Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Spring project progress

Each month, I have set a goal for myself of finishing two projects in my Ravelry queue. I was a few days late with my second April project, but I eventually got there with this Match & Move scarf by Martina Behm.

I went with an all German/Austrian motif here - it's Austrian yarn bought in Vienna and knitted with a German pattern. I bought the yarn at just about the cutest little yarn shop in Vienna, Wolle Wien, which I visited in September. The pattern is by a German pattern designer whose shop name - Strickmich, or, "Knit me" - I love.

The pattern was acres of knitting - all garter stitch - so I reformed my plan to do an all-garter-stitch fingering weight poncho next. I needed a break to do something chunky (more on that in a minute).

Yarn Con 2018!!

This past weekend was my favorite of the year: YarnCon in Chicago. I just love seeing the colors, the local vendors, and feeling the beautiful fibers.

I met up with some coworkers and shopped until we dropped. Actually, none of us did too much damage this year, except for one coworker (not pictured) who ended up dropping $300+ because it was her first YarnCon experience and she got a little excited. (No judgment.)

I bought two sets of yarn for two different projects. The first was a bulky merino yarn from Another Crafty Girl in a black-gray-red colorway called, wait for it, "High Functioning Psychopath." Ha!

The project is for a scarf for my good friend Mike, one of my best friends from high school, AND my former prom date, AND he does my taxes practically for free every year. So I figure I owe him. (Plus this colorway looks like our high school colors, which I am down for.)

It's knitting up in a vaguely plaid way, which I am kind of digging.

The other project is yet another tricolor fingering weight shawl. Ever since dining at The Boarding House in Chicago, I have wanted to make a shawl inspired by the colors in their main dining room: light gray, deep turquoise, and olive. I found perfect yarns at three different YarnCon vendors:

So I'm trying to finish the Lincoln-Way black & red scarf by my friend's birthday next week, and that (plus another dish cloth I made) will count as my two projects for April, even though technically the black & red scarf wasn't in my queue originally. Gotta help out a friend in need.

Happy spring, everyone!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Winter finished objects

It's been a minute since I did a run-down and commentary of finished objects. Here's what I've been up to in 2018 so far!

My coworker gave me a cute little hank of yarn that she dyed and spun herself. She declares herself more of a spinner than a knitter and gave this ball (and some others) to our yarn group at work. I improvised a cute little teapot cozy! Have never felt more British.

Next up is a big colorwork blanket for a coworker's baby. I found out about the shower two weeks before it was to occur, and I found out that the mom-to-be really likes sloths. So, she got a sloth.

I improvised the chart pattern from a cross-stitch pattern I found online. He turned out cute, but it was a little hectic to make him, especially when your mess of yarn looks like this. But I got him done, in eight shades of brown, and she was super happy with him.

Next up is a project that I started in December but then became afraid of: my Lanesplitter Skirt. I have been wanting to make a skirt for a long time, but I'm afraid I'll put in a ton of work and it won't fit. (I'm notoriously hard to fit for skirts because I have a tiny waist but big hips.)

Well, I finally pushed through and I have to say, the pattern worked out better than I could have imagined. It turned out so cute, in fact, that I ditched the skirt I was wearing that day and decided to sport this little number for the rest of the day. Hey now!

Yarn is Malabrigo Rios, colorway Anniversario.

My goal for 2018 is to finish two projects each month out of my Ravelry queue to clear it out. So far, I have succeeded, but this month might be tough. I finished one - a little cream shoulder sweater - but it's still blocking, so I'll post a photo of that next time. 

The other project I'm close(ish) to finishing is a triangle shawl worked with some hot pink hand-dyed yarn I bought in Austria on our trip last year. I am gaining an appreciation for triangle shawls as a versatile accessory that is also fun to knit.

