Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Yarn Haul

Today, I visited the Marketplace at Vogue Knitting Live. It was in Las Vegas - right down the street, actually, at the Red Rock Resort & Casino.
I initially wanted to take a class, but the schedule just didn't work out for me. But that's ok! I still got to shop for yarn!
All the goods!
Let's take a closer look, shall we?

After a couple rounds of browsing the various booths, I ducked into 3GreenSisters to look at bags. Yes, I know, I have plenty of project bags. So what? This gorgeous bag was calling my name.
See? It's orange! My favorite color! And it stands up on its own. (Nevermind the tilted tripod - I was too excited to get pictures, I didn't want to waste time.)
And it has pockets inside, too!

Next, I found myself at Mimi's Needle Basket, looking for a new circular to knit socks. I really like the Chiagoo circular I already have, so picking up a second was a no-brainer. And I saw this nifty sock ruler, so I thought I'd give it a try. One of the knitters in the booth showed me hers, along with the sock she was working on, and it looks like something that come in handy.

At this point, I popped over to the Fitting Station to get my current measurements taken. I received a card with the measurements, plus a schematic to remind me which numbers are which. (I'm not about the share that, though...let's just say, the baby weight hasn't gone anywhere.)

And then, yarn. Wonderful wooly fibers in all sorts of colors! I could have gone a bit crazy. I almost did. But, I'd like to actually knit (or crochet) with everything, so I tried to be conservative.

I found this gradient pack, and paired with black it should look absolutely gorgeous. It's from Greenwood Fiberworks, and if I were a spinner I'd have gone nuts in that shop. So much roving, so much color! As it happens, I prefer having my yarn ready-to-knit.
I may need to re-shoot these pictures; it decided to rain this afternoon, so the light just isn't the greatest. The gradient pack is called "Tiger Lily", and it is the same base (Star Dust) as the black.

I stopped into Invictus Yarns, and fell in love with this so so so soft merino-silk blend, fittingly called Poetry.

It is destined to be a shawl(ette). The colorway is "Charred", and it is a lavender-gray.

Of course, I stopped by my LYS to show support! If you're ever in Vegas and want to shop for yarn, visit Mirage Fiber Arts. I picked up a skein of Hedgehog Fibers sock yarn in "Copper Penny", and a cake of Freia Ombre Fingering in "Aloha".
And, yes, I intend to actually knit socks. That's a story for another post, though.

Oh, and I did pick up a few freebies:
A couple of pinback buttons (currently residing on another project bag) and a snag-free stitch marker.

And, finally, I spent some time in the Forbidden Woolery booth, chatting about Captain America, Marvel movies, and where color inspiration comes from.
Two skeins of Fortitude (a fingering-weight merino) in "Veiled Scandal" - how could I pass up a name like that? And a skein of Justice (a fingering-weight Merino/Cashmere/Nylon sock blend) in "Water Bender" - yes, that's from Avatar.

One more thing I want to share - this amazing installation by Gina Rose Gallina.

Everything is crocheted! The dress, the wig, the flowers, the bees and bugs, even the fence posts.

All in all, I had a lot of fun. I would definitely visit again - hopefully I'll manage to get a whole weekend, and take a class or two.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weekend Wind-Up

I didn't get much time with a hook or needles this weekend. Instead, I planted some vegetables. 

Rather than build raised garden beds (Tim would never agree to that, anyway), I'm trying my hand at container gardening. I found this planter box at Lowe's, then visited Star Nursery for the potting mix and seedlings. I have bush beans, cucumbers, and basil and oregano in this box.
If I get one cucumber, I'll call it success. 
These are carrots. Or at least, they will be. I hope. 

Strawberries. I have very low expectations for these, but the notes at Star Nursery said this variety is well suited to containers, so I'm hopeful.

And then, I decided I wanted something ornamental for the patio. 
Eventually, I'll build a stand for this one. 

Who knows how this will turn out. Gardening in Las Vegas isn't the same as gardening elsewhere, but then again I haven't really gardened elsewhere. We'll see! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Finished a project, woo-hoo!

