Saturday, September 26, 2015

Here is my BIG NEWS!

So, I promised exciting news a few weeks ago.  I (and my family) have done lots of exciting things in the last few weeks.  Little did I know that today would be a double-exciting-news day!

First, welcome Adalynn Rae, our second granddaughter!  It sounds like it was a pretty uneventful delivery (the best kind, right?), and I know that her mother and big sister are very ready for her arrival. I suppose, if you think about it in just the right way, the timing is perfection, because:

The other exciting news is that the One-Skein Wonders for Babies  book is out, and today is my stop on the blog tour organized by the publishers!

It's a sweet book. There are a variety of projects, from toys to wearables, to accessories. I certainly have a longer queue of "projects to be" from this book!  It is so much fun to see "my babies" (the patterns, that is) all professionally styled, lit to perfection, and posed so prettily.

©Geneve Hoffman Photography.
About that baby:
Poseidon Mitts is a pattern I wrote a long time ago, for a yarn club.  I think my daughter was 3.5, and when I was knitting up my prototype mitts, she asked me, "Are those for me?" When I responded that they were for grownups, she insisted on trying them on anyway.  They clearly didn't fit, and she looked up at me with her big, blue eyes, and pleaded, "Mommy, will you please make me some just for me?" Let me tell you, I couldn't find a way to say no! I had yarn left, from the skein, so why not give it a shot?  The bonus is, I found a "Mom and Me" pattern that could be made with a single 50 gram skein of yarn! She wore them until she lost one, which, I suppose is the biggest complement I've ever had from her. Though she has long since outgrown the mitts, I think she still has the orphan. Maybe that's the complement.

That's my time for today.  I've got two 9 year olds having a "sleepover" taking over my house. Off to pour a glass of wine.  Or something.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wow, getting back into the swing of things after that road trip is challenging!  I keep saying I want to make another batch of soap, but I still haven't! I have three kits left from the Brambleberry Soap Crafting Club.  Maybe tomorrow . . .

As far as knitting goes, well, I did a ton of it on the road!  I think I started and completed 4 pairs of socks!  They were all "vanilla" in my "make it up as I go along" pattern. The ones I had already started were ribbed, rather than stockinette. I finished two other WIPs that I brought along (a blanket for the new grandbaby, who will make her appearance any day now. And a shawlette that I'd had otn since last summer!) I started my Laar sweater with the Briar Rose Stella (lace weight merino silk blend) I purchased at Knit Camp last summer. Of course, once I finished the mile of stockinette and moved into the lace portion, that had to be a "not driving" project, so progress slowed down considerably. I knit a cute hat with a unicorn instead of a pom-pom for the first granddaughter. Seriously cute. Like, I kind of wish I had ten kids to knit these hats for (not that I have ten kids, but that I had ten kids to knit for!), because they are quick, simple, and totally adorable! A few dishcloths, when I couldn't focus on anything else. Surprisingly, we sought out only one yarn store on the road. Actually, we were driving past, and J offered to stop when I called it out. The parking lot was interestingly hard to get into, and I didn't buy anything there, as there wasn't anything I can't find in my own LYS.

I received my copy of One-Skein Wonders for Babies (well, the one I ordered from Amazon, so I'd be one of the first to get it) on Tuesday!  More about that later, though, as I'll be posting as a part of the blog tour publicizing the publication.

Well, back to getting into the swing of it!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Back to it!

Hi again!  It's been a while, but I've been busy.  My family and I spent July and part of August (6 weeks) on the road, traveling the US.

It was an amazing trip.  We visited the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Devil's Tower, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, Minneapolis (Foxy Dogs rocks!), and Michigan (for lots of family time). From there we visited Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and Southern California for 11 amusement parks.  We rode so many roller coasters, I lost count!  Found a few new favorites, for sure:
  Voyage, at Holiday World is hands down the BEST wooden coaster I have ever ridden (Golden Ticket rates it as the #3 wooden coaster in the world), and one of my favorites overall!  That's saying a lot, because the wooden coasters just aren't usually my style.
  The New Texas Giant at Six Flags in Arlington, was my first "hybrid coaster" (they have a different shape steel track, but are typically built using the structure of an existing wooden coaster) and another new favorite.  We rode a few more hybrid coasters throughout the trip, but this one was my favorite with its over banked turns.
  My absolute favorite coaster of the whole trip though, is Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  I love launched coasters, and this one is just crazy fun. I love the giant loop, the stop in the middle (with a second launch) and then going over the top of that original loop!  So fun, and cool concept.

