Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ramona Hat in Green

Apparently I like to make repeat projects right now! I guess if you find an awesome pattern, it makes sense that you want to make it more than once (see recent Lamb's Lace Cardi).  I made a Ramona hat two years ago and I love it except for the fact that it is super clashy with my winter coat.  The jewel purple of the hat looks horrible with the dark maroon of my coat.  Since I had another skein of Sheep Shop Yarn Company - Sheep 3 Yarn in my stash (it is sadly discontinued), I made the hat again in this more compatible green color.

I again made the hat a few repeats longer than the pattern calls for since I like it a bit slouchy. In my notes, I said I had done 3 extra repeats.  When I made it this time, I realized that it is only 2 extra repeats long.  I ended up having to rip back a repeat since I trusted my notes over what my eyes were seeing. Oops!

This mixup is a great argument for taking better notes in the future.  I haven't been diligent about recording adjustments I make to a pattern since I rarely repeat a pattern.  That seems to be changing, so maybe I should get in the habit of recording all of those penciled in notes I make as I work through a pattern.

Of course, there are things my notes can't fix, like a gauge that shifts slightly over 2 years.  This hat turned out a bit bigger than my purple one, despite using the same pattern, yarn and needles. Thankfully it still fits fine.

Since I was trying to make an exact replica of the purple version, I also used the channel island cast on again.  It makes for a really tidy and pretty edge.  I find it is well worth the small amount of extra fiddling.

Ravelry Project
Hat Pattern: Ramona Lace Helmet by Lorilee Beltman
Photo credits to Paul

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

He's here!

He's adorable. He's snuggly. He's a little tipsy on his feet and has loads of extra skin.  He's Uli!

The long awaited day finally came! We got to make that drive to Winona one last time to pick up our little pup.  We had been getting pictures from the breeder between when we met him, picked him and when we went to get him for real. With each new set of pictures, I was happy to see him again but was also worried he was getting too big too fast. When we got there on Saturday, we found out pictures are deceiving because he was way smaller than we expected! The collar and tag we brought for him were way too big! We were pleasantly surprised that we will still gets lots of itty, bitty puppy time to treasure before he grows up and is too big for the cradling kind of love.

When we got there to pick him up, we hung around for a while and watched him interact with his siblings and his environment. And, of course, we gawked and laughed at the cute trouble a pack of puppies can get into in a matter of a few seconds.

Like, this broom they dragged over to their pillow to gnaw on.

It seems Uli is not camera shy, nor are his siblings.

Our guy is in the front left of these photos.

Paul and I split the driving time on the way home so we could each have a turn holding our sleeping puppy. That was a great feeling. He wasn't keen on the cold bathroom breaks but gladly soaked up some sunshine for the first time.

After he got home and explored the smells in the house, he was tuckered out. It didn't take long until he figured out his favorite napping spot at home: Paul's lap. Fanny hasn't been too happy about the new addition, but is slowly acclimating to his presence.

Since Saturday, Uli has been busy cycling through a variety of activities.

A large part of his life right now is napping.  So. Many. Naps. It's awesome.

He has been learning how to have a "soft mouth" (not biting too hard).

He has been exploring the main floor of the house, including his crate. Since this photo, we have sweetened the deal with a soft bed and lots of toys to try to make it a more appealing place for him.

He has also had visitors and been on one adventure outside of the house.

His first visitors were our friends Cyrus and Meg, who were in town for a visit.

I took Monday off of work so I could spend time with him.  We went into work for a little bit to say hi to a few coworkers and try out the car without a lap to sit in.  The visit went well but the car ride did not.  We have some work to do there.  The only times we have heard his voice or any stress from him were this car ride and 1 other time when we closed him into his crate when he was awake. It is safe to say that Uli is not yet a fan of confinement.

My sister Jessy and her boyfriend Jeffrey also came over for some puppy playtime and snuggles.

We have also been teaching him his name and to come when called.  The "Uli! Come!" game is one everyone seems to enjoy, especially since it involves affection and food treats for Uli.

We chose Uli as his name because we liked the tie in with his breed (German Shorthaired Pointer) and because Paul and I both have German heritage in our family.  The internet tells us that Uli is a German name that means Noble Leader and we thought that was pretty cool, too.  Most of all we like the way it sounds and how it can be said short and clipped and serious or be drawn out for a playful recall.

