Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Secrets Revealed - Part I

So, I very recently participated in two swaps on Ravelry - one for the Malabrigo Swap group, and another for the Urban Outfitters Knits swap group. I have had to sit and keep all of the surprise secrets under wraps until the presents arrive at their destinations and are fully opened - and they're finally there! Kristen, the recipient of the package from the UO swap, has finally opened it, so now I can post all the delicious pictures you know I couldn't resist taking!

Now, you've all seen the strawberry basket I made for her - I couldn't resist showing it off in the last post. But you never would have known that it was the first of many fruit-themed items I sent her for the swap! Sometimes it's hardest to pick a theme for your package, simply because by nature, a swap is sending out presents to someone you've never met. Of course, you get to stalk them a bit via the internet, and learn a little bit about them through questionnaires and group threads - and that all helps. But still, you have to think of just the perfect thing that you'd send them to brighten up their day.

Kristen, for instance, seemed to really like Japanese culture. Most specifically, I felt like she draws a lot of inspiration from cutesy kawaii and manga, so I wanted to do something really adorable. Then I found these stitch markers at Dragon Lady Designs on Etsy, and knew exactly what my theme would be! So I set about finding other things to go in with it - and what present that has a fruit theme is complete without something tasty to eat while unwrapping it?

My first thought was to buy some of those Runt candies, you know, the ones that are shaped like little bananas and strawberries and oranges and are subsequently colored and sometimes don't have the correct flavor? I mean, who doesn't love candy that looks like what it's supposed to taste like? (Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of them before they went in the package.) While at the grocery buying the Runts, I couldn't walk past these most delicous-looking taffies:

I have personally sampled this kind to make sure they weren't the nasty, too-hard kind, or the delicious but dangerous very-sticky kind. And they were perfect. The flavors were even good! So I bought about a zillion of them and decided to pack them in both swap packages.

Of course, no swap package would be finished without adding yarn. And what swap package could I possibly send out that didn't contain at least one skein of Malabrigo? Although Malabrigo did offer me several options for fruit themed color (Strawberry Fields, for instance), I decided to jump off a bitty cliff and buy Citrus, even though Kristen said in her swap questionnaire that she didn't like orange. And we all know how I feel about orange!

(I'm pretty sure that if it had been you, you wouldn't be able to resist this yarn, either.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Tisket, A Tasket

A strawberry basket. This is my first crochet project, and let me say, that I much prefer knitting. Crochet hurts my hands and although the results were lovely, I don't know when I'll be next attempting this project. The beads took a very long time to sew on, as well.

Hopefully, the recipient likes it!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gifts from the Emerald City

When I was very little, one of my favorite movies was the Disney addition, "Return to Oz." It didn't have the press of the original, or Judy Garland, or even another famous actress - but I would not doubt to say that the set was better, the story more interesting and the actors more talented. The costumes were exquisite and even now, now that I own it on DVD, it is one of my favorite movies. There is nothing like a movie Jim Henson helped produce, is there?

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Dorothy, imprisoned underground by the Gnome King, has to release her friends from his Emerald City collection by touching green things in a treasure room. All members of the Emerald City turn into things the color of their home when they are transformed, and Dorothy uses this as a strategy to recover her friends and help them escape the Gnome King's clutches.

Therefore, you may understand why the color green, especially globes, glasses, vases and dishes, hold as special a place in my heart as the movie does. Somehow, I almost always feel like a green object has a connection to me, like an old friend that I had to spend time to recover.

I found some new friends in the antique store this weekend: a set of beautiful hand-blown apothecary jars! My current mission of dorm renovation includes new, more attractive storage solutions for my stash. These jars are the new homes for yarn scraps and buttons, but I couldn't resist showing them off before getting filled, too.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Swap Package!

Okay, so while I am probably the worst and most slow person to get swap packages out ever (I just want to make sure they're perfect before getting sent, is all!) my partners from both the Malabrigo and UO (Urban Outfitters group on Ravelry) are like, super amazing at getting everything out on time and making me feel guilty for taking so damn long.