Let's see if I can finish that puppy before Saturday!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Updates to 40 before 40

I have made some progress on the 40 before 40 list, so before my 36th birthday, I wanted to post my progress and note some revisions:

* * *

1. Scuba dive in the ocean (Panama? Hawaii? Both?)
2. Stand in Red Square in Moscow
3. Travel to Turkey
4. Visit the Taj Mahal
5. Tour the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, IL (2017)

(My travel plans are being somewhat derailed by the state of the world...)


6. Get drinks at the Aviary
7. Make chiboust
8. Eat at Calumet Fisheries
9. Eat at every Chicago restaurant on this list
10. Visit Al Bawadi Grill and The Halal Guys

(#6 was a taco list, but I revised. I don't think I have two huge food lists in me.)


11. Read War and Peace (2017)
12. Crochet or knit a sweater I actually like and wear (2017)
13. Practice flute and perform someplace publicly (2017 & 2018)
14. Finish the Time-Life World War II series
15. Participate again in NaNoWriMo (2017)
16. Complete wine cork tray craft project with saved up corks

(This one is going along swimmingly.)


17. Complete an Olympic distance triathlon (2017)
18. Complete a half marathon (2017) 
19. Complete a 5k in under 30 minutes
20. Develop a meditation habit (at least 15 min. / day) (2017-)
21. Get back to Salzburg weight range

(I did get below a major milestone in weight in February and hope to get to Salzburg weight range in 2018. I do NOT think I will ever complete a half marathon at a 10-minute mile pace, so I revised down just to do a half marathon.)


22. See a Bears game, Bulls game, and Blackhawks game (2017)
23. Visit historic Pullman neighborhood
24. Kayak in the Chicago River
25. Take another Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise
26. Tour new yarn shops of Chicago, like Knit 1 LLC, Nina (2017), and Sister-Arts Studio

(I need to bang out a few of these this summer; I am sad not to have made more progress here!)


27. Remain annual fund donor at alma mater institutions (Illinois State and DePaul Law), as well as employer (Northwestern University) (2015-)
28. Complete a blanket for Project Linus
29. Serve on a charity's board (2017)
30. Earn a volunteer award somewhere
31. Do one race via Team in Training

(I don't know if giving $100 to a homeless person is the best use of my charitable dollars, so I revised to completing a blanket for Project Linus.)


32. Participate in a staff mentor program (2017)
33. Author an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy
34. Speak at DePaul Law about nontraditional legal careers (2017 & 2018)
35. Figure out my next career step

(I revised the development symposium / conference item to the mentor program item because it was something I've wanted to do for a while, and it was actually more time and effort than I expected.)


36. Start a weight loss diary and keep it every day afterward (2017-)
37. Watch Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove back to back
38. Watch Seven Samurai and eat sushi (2017)
39. Get another tattoo to expand one of my existing ones

40. At least once per month, see a member of my family (2017-)

(I revised the diary item to be a weight loss / fitness diary because I tried to do a regular diary again - I really did - but it wasn't focused and I didn't get much out of it, so I stopped doing it. The weight loss thing has been focused and helped by daily weigh-ins.)

* * *

I think revising these goals slightly (after creating them months and months ago) has helped me focus them more on what I'm trying to do now. Things change in even a few months and I shouldn't hold myself to the whim of a few moments over a year ago, if that is no longer my goal.

I'll keep updating as I make more progress. That's 11 goals down, with progress on more. See you at 40!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gradient Cowl

I bought this gorgeous yarn at Stitches Midwest 2017 from my new favorite vendor, Backyard Fiberworks:

Something about that beautiful speckled green, olive, and yellow really struck me. I decided to make the Duotone Cowl, which used about the right amount of yardage and yarn weight. 

I liked how it knitted up, but the bands of color weren't thick enough to really show off the speckle, so I decided to write my own pattern for a gradient I'd be happier with.