Thanks for the picture, Jessy!
We are really excited for Uli's life. From the young, sleepy snuggly times to the athletic, adventurous years to the distinguished, elder dog. We are going to enjoy this ride together!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Socialite Dress for Jamie

As long as we are talking about crafting for friends, I have another project to share!  I am quite proud of this one as it stretched my comfort level, increased my sewing skills and took over a year to come to fruition.

The pattern is Socialite by Anna Maria Horner. The fabric is also by Anna Maria Horner and is called Innocent Crush - Loves Me Loves Me Not. This colorway is called Grape. My friend Jamie was with me when I bought the fabric and pattern for this dress. Right from the start she was excited about this project. She had been eyeing the pattern but deemed it beyond her sewing skills and time. She also felt the fabric was her style but agreed it would work for me, too.

I didn't start the project right away because it took a while to figure out how I wanted to transfer the pattern without cutting the original. I finally decided on exam table paper. You can buy it in a roll, it is pretty thin, affordable and allows for a variety of lengths.  For the record, it works wonderfully and I am happy I did my research before buying a more complicated tracing set up. However, the tracing did end up creating a problem, which I will explain in a minute.

I worked on this dress for a bit and then set it aside and then picked it up and worked a bit more at it. That seems (seams!) to be how I sew. Then, I went on a trip to a cabin last summer and brought this project along. Thanks to the rainy weather, I surged (serged!) ahead, making lots of progress.  That was when and where I discovered something wasn't lining up right in the neck/collar area.

I set it aside and revisited it when I got home and could consult the original pattern. It turns out when I traced one of the collar pieces, I followed the line for a different size.  The small adjustment was throwing off the front and back alignment. Lesson learned: trace slowly and carefully and double check the tracings against the original before you move on. I was able to orchestrate a fix and am happy to say the mistake is pretty much contained within the fudging of a seam allowance. Phew!

As the project was coming together, I tried it on and realized it was a bit snug in the arms.  I forged ahead and finished the last few steps.  During the final fitting, it dawned on me this was Jamie's dress all along! I made the size that fit my measurements, but the end product seems like it was made for someone a wee bit smaller and shorter than I am.  In other words, someone Jamie's size.

It was then that I tucked it away and decided I could hold it for another month or so until Christmas and offer it up as a fun Christmas gift. She had no idea it was coming and seemed quite happy with the gift.  When she tried it on at home, she let me know the pockets were adding bulk and looking unflattering.  I gave her full permission to cut the pockets out and seam up the sides to close up the pocket areas.  She did just that and took it with her to a crafting retreat in California a few weeks ago. Second lesson learned from this project: avoid side pockets in dresses.

The third and final lesson I learned while making this dress is to pay attention to the fabric pattern.  I laid my pattern pieces out in a way that optimized my fabric when I should have centered the dominant print in the fabric to match the center line of the main dress pattern piece.  I don't think the end result worked out too terribly, but I would make a different choice if and when I make this dress again.

I have so many things I would like to sew and have a hard time getting projects going.  I have been trying to identify and address barriers that keep me from sewing more, so maybe I will have another finished project to share before another year passes. Too many crafting interests and too little time is a problem I suspect you might know about, too. What helps you be a productive crafter/sewist?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Missy's Awesome Blanket

When I found out the news that my good friend Missy and her husband Todd were expecting a baby, I decided to orchestrate a little surprise for them.  Fortunately, an assortment of mutual friends from various parts of Missy's life were willing to play along. We all chipped in for yarn in Missy's favorite colors and divided it up. I asked everyone to knit a strip with a fixed amount of yarn matched to a provided gauge.  As the strips came in, I pinned tags to them to keep track of who made each strip.

When it came time to wash and block them, I realized I needed another strategy to keep track of the strips.  I devised a system of attaching a length of scrap yarn with knots.  The total of knots added up to the position in the blanket as well as matched the strip to a knitter.

In to the bath they went! It was when the strips dried and I set to seaming that I realized I had bitten off quite a lot of finishing work and had a pretty tight timeline to pull it off.  I put aside all other projects and set to seaming the strips using the blanket stitch. I thought I had done blanket stitch before, but I don't think I did it correctly. This time I watched an instructional video and really learned how to do it properly.  It makes for a secure and tidy seam!