Yesterday, I came home from a horrible, no good, very bad day at work to this:

Two skeins of Noro Silk Garden Lite in colorway 2017. It's hard to believe, whenever I see Noro, that these are the same colorway. I'm sure I'll be able to tell better while knitting them up. Into what, I have no idea - the package also included a pattern for an 'Orca Tails' scarf, but I haven't felt much like scarves lately. This Noro will probably sit for awhile anyway - I have like, a million things to complete (including the Great Mitten Finishing!)

Along with the Noro was an abalone shawl pin - absolutely gorgeous! I recognized the material right away because my father, who is sort of obsessed with guitars, is always going on and on about various materials used in the making of them. Abalone is used most commonly in guitar detailing for the fretboard (the part you put your fingers on). Guitarsmiths use them for the little dots and sometimes to make little animals or fancy whatevers. Anyway, it's very pretty, as you can see:

So basically, now that I've gotten both packages, my goal is to send out the two from my house today. Hopefully. If I can get finished with the crochet project I took on for one. But I'm going to try, really hard.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to Spinning

So, I never really posted anything on here about it, but I have been learning to spin. In fact, I actually spun my first yarn a long while ago - some very greasy gunky stuff that ended up becoming an art project that will never be shown to anyone ever. After I'd used up all my roving (and patience, really), I put the drop spindles away and focused on knitting again, claiming that 'due to the yarn mandate, I had no money with which to buy any roving.'

Well, obviously, someone heard that silent plea - Molly (Riprap on Ravelry), sent me some gorgeous lovely wonderful corriedale yesterday - it's from Louet. I guess she had started spinning and just decided it wasn't her thing, so thought I might want to give it a go again! Yesterday, I came home not only to find the Magic Yarn Ball package, but to find a fluffy bunch of gorgeous bright and dark teal roving:

I'm really excited to try some neat spinning techniques. Molly suggested in her note that I mix the two rovings (the one you see in the picture is just the darkest one. Did you know that roving is remarkably hard to photograph? I had no idea it moved so quickly - every time I took a picture it was blurry!) This is a great idea, since I want the ending yarn to be plied, and I'm going to try and make some fairly thin singles this time around. Who knows? Maybe I'll have enough yarn to make something cool!

Molly knows that I love hedgehogs, too, so the card she sent me had the cutest little guy on the front. I think I'll name him Boris.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sealed Signed Delivered Yours

Oh my goodness. Warning - this is a very picture-heavy (and therefore long) post! (But everything is work safe, no worries!)

Is there anything more fulfilling than coming home from a HORRIBLY long day at work and discovering, on your placemat, something that you didn't even know was coming? Even better - something that you knew was coming, but not when, and were very very excited to get? If you've ever had such an experience, then you must have been a member of the last Malabrigo Swap. Because I know of no other addiction that can yield such satisfactory and surprising results!

My swap partner this round - Barb, sent me pretty much the most gorgeous, wonderful package ever. No, seriously. There was a thirty dollar minimum on this swap and she went overboard. Above and beyond in the stalking and searching and locating and exact picking - it's fantastic. Okay, so although there is never enough chatter and praise for this wonderful event, my wonderful partner, or this wonderful gift - or better yet, the wonderfulness that is Ravelry - I will move on and show off all the awesome knitting swag.

First off, I opened the package to reveal three skeins of yarn and the Magic Yarn Ball (MYB - it's a ball of yarn that contains hidden prizes!) The MYB was made of Seleccion Privada Malabrigo Merino Worsted, in a colorway simply dubbed 'S'. It's a maze of yellows, greens, and blues, and I'm not sure what I'll make with it - but whatever it is, it'll be fantastic. With the MYB was a skein of Hollyhock Malabrigo Merino Worsted. Hollyhock is bright purple-pink and I'm pretty sure it will be a cowl. Or something else. I haven't actually decided yet.