We also visited Carlsbad Caverns, in New Mexico, where I had one of the most incredible experiences of our trip. No, one of the most incredible experiences in my life. That day, we hiked down into the cave, where we took an interesting tour, and explored the cave for around 5-6 hours. Then, we decided to attend the bat flight in the evening.  We read a few recent reviews, and weren't expecting much, as it seemed bat activity was rather sparse in the previous week or so.  A ranger talks as people get seated, ask questions, etc. We learned about the history of the cave, bat colony, some bat behaviours, etc. Then the flight began.  A plume of bats began exiting the cave, circling counter-clockwise, then flying out to begin their night. They continued coming, sometimes changing the direction they flew once they exited the spiral, but always spiraling the same direction out of the mouth of the cave. Over the course of 40 minutes (until it became too dark to see anything), well over 400,000 bats exited the cave!  We were strongly encouraged to turn off all electronics and stay as quiet as possible.  The reasons for the silence quickly became clear.  As we sat quietly, often the bats would whiz past our heads, so close we felt as if we could reach out and touch them.  There was that one dude who was just "too important" to follow the rules, and the plume of bats divided around the sound of his ringer, and changed direction to get away from it. We could hear the crackle of their dry wings individually as they came near us, but the sound of so many wings in chorus made a unique hum loud enough to hear as well. Once in a while we heard a few using their echolocation. I have difficulty finding words to describe what we experienced, and how I felt at the time. I think some experiences defy explanation; experiencing them is the only way to understand.  We spoke with a couple rangers on our way out, and even they were a bit awestruck, saying they rarely see so many bats at one time.

It was an amazing trip. We had so much fun, so many amazing experiences, met some new friends, got caught up with friends we haven't seen for years (even decades!), and now we're back home, finding our new routines with work, school, and home.  I will try to be here more frequently, and even have some exciting news coming up in the next few weeks!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Quick Update

Just a quick little update.

The remainder of the KAL for the Mystery Mitts can be found on Ravelry.

Here is a link to the Mitts!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spring Mystery Mitt!

I am hosting the April Mystery Mitt Knit A Long (KAL) in the Ravelry Fingerless Gloves Fanatics group.

I don't have a name for it yet, but need to get the first clue released!  Sooooo. . . I'm going to try something a little different.  I'll release the first clue here on my blog!  That gives me a week to get a name figured out, so that I can load it properly into the Ravelry database before releasing the second clue. I'll put a link to that here, once I get it uploaded, so you can find the rest of the pattern.

The original is written for a 6.5 inch hand circumference, but fits my (7.5 inch) hand just fine as well.  I plan to KAL with the group, making adjustments for a 7.5 inch hand circumference (60 stitches cast on), which should easily stretch to fit up to 8.5 inches (21.5 cm)

 April 2015 Mystery Mitt, Clue #1:

These mitts are knit from the fingers to the cuff.  They begin with the thumb, which will be added to the hand later. They work great with a Self-Striping or Variegated yarn.  Of course, they’ll still be pretty in a solid or tonal as well.

Yarn:  Fingering Weight Yarn. Sample used Biscotte & Cie Felix Self-Striping.
Needles:  Circular or double pointed needles required for your preferred method of small-circumference knitting in the round, US2 (2.75 mm) or size needed to obtain gauge.
Gauge:  8 stitches per inch, 10 rows per inch in stockinette stitch.
Other materials needed:  Waste yarn or stitch holders, darning needle, stitch markers

Finished size will fit hands from 6.5-7.5 inches (16.5 - 19 cm) in circumference.

Thumb (make 2):
Cast on 20* stitches. Join to work in the round.
Knit 4 rounds.
(YO, K2tog) around.
Knit 4 rounds.
Knit 1 round, knitting each stitch together with stitch from the cast on.**

This can also be done using a provisional cast on.  Then you would carefully knit one live stitch together with one provisional cast on stitch.

Knit until the thumb is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) or desired length.

Place all thumb stitches on waste yarn or spare needles until needed later. Break yarn, leaving enough of a tail to graft 4 stitches and weave in ends.

* If you need your thumb to be larger than 2.5 inches (about 6 cm), add stitches in increments of 2. This ensures continuity of the picot edging.

** Click here for a good photo tutorial of this process

Hand (make 2):
Cast on 52 stitches*. Place beginning of round marker if desired,  and join to work in the round. (Again, this can be done using a provisional cast on)
Knit 5 rounds.
(YO, K2tog) around.
Knit 5 rounds.
Knit 1 round, knitting each stitch together with one stitch from the cast on. **
Knit 2 rounds. 

*If you need your hand circumference to be larger than 6.5-7 inches (16.5-17.8 cm), then add stitches in increments of 2.  This ensures continuity of the picot edging.  Then, these stitches will become additional stockinette stitches in the hand.  For example, if you need an 8 inch (20 cm circumference mitt, cast on 64 stitches. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

March Landscape Challenge

This month's challenge (over at was to find a photo and create a soap inspired by that photo.  The challenge, for me, is to create a "picture" in a log of soap, so that the picture is seen once the soap has been sliced.

