Sunday, June 28, 2009

My First Shawl

While I was out taking pictures of my Bobble Head Hat today I brought along the shawl I didn't finish for my Charms OWL last term. I've had it completed for a few months now and I just got around to taking the fancy FO pictures.

Here's a view of the blocking process (which was monumental in itself):

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And here it is all finished:



Yarn: Alpaca with a Twist Fino in Royal Velvet
Mods: I went down a needle size to size 4.

I don't have a lot of commentary for this piece. It's the first big bit of lace I've ever done and it means a lot to me. I love this shawl from top to bottom, mistakes, frustrations and all.

Bobble Head

Well, I braved the stifling heat to go out and take a picture of my Herbology hat today. That's officially the last project I have to turn in for the month of June in the HPKCHC! I'm doing very well this term - turning in every possible assignment and getting my OWL where it needs to be. If I can keep it through July I'll have a perfect record! Now, onto the hat!

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Pattern: Berry Bobble Hat by Cathy Carron
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Emerald Blue
Mods: I used size 8 needles and made the smaller size. This was purely because I don't like the size 7 circs that I own.

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I have to admit that I'm not incredibly pleased with the finished hat. While making it the first time through, I dropped a stitch somewhere and it slowly unraveled down the hat, messing up my stitch count and somehow going unnoticed by me for several rows. Of course, having this missing stitch messed up my bobble placement and by the time I figured out what was wrong there was nothing I could do except frog it and start over. On the second go around I lost a stitch somewhere else right toward the end. I'm pretty sure I just took one too many stitches into a bobble and it got gobbled up that way. I was too frustrated at this point to fix it properly, so I just added in a stitch to the row I was working. Sloppy, I know. You can't tell unless you know what you're looking for though.

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This hat was knit from the top down, a construction method that I don't like too much. I have never had much luck with the fit of hats made this way, even though I know that isn't logical. Why shouldn't it fit just the same as hats knit in other ways? This particular hat goes on my head, but it is just a fraction too big. I feel like using the proper needles would have been a better idea, but I only have Fiddlesticks brand size 7 16" circs, and they suck the big one. I need Clovers in this size.

I also am not a huge fan of the way the hat is shaped on top. It makes my head look like a Hershey's Kiss. I can't complain too much about that though, because that's exactly how it looks in the magazine picture next to the pattern. I was hoping that knitting it a little bigger and pulling it down on my head firmly would eliminate this effect, but that didn't really work out. It just wants to puff up at the top and no amount of pulling on it stops it.

The point of this assignment was to knit something with bobbles, and that part of the project went right. I got quite proficient at making them, and they look really cute. Using the variagated yarn gives them a neat effect - they are all slightly different colors.

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It's definitely not my favorite project that I've ever done, but the hat looks okay on my head. I guess you can't ask for much more than that in the end, right? It took a long time to make on account of all the bobbles, and I hate the fact that I used up a precious skein of Malabrigo on a projects I don't like all that much, but it's all good. I'm going to chalk this up to a good learning experience. I learned how to make bobbles and I leaned a new disappearing loop cast on that worked very well closing up the top of the hat. I also reaffirmed my notion that I don't like top down construction. I could see myself wearing this in the winter, but I don't ever see making another one.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Finally Finished

Well, after several days of very poor (and non-photo friendly) weather I finally have my next project ready to post.

I have technically been working on this project since before I ever got involved with the House Cup. I received a precious skein of Handmaiden Sea Silk for Christmas last year from my husband in the beautiful Tiger colorway. Even though I knew I had the Cup starting that January, I couldn't resist casting on a scarf with it right away. I decided on the Horseshoe Lace Scarf from 101 Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders, got out my size 4 needles and cast on.

The knitting went well from the start. The pattern was simple and not even all that boring. However, when the Cup started I got so busy that I put it down and barely touched it for three months. In the one month interim between my first and second terms I decided that I had to finish it. I took the needles back up and finished the knitting portion a few days before the beginning of May. I stopped the repeats of the scarf at a good time - there was just enough left of the yarn ball for tassels. After that the Cup started up again and my poor scarf sat crumpled up in a ball on top of my bookshelf for another month, needing blocking and tassels.