Now the pattern. First, I'll tell you how many rows I did of each color, in case you want to exactly copy mine. Then I'll tell you how I figured out how much yarn to use in the gradient, not knowing how much I'd get out of the yarn. You can use this method to figure out how many rows of solid you can knit between each gradient.

The Duotone Cowl starts off with casting 88 stitches onto a provisional cast-on. I used size 8 for this lovely DK weight because the pattern recommends a larger than normal needle to ensure floppiness, despite the cowl being knitted in a tube.

How many rows Val knit

My gradient pattern goes in multiples of 7:

1 row A
6 rows B

(repeat once)

2 rows A
5 rows B

(repeat once)

3 rows A
4 rows B

(repeat once)

4 rows A
3 rows B 

(repeat once)

5 rows A
2 rows B

(repeat once)

6 rows A
1 row B

(repeat once)

The gradient breakdown was as follows:

  • 35 rows green
  • Green to speckled gradient pattern (above)
  • 35 rows speckled
  • Speckled to green gradient pattern (above)
But because I started in green and I knew I'd need a row at the end to do kitchener stitch, I split the green section:
  • 25 rows green
  • Green to speckled gradient pattern (above)
  • 35 rows speckled
  • Speckled to green gradient pattern (above)
  • 9 rows green
  • Kitchener stitch cowl together

Figuring out the yarn yardage

In order to figure out how many solid rows I could do between each gradient, I took the following strategy, which you can do, too, if you don't really know how many rows you will get out of each color and want to maximize the length of your cowl (or better yet, not end up with not enough left at the end of one color).

Weigh color B ("X"). When you have done your provisional cast-on and have knitted a couple of rows of color A, begin your gradient pattern section. When you have completed it, weigh color B again ("Y"). The length of yarn you need for your solid section is "Z."

X = 2Y + Z

In my case, my yarn weighed 111 g at the beginning (that's X). It had lost 39 g of weight in one gradient section (that's Y). I knew I'd need to do another gradient section (Y), so I subtracted 39 g X 2 from 111 g to arrive at 33 g. To be safe, I ended my solid section when the yarn weighed another 31 or 32 g less, and then I started my last gradient section.

Sorry for all that algebra, but I am somewhat proud of myself for this brainwork and how the cowl came out! I want to pass this on so that other people can enjoy.

Look at that gorgeous speckle! If you haven't checked out Backyard Fiberworks, get there immediately. Every weight, ply, and color I've tried has been wonderful. Easily my favorite new vendor at Stitches Midwest.

And you can't even see my kitchener stitch row! Very proud of myself now.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Resolution recap for 2017

It's time for my annual resolution run-down. Here were my resolutions for 2017:

  • Run a half marathon
  • Yarn bomb something
  • Bake a yule log
  • Crochet a yule log and share pattern on Ravelry
  • Say more positive things and less critical things
Well, I am about 50-50% on this one. 

Half marathons: I did run a half marathon - two, actually. One in May, one in September. I don't know if that's my distance - it was a little on the lengthy side for me, so I'm going to focus on increasing my speed for short-distance races for 2018.

Yarn bomb: I didn't yarn bomb something myself, but I did submit squares for a yarn bombing at Women and Children First Bookstore in May. So although I think that counts, I still want to yarn bomb something myself.

Bake yule log: I was all ready to this Christmas, but my in-laws baked way too many sweets for our visit, and by the time Christmas came, none of us really wanted a yule log. Something to put on my goals for 2018.

Crochet a yule log: I am not sure why I wanted to make this so badly, but I don't know what I would do with it, so I decided not to make it. Maybe someday in the future, not 2018 though.

Be more positive, less critical: I tried on this one, I really did. I think I improved overall, but only my friends, family, and coworkers could really assess my progress on this one. 

