my friends and family free license to nag me, all year, on the status of my resolutions.  I suggest you do the same!

Good-bye, 2012.  We learned a lot this year, whether it be about life and love or cumin and cables.  Looking forward to all the new information 2013 will bring!

Saturday Night Hooking: It’s Levi-oh-sa, not Levio-sah!

Let’s be clear about one thing this morning: I love Harry Potter.

The world, yes.  The movies, yes.  The story with all its foreshadowing and multi-level themes, yesyesyes.  But even more than that?  I love what Harry Potter did to the world.  Every photograph and news story about children and parents lining up at midnight for book releases, parties to celebrate the newest novel, Halloween costumes composed of round-framed glasses and hand-drawn forehead scars: magic.  Not the same wizard magic found in J.K. Rowling’s pages, but the kind that makes children (and adults!) fall so deeply in love with characters that they remain lifelong invisible friends.

Every time I hear of someone thanking Rowling for their childhood, I tear up just a bit.

The skein pictured with the beginnings of a scarf that it just wasn’t destined to become.  Like Harry, this yarn had a very specific fate.

The skein pictured with the beginnings of a scarf that it just wasn’t destined to become. Like Harry, this yarn had a very specific fate.

So, when I discovered Lorna’s Laces had a colorway called “The Boy Who Lived,” I simply threw my money at them.  Unfortunately, a search around the site shows that it’s no longer available for purchase through Jimmy Beans Wool.  Perhaps some sort of yarn trading site would help you get your hands on it!  And, knowing that, it made the skein all the more precious.  Whatever I made with “The Boy Who Lived” had to be extra special and fit in with the theme!

Ravelry has approximately four billion Harry Potter themed knits available.  So, after spending a few hours trying to decide my yarn’s destiny, I stumbled upon a pattern for Hermione’s hat in Half-Blood Prince.

JL Yarnworks has a very easy-to-follow pattern for this hat.  It wouldn’t be an exact replica, considering the colorway, but I love it when my yarn and my pattern mesh into one perfect theme.

I was a little hesitant at first, since I haven’t touched cables since knitting Rose’s Doomsday wrist-warmers (which was over a year ago!).  As I worked on this hat, I realized I’ve gotten much better at knitting over the year.  In fact, this hat is my most technically accurate piece so far, because instead of trying to fudge mistakes, I spent a good several hours carefully backing out my work to make corrections.  And the cables were no big deal.  Perhaps the wrist-warmers had more cable work, but this hat was fairly simple!

One other note: this was my first project using square needles.  I’d purchased a set of 9′s at the knitting convention last year, but never bothered to use them.  When it was time to knit this hat, I needed size 5′s on a 16″ cord, and figured that instead of ordering my usual favorites, I’d try something new.  On the plus side, the claim that the stitches are more uniform is absolutely correct.  The bad news is, the set I got was metal and, after hours of knitting, I’d given myself cuts on my index finger when I went to push the tip of my needle.  It looks like they only make large size square needles in wood, so I didn’t have much of a choice.  When I switched to wooden (double-pointed to finish the top) after using metal for so long, I felt like I’d come back home.

But enough of that.  Let’s look at the hat!

Detail on the cables!

Detail on the cables!

Though this was a Christmas gift, the gift-ee and I celebrated a little early by going to December Nights in San Diego.  It doesn’t get very cold here in Southern California, so I figured I’d better give her a hat she could wear on one of the few nights it would be appropriate!

Never-you-mind the iPhone photo. Pay more attention to the swirl the colorway makes!

Never-you-mind the iPhone photo. Pay more attention to the swirl the colorway makes!

So, now my challenge is to find something to make with “Tribute,” which is The Hunger Games inspired!

Happy Birthday, Monique!

Today is my co-blogger, co-worker and friend of over four years (!), Monique’s, birthday!

From what I understand, her husband (who, while very sweet and kind, tends to stick to things like surfing and let’s Monique do the ‘kitchen thing’) woke up and made her a birthday breakfast of waffles with fresh fruit.  Lucky girl!