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When July rolled around, I was pleased the see that our DADA assignment was to finish up a WIP. I admit that my first idea was to finish a blanket I had stashed away in the closet from a year ago. As I pulled it out and tried to work on it again, I decided that I just couldn't bear it. It was too boring and I would need to buy a lot more yarn to finish it. I didn't want to waste money on a project I wasn't enjoying, so I stuffed it back in the closet and decided to finally get my scarf done.

The first step was blocking, which requires a nice long soak first.

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I put the scarf in the sink and let it get nice and saturated. When I went to retrieve it so I could pin it out, I discovered how wet sea cell and silk yarn smells. Not good.

The next step was getting my blocking wires threaded through the sides of the scarf for a perfect edge and pinning it in place. This was the most difficult part of the process. It wasn't hard to get the blocking wires in, it just took a long time and made my back hurt. I was hunched over my blocking boards on the floor for an hour! In the end I got it all pinned down nicely.

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After the scarf had a night to dry it was time to make the tassels. Tassels aren't exactly my favorite things to make as they are a bit fiddly, but as I just wanted small ones for this project they didn't take too long. I used the tried and true method of wrapping the yarn around a book to make them.

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One all the tassels were cut out and lined up neatly I attached them using a crochet hook. I did seven tassels on each end of the scarf, placed at each of the points I had pinned out the day before. The scarf has a bit of a scalloped edge and the tassels finished out the points nicely.

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After all that work I was left with a beautiful silk scarf. It is probably one of the nicest things I have knitted, based on the quality of the yarn and the simple elegance of the pattern. I am very pleased I got a chance to finish it this month.

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Pattern: Silk-Wool Horseshoe Lace Scarf by Marci Richardson
Yarn: Handmaiden Fine Yarn Sea Silk in Tiger
Mods: I cast on 55 stitches for fice repeats of the lace pattern for a skinnier scarf. I knit until there was only enough yarn left to make tassels. This worked out to be 49 repeats.

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The finished scarf is about six feet long and it is stretchy. I'll have to make sure I don't snag this on anything as there are lots of YO holes.

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The cool thing about Sea Silk is that the yarn smells like the beach. Now I'll have memories of summer when I use this scarf in the cold weather.

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I'm very happy this scarf is finally finished. I always felt guilty about letting it sit around half done for so long since the yarn was so precious to me. This pattern was an excellent way to use up a ball of Sea Silk. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the ball of it I have in Glacier.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quidditch Mitts

Well, the weather is definitely not cooperating with my plan to take pictures of my Herbology hat and DADA scarf. It is raining cats and dogs outside! All I have to post today are the mitts I made for Quidditch.

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Pattern: I heavily modified the Merletto Mitts pattern. I basically took the numbers for casting on stitches and the instructions for making the thumbs. I eliminated the lace pattern and did 4 round wide stripes of gray and green.
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Sock yarn in Pine and Ash

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These mitts were a pain in the butt to make, but not for any big specific reason. They were just boring with all the stockinette. I persevered though and I got them done. I'm proud of the job I did on them because they look really nice in person. They are neat and well made. I can see myself using them a lot once winter rolls around.

The only other thing I have to talk about is my OWL progress. I am on row 144 out of 159 total rows, so I am well past the required 25%. It's hard to take a good picture of this since it's all bunched up on my circular needles, but it is looking really pretty so far. I can't wait to see it all stretched out!

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There is one big mistake in it that's killing me inside. It happened sometime in the beginning rows and I didn't notice it until it was WAY too late to tink back and fix it. I'm hoping that I can make it less noticeable in the blocking. In any case, I know that the untrained eye won't notice it, but I will. It will bug me forever. I'm trying to learn to embrace it as part of what makes the shawl unique. It's not working so far.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crunchy Coasters

Today I have another FO to post. After this one, I will have only one more thing in the FO pile on my desk.

