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Ringing Out The Old And Bringing In The New

~*~Happy 2016~*~

I love the start of a new year, so full of potential.  Knitting may seem — especially to others — like a small and inconsequential piece of our lives, with so many pressing, serious issues surrounding us.  But, to me, it's a critical piece of the balance that makes my life meaningful.  So I shamelessly celebrated New Years Eve, surrounded by family, food, champagne and my knitting.

Drachenfels

I spent the evening with Drachenfels.  Like many of you, I have a hectic life full of kids, work, cooking, care for an aging parent, and lots of other necessary tasks that limit my knitting time.  I'm not the knitter who magics up a sweater in record time (although there was that 6 week period in which I managed to knit this sweater for my darling youngest child, even though the effort almost killed me).  My works-in-progress often languish for months.  It's a little bit frustrating to see other, even newer knitters, finish off projects so quickly and realistically, but one thing I have learned is to be realistic about my capacity as a knitter.  I'm a working Mom, and a busy one at that.  I love to knit.  I would do it a lot more if I could.  But I'm creative about fitting knitting into the space that I have and loving what I knit.  In 2016, I'm not going to be an apologist for either the fact that I do make time to knit or that I don't have enough of it to be prodigious.  I'm just going to be grateful for and enjoy what I have and can do.

Mitts start

This brings me to a corollary point.  This year, I'm only going to knit things I love for people I love.  This has pretty much been my practice for years now, but I'm going to explicitly own it this year.  The cashmere yarn is not too precious to knit with.  So I started out yesterday with a pair of Ice Scrapper Fingerless Mitts and a skein of Plucky Cashmere Sport in The Villager colorway.  I stumbled across this skein while I was at the Plucky Shindig last year and spent a lot of time searching for more skeins in this gorgeous color, but it was, alas, a singleton.  My one skein has stayed on mind as I've looked at a variety of potential new projects.  I love this color and am happy to be knitting a pair luxury mitts that I can wear every day.  This year, I'm knitting for family, for close friends, for myself and I'm going to use ALL of my favorite yarn.  Life is too short to knit with cheap yarn.  I'm going to knit with the good stuff!

Wishing each of you a happy new year full of your own decisions about what matters to you and how to get there.  And, to end on the starting point: my knitting matters to me, which should be enough.  But to be clear, in a world that is often full of hostility and violence, what could be more important than creating beautiful, useful things in a spirit of love?  Without knitting, or whatever it is that brings each of us into a place of clarity and happiness, then the bad guys win.  So I'm going to make the world a better place, one knitted object at a time.

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A New Elliebelly Website!

There is a new look at elliebelly.com

If you've been reading the blog for awhile, you know that in the deep past, I sold Elliebelly hand dyed yarn on the website, as well as on Etsy.  Although that's on hold a bit longer, there is a fresh new look on the .com site, with a lot more to come.  Expect information on techniques, yarn and patterns.  And hopefully at somepoint, I'll be smart enough to seamlessly integrate the blog so you can read everything in one place.

Until then, here's a little bit of eye candy I created for the new site.  A compilation of classic Elliebelly colorways.

Elliebelly Collage

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Quick Knitting – Happy Knitter

Paddle

My Paddle Mitts are all finished and I am very happy.  They are warm and snuggly, just in time for the return off cold weather.  It will be a struggle to convince myself to take them off for long enough to block them!

The verdict on these mitts is — knit them in dk or worsted, simply by adjusting the size you choose.  The simple stripes are appealing, but I'm planning on making this my go-to pattern for gift knitting next year, and knitting them in several variations using the basic recipe.  Best of all, you can knit up a pair in an afternoon, making them the perfect last minute or feel good project.  I'm already looking forward to knitting them again!

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World’s Biggest Gauge Swatch

A year ago, when I was new to Plucky yarn and not nearly as committed to swatching for gauge as I am now, I fell in love with a simple pattern for fingerless knits, Tincanknits Paddle Mitts. They are rustic and adorable and I needed a pair immediately.  

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

© Tin Can Knits

Although the pattern was written at a DK weight, there were numerous projects in Plucky worsted weight yarns, which made sense as I had slowly been deciphering Plucky's custom milled yarns and realized that their worsted weights were much closer to DK or even sport.  So I cast on, using some gorgeous Plucky Scholar I had on hand.  It's a quick little pattern, and shortly thereafter, I realized that instead of the cute, rustic little mitt I was anticipating, I had knit a gargantuan, bloated thing.

Paddle

Scholar, it turned out, was the exception to the Plucky rule, knitting up much closer to a true worsted weight and leaving me with a behemoth too large for even my darling husband's paws.

It took a surprisingly long time, but I decided the time had come this week, so before frogging Gargantua, I using my "gauge swatch" for complete measurement, and determined I need to knit the toddler size in width but the adult small in length.  Like all Tincanknits patterns (her Antler Cardigan is another of my all time favorites), this simple pattern is so well-written and straightforward that it is very simple for even the math-challenged, like me, to make the necessary modification and knit a mitt to fit.