For those who just want to see the two - soap and picture, here you go:

The rest of the story is below.

I wanted this soap to fulfill multiple goals.
1. Compete in the challenge. This is my first attempt at this kind of "painting in soap" approach.
2. Try out my new 5 lb soap mold.
3. Complete the soaps for my soap swap (Make 10 bars using a fragrance sold by - My fragrance is Ginger Patchouli.)

For the Ginger Patchouli fragrance, I decided on a color theme of brown/red/orange.  I landed on a few desert scenes. Keeping my skill level in mind, I chose the above photo (from, because it is simple enough for me to do, but still interesting, yet complex enough to make it a fun challenge.

Having learned from the last few challenges that a practice batch is a good idea, I decided to use this batch to figure out the right technique to build a sand dune in my soap. While the color proportions were not quite there, I learned that I can, in fact, make a "hill" in soap, as well as build differently-shaped layers. 

There were some issues with how quickly that soap "set up" and as a result, the colorant was not properly mixed into the top layer.  So, I went with a different recipe for my actual challenge soap.  A recipe I have made several times, and like for the working time as well as the finished product. I don't have a mixing vessel large enough to do an entire 5 pound batch of soap, but since I have two distinct color sections in the soap, that was not an issue for this one.  I just made two smaller batches.  That also alleviated the potential for the blue to set up while I was still working with the brown and yellow. That turned out to not be an issue - I ended up waiting on the brown and yellow quite a while before I could add the blue! I didn't take any in-progress pictures - messing with the shape of the soap in the mold can be messy, and I didn't want to mess up my camera in the process!  But I do have a few photos of the soap once completed in the mold, and then as a log, just out of the mold.

Here, you can see it as it's gelling.  Gel doesn't always happen, but I think this mold encourages it, which is fine with me because the colors tend to be brighter when gelled.  You can see a bit of the remaining batter in the pink mold, not gelling.  It is a pretty color, but much more pastel.

This is just out of the mold.  It looks so pretty here, but I can't wait to slice into it!

Here they all are, looking picturesque after slicing. (on their sides)
I learned a lot on this one.  I sure am excited that the soap did exactly what I told it to do!  

Now I need to finish up that knitted mitt design, and get it ready to go out for the mystery knit a long in April!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Soaping for this months landscape challenge!  I made a practice soap, and today made the contest soap.  Here's hoping everything works out like planned, because I have a few days to let it saponify, cut and take pics.  No time to re-do it if it doesn't work out!

Monday, February 23, 2015

New Soaps!!

Wow!  January came and went, along with most of February!!  We had two deaths in the family in January, and it's amazing how time vanishes.  Things are starting to feel like normal again.

The January Challenge Soap didn't work out.  Well, the soap is fine, it smells great and lathers perfectly. You just can't really see the swirl.  I didn't enter that one. I scented it with a combination of French Vanilla fragrance oil and Lavender essential oil.

February challenge came, and I was happy with my soap for this one.  I was all ready to upload my photo for the contest, and thought I'd get it done.  Then I got the email saying the voting had started.  Oops!  At least it's pretty!  I used one of the scents remaining from my candle days (I knew there was a reason I made sure those fragrance oils were also skin safe!!) called Casaba Mist.  It's kind of a light floral with a hint of melon in the background.  It must have a little vanilla in it too, because it discolored to a light tan (I didn't put any fragrance in the swirl part, so that I could work with the soap and not worry about color issues)

I joined a soap swap.  It's the kind where I make a batch of soap and send 10 bars to Bramble Berry.  They will then pack up a box of 10 soaps that aren't mine and return it to me!  I have some new fragrance oils on the way from their Soap Club, and will be using one of those (Ginger Patchouli) for the swap.  Now to decide what to do with color to make it pop!

Speaking of Bramble Berry, they just put out a call for the Spring S.O.A.P Panel.  The panel gets to test new fragrances and give feedback that helps BB decide what new fragrance oils to carry.  I think it sounds like a ton of fun, and would love to be chosen to participate.  They ask what your favorite product is from BB.  That's a toughie!  I love their selection of molds (and just ordered one from them), but I think my very favorite so far has been trying new fragrances.  It seems like every order I add a fragrance oil "because I might as well, if I'm already paying for shipping" 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Still working!

I'm still here, making soap, knitting, designing, wishing I could spin. . . The holidays crashed in on me, and then we had some family stuff to manage.  I'm working on a new soap challenge, so I'll probably post on that soon.  Hoping to cut it tomorrow.