Today's project is my Transfiguration assignment. Our task was to knit or crochet something out of a non-yarn material. I was a little lost when I first read about this class, but when the idea of using plastic shopping bags was tossed out there, I knew that I had to give that a try.

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There's no yarn or pattern information for this project. I just cut two plastic shopping bags up into a long continuous strip (by cutting off the handles and spiraling down the bag), and used my lucky green crochet hook (J) to make a basic circle. I did a brown bag and a white bag to make coasters for my husband and me.

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When cutting up the delicate plastic to make my "plarn," I remember thinking that crocheting with this stuff could easily turn into a nightmare. When I started hooking though, I was pleased to find out that it was easy to work with. I used a more delicate touch than I would employ with regular yarn, but other than that I didn't do anything differently and I had no problems with breakage or stretching.

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The finished products work like a charm. In fact, I've got my water bottle sitting on one right now. The good thing about using plastic yarn for these is that sweat from cold drinks or spillage won't hurt them. They will rinse clean every time! What a nice way to recycle.

In OWL news, my Queen Anne's Lace shawl is coming along very well. I am well past the 25% mark I need to get to by the end of this month. If everything continues to go according to plan I will definitely be finished by the deadline.

I went with my husband to see his new school today. Thank goodness he found another position! I was afraid we'd both be stuck subbing next year and never move out of my parents' house! He ended up at a magnet school for the performing arts. He's teaching math, so he isn't involved in the special electives they offer, but he gets the benefits of having students motivated enough to enroll in a magnet school. I hope that he won't have as many behavior issues with these kids as he did with his kids in his regular public school from last year.

Now all that's left is to find me a job so that I don't have to sub anymore! I'm not holding my breath on this one for this year though. The economy is in dire straights and our school boards are completely screwed as far as budgets are concerned. So many teachers have lost positions that there aren't really any jobs left for people looking to get into the game. All of those laid off teachers have to go somewhere, and they get priority when jobs open up. They should, of course. It just sucks for me because it means that there probably won't be any jobs left for new people.

I will wait and be strong until I can get in somewhere. I have no other choice. Until then, I will knit.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Illusion Knitting: Like Magic!

I'm back with another project from the pile of never-ending FOs on my desk. There's only two things left after this one. Getting closer!

This time I have a washcloth for my Charms assignment. The idea was to make an item using illusion knitting. I had never tried this technique before, so I decided to start with something small. This happy little washcloth seemed to fit the bill. Posted below are the head on and then the angle shot that reveals the knitted image.

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Pattern: Fleur De Lis Illusion Dishcloth by Tricia Shafer
Yarn: Sugar and Cream cotton in Cornflower and White
Mods: None

Pretty nifty, huh? My husband actually liked this so much that he claimed it for his own shortly after I made it. Now that's a real compliment!

Illusion knitting isn't difficult, and it really spices up simple garter stitch patterns. This was fun and easy to knit.

The colors and fleur de lis remind me of the design scheme of Cinderella's castle at Disney World. That idea makes me feel more royal already. I may need to make another one of these for myself!

So it was my birthday yesterday. I got a lot of nice gifts this year (including a ball winder and swift!), but the best part of it all was going out to dinner with my husband and getting away from the house. I had a great time. Of course, I completely blew my diet, but we're both back on the horse now. Life wouldn't be any fun if we couldn't indulge in tasty Chinese food every now and then!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Cheery Coaster

In my (seemingly) never-ending quest to clear the pile of FOs off my desk, I bring you my project for Divination: a cheery little flower coaster for my favorite tea cup.

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Pattern: Springtime Coasters by Doni Speigle
Yarn: Sugar and Cream Cotton in white and yellow
Mods: None to the actual crochet pattern, but I did add a small bee button around the edge.