After that was a skein (yes, actually, there is more yarn!) of Andy's Merino II. This colorway was 'Shamrock', a very very bright green and yellow (I'm pretty sure Barb had a lot of fun picking out bright colors). I've used this yarn before for a Koolhaas I knit a long time ago for Bennette - which he's sure to love, but hasn't been sent yet. I still like touching it too much, and he's in North Carolina and won't need a hat anytime soon anyway. He's down with it. I asked. But now that I have my own skein, his might actually make it's way into the mail!

Okay, so there was one last skein of yarn, and perhaps I was saving the most beautiful for last. I just purchased my first laceweight fairly recently - from Sandra Singh, and it's Malabrigo. Before that, I had never really considered laceweight. I mean, I don't wear shawls or anything. And it is hard to knit with really tiny needles. Maybe I was holding off because I was afraid. But after Barb sent me some Laceweight from No Two Snowflakes, I am going to have to get on the up and up with lace knitters. This stuff is gorgeous. In fact, even the packaging was gorgeous.

On the back of the tag, it says:
"No Two Snowflakes presents one-of-a-kind handmade art for individuals. Each piece and product has its own unique story, and no two will ever be exactly the same!"
Item: 'Unfurled'
Material: Wool/Silk
Yardage: 440 yards
Weight: Heavy Laceweight

This stuff is incredibly soft and fantastic and gorgeous and everything. I love it.

So, what else could I do, after seeing all this, but unravel the MYB? And discover two types of ribbon from The Ribbon Jar. The first is a lovely silk in a blue dye, and the second was a chartreuse and chocolate Harlequin pattern!

As well as some buttons! First, some lovely brass buttons, then some little bitty bone buttons! I'm pretty sure some of them will get used for my Coraline Pattern - which Barb also bought and sent!

She also included a cookie-baking book by Martha Stewart! I haven't had a moment to go through it yet, but it looks divine and I can't wait to begin baking - if I could only stop having 8 hour work days! Thank you so much, Barb - it's gorgeous and wonderful and I had the best time unraveling everything! I look forward to finding something to do with all this yarn!

Oh, and PS - there's another little something that came in the mail today from Molly, but you'll just have to wait and find out tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

All Thumbs - Part I of the Great Mitten Finishing

Yes. That's right.

I have a horrible habit.

I can never finish a pair of mittens. It's either the thumbs, or the cuffs, or the weaving in the ends that goes somehow astray, and they end up lost in the bottom of my knitting basket. Or, because I know I'll have so much trouble getting them finished, I never end up starting them. There they sit, waiting as either yarn or almost-mitten for so long that people forget to ask for them. Until now.

Today is the day of reckoning for these mittens. The Great Mitten Finishing has begun. And to prove that I'm really doing it, there's going to be a list in the sidebar. A list of all the mittens that I have yet to finish. And pictures of the ones that are finished will be added to the 'Finished Objects' section. Until the whole thing will be absorbed by fresh, finished mittens.

So, what's on the list first? Some mittens that have been sitting in waiting for almost a year. Yes, seriously. A year. Ellie Phantom's Squirrely Swedish Mittens were a pattern I couldn't wait to get started. My sister had been asking for mittens for months (we have seriously cold weather here in Iowa), and finally I had broken down and bought the yarn, meaning for them to be a birthday present. Her birthday is in August. Then they became a Christmas present. Christmas 2007. And they still weren't finished. Then spring came and I wasn't interested in knitting those mittens anymore, instead deferring to several different projects.

I don't know if it was the colorwork. There's something horribly annoying about those little stars. Or if it was just the tiny needles - they hurt my hands, after awhile, you know. Or those stupid thumbs, that ended up being the only things left on the mittens to finish. But finally, on June 30, 2008, just one day before it became yet *another* month that these mittens were left unfinished, I sat down and did those thumbs. And now it's a bug, and I have to finish all these mittens that I've promised and I'm giving myself a deadline. I have two months (July and August) to finish all these mitten projects.

Wish me luck.