On Friday, the girls at work and I celebrated Monique’s birthday the only way we know how: with food and yarn.  The night before I made her a cake.  This particular cake took about four hours due to a few mishaps along the way and had me crawling into bed at 11 o’clock PM, mumbling to my husband about how it was the “Worst Ugliest Cake Ever.”  He was fast asleep, so I’m still trying not to begrudge him his answer of:  “Oh honey, that’s too ba– SNORE.”

I didn’t bother taking any pictures of it before I left for work.  Saving that cake at a stoplight cost me my coffee and resulted in sticky peppermint syrup all over the center console.  So, by the time I arrived I was pretty peeved that the Worst Ugliest Cake Ever ruined my caffeine fix, would potentially harm my coworkers’ digestion and would definitely, definitely offend their eyes if they happened to look at it.  At least two of our coworkers went in on a Nothing Bundt Cake’s cake that morning, just in case we had to fling this monstrosity in the direction of the nearest waste bin.

We delivered gifts to her desk and I threw in a few disclaimers regarding the cake, assuring her and everyone in earshot if they hated it I wouldn’t be offended, and then left it at that.

About half an hour later, Monique rushed into my department with the cake on a plate and spare forks in her hand.  It was good!  She promised!

What a relief.  There are few things worse in Baking Land than spending hours on one item as a gift and then finding it tastes almost as bad as it looks.

I named him Frankencake. Don't mind the Project Management folders in the background. I didn't expect to ever want to see this cake again, so there wasn't any effort put into staging a photograph.

I named him Frankencake. Don’t mind the Project Management folders in the background. I didn’t expect to ever want to see this cake again, so there wasn’t any effort put into staging a photograph.

Now, I’m going to point you in the direction of Dessert For Breakfast for the recipe for this Raspberry Lemon Lime Layer cake.  The cake itself I found to be absolutely amazing.  The right consistency, just the right amount of sweet and sour — divine.  The lemon curd was amazing as well (and it was my first time making lemon curd — woefully not vegan, though I’ve seen that those recipes exist!).  But it was the raspberry buttercream that didn’t thrill me.  I’m sure I must have done something wrong, but it was just.. too thick for my liking.  For such a dense cake with so many complex flavors, I would prefer something lighter.  So!  This has become a personal project — to perfect a cake to my tastes.  I know it may sound absurd to all the foodies out there, but I’ve never done that.  I’ve never taken pieces of several recipes and twisted them until they became my own.  But I’m about to!

(Also, please notice that her cake is gorgeous and doesn’t look anything like Frankencake.)

You may notice a few bites taken off the side of the cake I was bringing home to my family after work. I must have mice. In my car. Or something.

You may notice a few bites taken off the side of the cake I was bringing home to my family after work. I must have mice. In my car. Or something.

I mentioned yarn, right?  Well, it was my first time giving a gift that was still on the needles, but apparently the ride back and forth from Las Vegas last week wasn’t enough time for me to finish her scarf.  I know what you’re thinking: Gifting a scarf in May?  It’s practically summer in California!  Yes, well, it’s winter temperatures in our office all year ’round, so she can just drape it over the back of her chair and use it to combat her boss’ air conditioning needs.

The yarn is Lorna’s Laces (of course it is!) in Honor.  The colorway is “Cookie’s Vintage Office.”  The pattern is “Seafoam” and is very easy to memorize!  Once it’s finished and blocked, I’ll show off the pattern a little more.

When I went outside to photograph this, the boys that were playing in the street got quiet. I didn't look up to see what they were up to, but I'm pretty sure they're starting to wonder why the crazy lady across the street takes her food and other objects outside, photographs them, and then disappears again. Or, they might wonder why she's still in her pajamas at noon. Valid questions.

When I went outside to photograph this, the boys that were playing in the street got quiet. I didn’t look up to see what they were up to, but I’m pretty sure they’re starting to wonder why the crazy lady across the street takes her food and other objects outside, photographs them, and then disappears again. Or, they might wonder why she’s still in her pajamas at noon. Valid questions.

Happiest of Birthdays to you, Monique!