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The assignment was to either create something that related to tea or make something that represents an omen (good or bad). With this assignment, I did both. The coaster by itself is for my favorite tea mug, so it fits the first assignment. Bees are a good omen to me (as that's what my patronus is), so it fits the second assignment too.

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I actually had to make this coaster twice, as the first time I completely screwed it up and ended up with one too many petals on the flower. This was completely my fault. I miscounted the stitches somehow the first time around. The pattern was correct and well written.

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I think the finished product is adorable. I would love to make a set of these in all different colors to give as a gift to someone. They would look adorable as part of a picnic gift set or something. Too bad I don't know anyone that would appreciate such a thing!

May Book Review - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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I did actually finish reading this book in May, but I haven't gotten around to posting it until now. There's no reason in particular for this, I've just been Internet lazy lately. :)

I have always considered Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to be a little bit different from the rest of the Harry Potter series. It is perhaps the most self-contained of all the books. The story it tells seems to be separate from the main mythology of the series. Although it still deals with the same characters and Harry once again thwarts Voldemort in the end, it just feels different.

Perhaps this is because the plot of this novel deals with a Voldemort from the past - with a memory preserved in a diary, waiting to return to full power. Voldemort is Tom Riddle here. He is the student at Hogwarts that would eventually grow up to become the most feared dark wizard in the world. In effect, this is an entirely different Voldemort from the one we met in The Sorcerer's Stone. I wonder if the real, flesh and blood Voldemort was aware of the events going on at Hogwarts in Harry's second year. I also wonder what would have happened if Harry had failed to defeat him in the end of the book and the memory of Voldemort had come back to life. Would there have been two Voldemorts then, or would they have somehow combined to return the original Voldemort to full power?

I believe my feelings on this novel are based on this concept of the "memory" of Voldemort as the main villain. It doesn't feel like events are moving forward because Harry is busy fighting the past. Once this book is over it doesn't seem like anything has changed position from the first book. We don't get any updates on the current status of Voldemort and we don't learn to much more about most of the interesting characters such as Harry, Dumbledore and Snape. Of course, we do learn quite a bit about Voldemort's past, which is a good thing. We also learn a lot about Hagrid and establish the very beginnings of Harry and Ginny's relationship.

Rowling ties this book in with the rest of the series by eventually revealing that the old diary Voldemort's memory was hidden in is a Horcrux - a small piece of his soul that could be used one day to bring him back to life should he be defeated. These horcruxes play an integral part in the rest of the series, so it turns out that Harry's adventures in the Chamber of Secrets are of major importance. Even with this tie-in, I still feel that this novel doesn't quite fit with the rest of the series. In spite of that, I still feel that this is a tremendously good novel and I enjoyed reading it very much. It was just a bit different from its fellow books.

We get some real gems in the way of new characters in Chamber of Secrets. We get to meet Dobby, the interminably cute house elf and Gilderoy Lockheart, the criminally narcissistic Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. We also get Colin Creevy, a somewhat overenthusiastic first-year Gryffindor. These three characters are written with brilliant comic flair, making them some of the most entertaining people in the series.

On the darker side of the novel, we meet Draco's father, Lucius Malfoy for the first time. He is tremendously evil and we begin to understand that he is most certainly still a faithful follower of Voldemort. From this, we can assume that Draco is as well. Lucius is one of my favorite characters in the books simply because he is so incredibly good at being bad. Slippery and suave, this guy manages to wiggle out of everything and start a lot of trouble. He's pretty good looking too, at least in the movies.

This novel is also good for introducing creatures. We get to meet an acromantula named Aragog (one of Hagrid's pets of course), Dumbledore's pet pheonix Fawkes, and the basilisk. There are some tremendous action and fighting scenes concerning these creatures. Perhaps that is why this book in particular translated to the big screen so well.