After it was all seamed together, I had to account for the different lengths people achieved with their quantity of yarn.  My original plan was to leave the uneven edges on both the top and bottom of the blanket to highlight the collaborative efforts.  When I saw the variety of lengths, I didn't like that idea anymore.  Plus, I think I have a thing for tidy edges that I couldn't let go of.

I considered pulling back the longer strips to even it off, but I didn't like the idea that I would be altering the contributions of other knitters. The solution that I ended up going with included working a strip in the opposite direction to even it all off.  It took 2 attempts to get it to look acceptable to me and to stay within the yardage that remained.

A crocheted edge and "AWESOME" were the finishing touches.  "Awesome" (pronounced ah-way-so-may) is the in utero, playful name that Missy and Todd have been using for their baby, so I liked incorporating that into the blanket.  Plus, it gave me a way to share the identity of the knitters who made each strip. I wrote out a cheat sheet/decoder slip and included it in the card so Missy could instantly read who the participants were.  She was surprised we all worked together to make this happen and that nobody tipped her off!

The tight deadline I was trying to meet was so that we could surprise Missy with the blanket at her baby shower.  Not only did I pull off the deadline, I handwashed, blocked, and air dried the finished blanket. I am proud to say that it even had time to fully dry before I needed to wrap it up for the shower.

Missy and Todd were indeed showered with gifts, many of them were lovingly handmade as was our collective blanket. Congratulations, Missy and Todd!

Knitting credits: Elise, Kate, Jill, Michele, Becky and me!

Can't wait to meet little Awesome.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Another Lamb's Lace Cardi

I liked it so much, I made it again!  That's right.  The same pattern and the same yarn, but this time I went with a cheery green.

Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton is full of loft and a joy to knit with. It seems to wear well, too.

Once again, I was impressed by the pattern and the way it incorporates all of the components so seamlessly (it is seamless, too!).

 Plus, thanks to the heavy worsted weight yarn, this project was on and off of my needles so quickly.

Thanks to Paul for taking the pictures.

Here are links to my previous version, Ravelry project page and the pattern.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Puppy Picking Day

Over the past 3 weeks we have been treated to text messages that include pictures of developing puppies in anticipation of this day: puppy picking day! This morning we once again traveled the back-roads of Winona County to visit some adorably fresh-eyed, wrinkly-skinned puppies.  Today was the day to choose a dog that will hopefully be our companion for the next 12+ years.  A dog we will train, socialize, exercise, snuggle, tend to, play with, watch over, and so much more. Thankfully we went into today confident that any puppy from this litter would be a great choice, which helped take some of the pressure off of us to make the "right" choice. Which one of these guys guys will join our family?  

At 3 weeks old, it is a bit early to know much about their personalities. They were all curious and friendly.  We watched them walk around, wrestle with each other and tire each other out.  At this age, it doesn't take much activity for them to get tuckered out. Without a lot of information about their personality, it was hard to make an informed choice. Although they were all charming, we ended up going with Side Splotch!  

We really liked the coloring of Side Splotch and think he is going to be very handsome when he grows up. He is also the largest of the litter, so we may have selected the alpha.  We are well aware that no matter which puppy we chose from this litter, he will need a lot of training, guidance and exercise to be able to live peacefully with Fanny, the chickens and us. We have high hopes for his life.  Paul sums up his plans for this dog as "legendary".

Side Splotch, the placeholder name, is already getting a bit outdated, since his side splotch is filling in.  We are working on a new name.

After we formally announced our pick to the breeder, the two brothers in the pen with our puppy immediately moved over to him and laid on top of him.  I think they are telling us he is not ready to go home yet!

We are looking forward to getting him home, but he has another month with his mom and siblings before he makes that transition.

The two older pups that have yet to be picked up were there to remind us that our snuggle bug will soon be older and BRIMMING with enthusiasm.

Once again we left feeling that Piper, our pup's mom, is an amazing dog.  We hope she passed on some of that awesomeness to our little guy!

In 4 short weeks our house will once again be home to a dog!

It was a good day.
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