Paddle3

I'm actually further along than pictured — the first mitt is complete and I'm waiting for the reskeined yarn from Gargantua, which required a bath to get the kinks out, to dry so that I can knit up its mate.  I always wonder why I wait so long in situations like this.  These mitts are adorable and every bit as wonderful as I imagined when I first saw the pattern.  I'm so happy to have these in the works at last!

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Wrap It Around My Neck

There is nothing as wonderful as a soft, fluffy piece of knitting to wrap around your neck when it's cold.  I shared pictures of my Forest Park Cowl and Moto Vest (modified into an infinity scarf) yesterday, but I've got better photos available after a day without rain and I'm pleased enough with these two knits to share them a second time.

Forestparkdone

The delicate cables in the cowl, interspersed with outlined bands of garter stitch, are really very clever.  The pattern is very pretty, definitely meant to be knit in a color that is light enough to show off the play of the cables.  It's not so complicated that you can't memorize the pattern at some point during the project, but you will feel proud of the intricate look of the cables when this cowl is snugly wrapped around your neck.

Motodone

My reworked Moto Vest is nothing more than a bulky, ribbed scarf with the ends mattress stitched together into an infinity loop.  It reminds me that often, the simplest knits can be the most satisfying.  I tend to notice big, simple knit pieces like this when looking at fashion photos.  Truth be told, a scarf like this could be knit — easily — in an evening.  But sometimes the basics hold a lot of appeal.  I'm really happy with this impromptu piece, and have plans to do another simple but smooshy knit along these lines with some cashmere I've been hoarding.  If you want to replicate this look, it's a simple 2×2 rib, knit to approximately 60" in length before seaming.

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Sick4Christmas

There is nothing as much fun as realizing, the morning of Christmas Eve Day as you're getting up to cook dinner for 15 of your most cherished family members and friends, that you are sick.  The denial of the past few days hasn't worked and you have that I-Really-Shouldn't-Be-Out-Of-Bed sick feeling.  But there's nothing to be done for it, and because of a wonderful doctor who was open that morning and kind enough to provide me with shots and antibiotics for the mush that had become of my head and chest, we managed to have a lovely dinner.  I won't bemoan the fact that I didn't individually wrap all of the kids presents, because that just wasn't happening, but my lovely family graciously made me cup after cup of tea with honey in it yesterday, and didn't so much as utter a word of discouragement as I spent the day on the couch, sleeping and knitting.

I did manage two feats of very simple knitting over the last few days, finishing the Forest Park Cowl that has been languishing in my WIP pile for several months and coming up with a way to resolve the Moto Vest issue.  Because I'm sick, you get the worst of all possible finished object photos: indoor, late-night selfies.

Cowls

The Forest Park Cowl (left) was a lovely, straightforward knit in a very pleasant cabled pattern.  I started this cowl so I would have it ready and waiting for airplane knitting months ago, but after doing the set up, never picked it back up until earlier this month.  When I started it, I was still using a cable needle for cables, but by the time I got back to it, I had learned to cable without a needle.  So I'll just repeat, as a friendly reminder here, don't be afraid to lose the cable needle.  Do use the wonderful video Jody (Grannyknits4U on Ravelry) put together on learning to do this, which will make you a master of this fine skill in under five minutes.  Go forth and conquer!

The Moto Vest (right) was a completely different story.  It's knit as a scarf, with stitches picked up center back and used to form the vest part.  Although my gauge was spot on, the finished vest looked nothing like the photos on the pattern layout.  It was skimpy and awkward, and I had one of those moments last weekend where I realized I was never going to wear it.  So I sat down and frogged it back to the scarf.

Unwinde

After a brief moment of panic where I thought the stitches across the middle that had been picked up to add on the vest were so stretched out of shape that I would have to frog the whole thing, I reminded myself that blocking worked miracles, and carefully, so as not to get the needles wet, engaged in some strategic blocking.  It took a bit of care, but by yesterday afternoon, everything was dry and ready to go.  I took out the cast off edge and added another 24" to the length of the scarf portion and then mattress stitched the whole into a large, bulky, infinity scarf.  The result is infinitely more pleasing than the vest and ever so lovely and squishable.  This may be my favorite color of all time from the Plucky Knitter, Bohemian Blue.  I'm glad I took the plunge on this one — I'll wear it over and over again, if only I can keep it out of greedy teenage hands.

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Those greedy teenage hands are likely to get whatever handknits they want at the moment, though because I got tons of uncomplaining (despite the fact that she didn't want to be photographed) help with Christmas Eve dinner and set up.  She makes the most incredible homemade mac and cheese too!  Whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of the year, I hope you've had a happy week.  I'm looking forward to knitting into the new year with you!