One feature of this book that I particularly enjoyed was learning a little bit more about Slytherin House. The storyline concerning the Heir of Slytherin and the Chamber of Secrets were quite interesting. Since Slytherin is too often portrayed as the generic "bad house," I enjoyed breaking away from that a little bit and learning about their mythology. As a reader I tend to gravitate toward the evil characters in books, so naturally I enjoy learning more about characters like Draco and Snape and Slytherin in general. I prefer my villains to have a bit of depth and if I could make one complaint about the Harry Potter series, it would be that the Slytherin characters are sometimes just a little too stock. People usually have more motivations for being evil beyond just "I'm in Slytherin, so I have to be a jerk." This is why I particularly like Snape. Now there's a complicated guy.

Well, this review has dragged on long enough, so I suppose I should finish it up. I loved this book the first time I read it, and I continue to love it today. It doesn't seem to fit into the series as well as the others do for me, and it isn't my favorite out of all the books, but it is still better than 90% of everything else I've read lately. I give it 4.5 slimy socks out of 5.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

From the Stack of FOs . . .

I have been exceedingly lazy lately! Don't get me wrong, I've been knitting up a storm, I've just been internet lazy. I'm finding it hard to get up the motivation to post projects, update Ravelry and blog. The shame of it all!

I have a big pile of FOs to post sitting on my computer desk. It's quite overwhelming to be honest. I have decided to take things slow and post one thing a day until I'm finished. First up is my cabled DS Cozy for Muggle Studies.

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Pattern: Cabled DS Lite Case by Simplethings
Yarn: Vanna's Choice Baby in Pink Poodle
Mods: None. I stuck to the pattern on this one.

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I say this all the time, but this was a truly wonderful pattern to work with. The directions were clear, the design was clever and best of all there were no seams to sew at the end!

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I made this for my Muggle Studies class. The assignment was to create an accessory to a muggle electronic device. It just so happens that I have been meaning to make a case for my DS for ages, so I took advantage of the opportunity. I really like the look of the nice fat cables on this. Cables are one of my favorite things about knitting, but for some reason I don't do a lot of patterns that include them.

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The cozy is knit all in one piece, in the round starting at the top. The bottom is closed using the kitchener stitch. The kitchener stitch and I have never been the greattest of friends, so I was a little wary to finish the project using it. I looked around the internet for some tips and found this excellent video (link in the "finishing" section) showing how to do it easily and neatly. For some reason, seeing someone else do it was all it took for me to understand it instantly. I'm so proud of how the bottom came out! It really looks like a professional, finished piece with no bulky, uneven seams to deal with.

So, there's my project for today. Tomorrow I will post another. For now, the only other new thing I have to report is that I did end up deciding to join that Harry Potter swap I was thinking about. In this swap, we all have to have a Harry Potter name to use. I entered my real name into the Harry Potter Name Generator and it spit back "Bridget the Bloodthirsty." I thought that was so funny that I decided to go with it.

This swap requires me to use a blog, and I decided to set up a new one as my character, Bridget. You can access it here if you are interested. I also added a link to my sidebar. I'm really excited for this. I just hope I don't let my swap partner down!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Well . . .

Well, it's been a little while since I posted. Sorry about that, but I've been busy knitting (and to a lesser extent, crocheting)!

I'm just about ready to post a handful of projects I have completed for my June classes in the HPKCHC. I haven't taken pictures of anything yet because I am lazy and I hate my camera. I've also been enjoying the new summer with my husband. Since we both teach, we both have the summers off together. I love being able to reconnect with him.

Exciting news: My birthday is coming up! I hope to receive lots of yarn-related goodness. Of course, there will be pictures of that. But truly, I will be happy just to spend some quality time with my husband. The only bad part about birthdays is that I'm kind of obligated to hang out with the rest of my family too. It's my birthday, shouldn't I be able to spend it doing whatever I want with whoever I want?

I'm thinking of joining another Harry Potter swap. Sign ups start Monday and I probably won't decide until then. I really want to participate, but I have never done a swap before and I don't want to let whoever I get paired up with down!

Sorry for the blah post, but I will be back soon with lots of project pictures and my (belated) book review for May.