That market bag I started on Sunday? It's done.
I should have paid more attention to handle placement, and I totally will with the next attempt. But this will still work to carry home some groceries.
I need another six or so, I think. I have a few already, and I use them when I shop at Sprouts and Trader Joe's, but I seldom bring them to Smith's when I do my heavy grocery shopping. I don't have enough to fit all the groceries, yet, and I've noticed that if you bring two reusable bags, the bagger attempts to fit all the groceries in those two bags - even when it is painfully obvious that it just won't work.
This was made using three balls of Lily Sugar'n Cream, and I think that cleared out the rest of my stash for cheap dishcloth cotton. Thank goodness. This stuff wears like iron, but crocheting with it is not fun at all.
I'm still writing up the pattern for it, stay tuned!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Weekend Wind-up

So here's what the weekend produced:
This scarf, which is pretty short but very colorful.
It's the Lizard pattern by Jasmin Räsänen, which is easily adjustable to any gauge and works up very quickly. The yarn is Premier Yarns Serenity Garden Sport, and I used a 5.0mm hook. 
Yeah ok the scarf is barely long enough to wrap around my neck once, but have you ever been to Las Vegas? I was planning on this being my "keep cool" scarf this summer (the kind of scarf you either wear to mop up your sweat, or dip in water to keep your neck cool). It doesn't need to be long, it just needs to be cheerful. 

I've made considerable progress on this filet crochet project. I think I'm about 20% through it by now; when it's finished, it will be either a wall hanging (if I ever manage to mount and frame it) or (more likely) a doily on top of the sideboard. I'm using KnitPicks Curio crochet thread, and a 1.75mm hook.

And finally, I've started on a market bag.
The inspiration to start this one came from the Earth Day Crochet Along in one of the Ravelry groups I belong to. (Please note: if you are not a member of Ravelry, you won't be able to view any of the forums. The website is free to join, though, and is a wonderful database of yarns, crochet/knit patterns, and projects.) 
Anyway, the CAL is not a particular pattern, but more of a general theme. Reusable items, like market bags and dishcloths, or recycled/upcycled items such as plarn (yarn made from plastic bags) or reclaimed yarn from old sweaters. 
I've been meaning to make some more market bags; I would like to make a shift to reusable bags when grocery shopping, and my local Smith's gives me bonus loyalty points when I bring my own bags. So I decided this CAL was a perfect reason to design one! (Wait, did I say "design"? Why, yes I did!)
So it's started, and (hopefully) I'll have it completed by next weekend, and once it's completed I'll have a pattern to share. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Stroller Blanket

I was perusing one of my (many) stitch dictionaries the other day, and for some reason this pattern jumped out at me and said "hey! Make me into a blanket!" As fate would have it, I had two skeins of acrylic yarn that was purchased specifically to become a stroller blanket. A few evenings with Netflix (currently watching Supernatural and Parks & Recreation), and we have a new blanket, perfect for keeping Grant warm on our walks around the neighborhood. (The other stroller blanket is red, green, and white, and was adorable in December, but now that it's March...it's time for something a bit more spring-like.)(Although, if the weather continues as it has been, we may not need any extra layers outside.)
Finished size is 27" by 22" - perfect lap size for a toddler!

Here's a closeup of the stitch pattern:
The color isn't coming through very well, it's a spring green. The yarn is Big Twist Baby in "Baby Sweetpea".

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hooks! So many hooks...

In honor of National Crochet Month...