Resolutions for 2018

I was hanging out with someone yesterday who mentioned a challenge to complete 18 resolutions for 2018. (Inspired by Gretchen Rubin perhaps? Not sure.) I'm nothing if not a joiner and a list-maker, so here it goes for 2018:

  1. Resolution: See a member of my family every month
  2. Resolution: Practice languages on Duolingo every day
  3. Resolution: Meditate for 10-20 minutes daily
  4. Resolution: Listen more, talk less
  5. Resolution: Get rid of more stuff around the house, organize what I have
  6. Resolution: Organize yarn projects, clear out my Ravelry queue (currently at 24 items)
  7. Resolution: Eat more vegetables, bake more bread
  8. Resolution: Be more of a cheerleader for others
  9. Resolution: Hang out with the bunnies more, give lots of attention
  10. Goal: Get back to college weight
  11. Goal: Bake a yule log
  12. Goal: Run a 5k race in under 30 minutes
  13. Goal: Complete German course on Duolingo
  14. Goal: Visit the historic Pullman neighborhood in Chicago
  15. Goal: Scan Salzburg College photos and post online to share with friends
  16. Goal: Finish A Song of Ice and Fire book series on audiobooks
  17. Goal: Emphasize lifting weights more, in conjunction with cardio
  18. Goal: Complete another race on vacation
Note that I have separated the items into true resolutions - general, self-improvement oriented statements with no clear endpoint in mind - and goals - specifically achievable items. I feel like I haven't been as clear about that in the past with my new year's resolutions.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

NaNoWriMo winner!

Just wanted to do a brief post to confirm that I participated in - and finished! - National Novel Writing Month 2017! I got to 50K words on Monday and kept going. 

I plan on editing in January-February. It was a good experience, although I'm definitely glad to be done for a while. Writing that much fiction each day was getting to be a chore. I also feel like this novel went easier and was better written than my effort in 2009.

I won't do it again unless I have a good idea, as I had this year. But maybe someday!

Monday, October 30, 2017

October finished objects

I've been on a crochet kick lately - I am knitting things, but they're not done yet. So everything I've finished in October is crocheted.

First up is my lovely Sophie's Universe blanket, the second one I've made. The yarn is Scheepjes Softfun - the medium kit in the original pattern. 

It's a beautiful blanket. I finished it toward the beginning of the month and I still haven't blocked it. No matter how much the original author protests, the pattern (as well written as it is) will definitely bulge. It needs a redesign, and I'm sure that would be a pain in the butt and would mess with the existing kits out there. Still, this is my second Sophie's Universe afghan, I'm a veteran crocheter of 25 years, and I did as she suggested with changing needle sizes. Didn't stop the bulge. 

The next few things are all commissions for other people. I am happy to have gotten through them so that I can finally start on stuff for myself this winter!

The first commission was a baby gift for my friend from law school. I was able to use up a bunch of brightly colored scraps, and the balls jingle, too! The gift is for his newborn baby. Hopefully he likes it.

The next commission was for a coworker whose family was dressing up in a Star Wars theme for Halloween. Her husband was Darth Vader, kids were Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and a storm trooper, and my friend wanted to go as Yoda. There are a lot of patterns out there for Yoda hats, many of them very crappy indeed. I found a good one with nice, solid ears (worked in the round so that they are double thick and stiff) so that they stick out appropriately:

The next commission is for some stockings for the two children of one of my oldest friends from grade school. I had made them a "mom" and "dad" set of stockings for their baby shower, and a mini stocking for Jake. Now she has two kids and wanted them to have matching stockings. I got the stocking pattern from Ravelry but I improvised the decorations, including the letters:

I'm pretty happy with how those turned out! I will see her in December; she told me that she has already bought new hangers for them on the fireplace.

The last completed commission this month was for a set of octopi twins for a coworker that's having twins. Someone liked the giraffe I did for another coworker, but I said I'd rather not do any more giraffes just now. I think the octopi turned out super cute!

It was a busy month of commissions, but it feels good to have them done so that I can focus on my own stuff. I have like three shawls to make and I'm super excited about the yarn. Onward and upward!