I have a lot of crochet hooks. And I mean a lot. Some are full sets, but most are individuals that I've picked up over the years. I realized, as I was writing another Amazon review for another set of hooks that I'd returned, that I'm really picky about them...and yet I keep buying more.
So here they are. All the ones I can find, anyway...I'm sure there are a few hiding out in a box that I've yet to unpack (yes, we moved into this house 7 months ago. No, I'm not done unpacking.)
My Collection
My favorites are the Tulip Etimo hooks. I bought the gray one in Japan; the pink one came from Amazon. These hooks are sooo comfortable to work with! Unfortunately, my attempts to purchase a full set haven't panned out. I'm not sure why, but the handles on the hooks in the sets I've purchased all had a different texture to them that made my skin crawl. (I actually have a third Tulip hook...but it's in hiding at the moment.)
Tulip Etimo
Clover makes two different hooks, the Amour and the Soft Touch. The Amour line has a squishy handle that feels kind of gummy to the touch. I seldom use the larger hooks; the steel hooks have the same texture, but they are much more comfortable than using a steel hook without a handle. I don't typically work with thread for a long period, though. The Soft Touch is a lot more comfortable, and this is my go-to 4.5mm hook.
Clover Amour (top 2) and Soft Touch (bottom) 
Why yes, that's a filet crochet thread project on the green hook. I didn't want them to get separated.
Clover Amour Steel
These are Knitter's Pride Waves hooks. I compare them most to the Clover Soft Touch, in terms of both design and comfort. I like the color-coded handles, too.
Knitter's Pride
My Addi Swing hooks - these look strange, I know, and they take a bit of getting used to. But they are pretty comfortable, especially if you tend to switch your hold between pencil and knife frequently. My biggest complaint is how short the shaft is - but, having found a hook with a similar handle design, and longer shaft, I can tell you that it's better to use a different hook if you plan to make a lot of trebles or double-trebles - a longer shaft just makes it ridiculous to work with.
Addi Swing
KnitPicks Harmonies and Knitter's Pride Dreamz - they're essentially the same hooks, although Knitter's Pride color-codes theirs. Laminated birch, in-line hook, and comfortable to work with for an extended time. The tips are very round, though, so if you need a lot of precision, these aren't the best choice. They're awesome for granny squares, though!
KnitPicks Harmonie/Caspian (multi) and Knitter's Pride Dreamz (red)
I found this set on Amazon. It's a pretty good value, although not all of the hooks are aligned to the handles - for instance, I won't be using the 4.5mm from this set, which is a pity because otherwise the hooks are very comfortable! I've been using the 5.0mm for quite a while, now. And it comes with a 7.0mm hook, which isn't a common size to find!
Athena's Elementals
This HiyaHiya hook came in an amigurumi kit. I'm not a fan. It's very smooth, yes; yarn slides right over it without snagging. But it's still an aluminum hook. Nothing special about it. It isn't even comfortable to hold.
HiyaHiya
And I bought this hook at my local yarn shop. It's very pretty to look at, comfortable to hold...but not particularly nice to crochet with. The hook part tends to catch on the yarn.
(I don't remember the brand name, honestly.)
Most of these hooks came from my mom's house. Half of them probably came from her mom's house. And they're probably familiar to you: good ol' Boye and Susan Bates. Inexpensive, easy to find at any Michael's or JoAnn's, and great for learning with. Beyond that? Well, let's just say these hooks don't see a lot of yarn. They're perfectly usable, but I have so many nicer, more comfortable hooks to crochet with! And, when you're working on a project for hours at a time, you want to use the tools that don't hurt your hand after ten minutes. (There are probably a couple hooks from the 100 yen shops, too.)
The rest of the hooks

Monday, March 6, 2017

{ insert eyeroll here }

So, I made this recipe for dinner tonight.

Why? Well, my kids love mac & cheese (like all kids). And I had beef thawed, I was going to make...something...I think dirty rice? I don't actually remember. And that was part of the problem. I had a pound of grass-fed ground beef in the freezer, which I moved to the fridge last night to thaw, and then today I just could.not.remember the plan for it. And I didn't feel like making anything that required me to do more than throw ingredients in a pan. Bonus points for not having to measure.
I didn't even take a picture of it. Let's be honest, something called "Mac & Cheese Skillet Lasagna" is not going to look pretty. Even the picture on the website looks like a pile of mac & cheese with some mozzarella sprinkled on top. (Which is appropriate, since that's essentially what this is.)
It was delicious. Total comfort food. Grant wolfed down three (toddler-sized) portions. I had an entire bowl. I even had to shoo the cat away from the table (ok, that's a normal occurence, but still).

And then, it hit me. The guilt. The modern-day parenting guilt. I had fed my children hamburger meat and boxed dinner. Ok, sure, I could remind myself that it was grass-fed beef, and I used organic milk and butter, and even Kraft has been making their marketing push about how their new recipe is all-natural. There was nothing inherently wrong with the food I'd prepared, and it tasted good, and my kids ate it. That should be a victory, right?

And yet.

One of these days, I'll get over the guilt of not being the pinterest-perfect, always-from-scratch cook.