Monday, January 21, 2013

Lopi Sweater Number Two

 I've joined the KAL at Fancy Tiger to make another Lopi Sweater, this one with the worsted weight yarn I bought in Iceland. I opted to do it top down instead of bottom up, which means I've already completed the interesting part.... Boo!

That does however make it more portable, not needing to have four colors of yarn on hand. I'm also planning to knit the sleeves bottom up and graft them on, so they will remain highly portable projects. School starts this week, I need to make sure I have projects for lecture time! Who knows how I'll get projects finished after I graduate.
The original look for this pattern is black sweater with shades of gray in the yoke, I opted for something more colorful, a lovely merlot and a gradient of mauves. I couldn't find a third transition color, so the light pink there is a scrap yarn dredged out of the bottom of my craft closet, good thing I never clean that out right?

Hopefully I can wrap this up by early February, I expect it will be cold enough to want it before the winter is over! What's your latest project? How do you stay motivated to knit stockinette for 15 inches?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tea Time

Every morning my "Mr Coffee" bubbles and steams, but it doesn't have roast beans inside. Personally I've never like coffee, and the caffeine doesn't seem to make me more productive.

I prefer to fill my carafe with herbs and spices, and let the infusion wake me up by scalding my tongue. (Pro-tip, not actually a good way to wake up.) Officially any soaked herb water other than Camellia sinensis is called a tisane, and I prefer the herbal stuff. It may seem rather daunting and complex to find good, inexpensive, delicious herbal concoctions, but you may be able to start in your kitchen and backyard.

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Chamomile is a common tea, but it need not be relegated to bedtime! Besides calming, it helps fever, upset stomach, and menstrual cramps. It is antiseptic and makes a great external wash for wounds, bug bites and rashes. I find it likes to mix with many different flavors, thyme, berries, lemon balm, and rose all mix nicely with chamomile.

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Elderflowers are delicate enchanting blooms with a heady scent and light flavor. Many a fine liquor and jam is flavored with elderflower. Elderflower bushes are said to host fairies, and you should always ask the Elder plant's permission to pick anything from it. The flowers help with fevers and lung problems, and sore throats. I like Elderflower by itself for the delicate taste.

Sage is truly an unappreciated herb, it belongs in more than sausages and stuffing! It is antiseptic and drying, so it can be used to calm sweating and mucous. It's a wonderful gargle for sore throats. It helps slow diarrhea. I like it best with elderberry or rosehips to give it a fruity edge.
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Lavender is a classic culinary and medicinal herb. It's calming and soothing effects pair nicely with it's musty heady smell. The oil is slightly antiseptic and soothes cuts and burns. As a tea it calms and relaxes, allays headaches and nausea. I like it best with other flowers, like chamomile and rose, but lavender shines quite well on it's own!

The best herb teas are made with water just under boiling, and left to infuse for quite a while. Use a little local honey if you like it sweet, the medicinal effects of honey will enhance the medicinal effects of most herbs. More importantly it's tasty! What is your drink of choice in the morning?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Squared Up

 I'm certain that everyone who has ever met me knows I knit, usually in front of them in fact. What's worse than forgetting to bring your knitting with you? But I also know crochet. That is, I knew exactly two stitches - chain, and single crochet.

I just joined a year-long crochet afghan class, and already doubled by repertoire of crochet skills! Each month we will be learning a new square, and then sewing them together to make a mixed blanket. It's like a sampler that keeps you warm!

I bought all the yarns already - 10 different shades of green. After all my years of art classes and yarn dying the safest color combo for me is still to not combo at all ...

You locals can still join the class if you want to dedicate yourself to a year-long project (they may be offering the classes month by month also, for those of you who are afraid of commitment.) Check it out at Fancy Tiger.

Are you expanding your craft in the new year?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Wool Moths, Stash Busting.

 Two great tastes that go great together...?
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I'd rather not ponder the way that wool moths taste, but being a wool lover teaches you entirely too much about their life cycle. Not to mention quite a bit about their taste (I swear, it's always the expensive stuff!) I've had moth problems around the house for a bit now, the biggest issue being my messy tendencies and the random dirty wool sock hiding behind furniture etc. I've been working to control them, and recently cleaned and organized the craft closet as part of the drive. Here's what I've learned.

1.) Keep it clean.
Wool moths aren't actually after the fiber, they are interested in eating sweat, skin particles and dirt off the wool. The fiber is just collateral damage. Be sure you wash sweaters, hand-knits, yarn and fibers before storing. If you're worried about the cost of cleaning all your woolens, the standard washing machine always has a dedicates cycle, run it with cold water and lay-out or hang items to dry. Hanging can stretch knits so I try to lay floppy pieces on a towel. There are a few sweaters I dry clean, but most of my wool collection gets it's own laundry cycle.

2.) Confuse 'em
 Many people recommend ceder, lavender, and cloves to "repel" moths. This items don't really stop a determined moth, they make it hard for moths to smell the dirty bits they are trying to eat. If your goods are clean and your stinky product fresh it will be hard for a female moth to find a good spot to lay eggs.

3.) Make it hard to get to.
The easiest way to prevent moths is to limit their access. Sealing bags and bins are a huge help. You must however beware of closing in the infestation, if a moth is happy to reproduce on your favorite sweater it won't even try to migrate. This leads to the next tip...

4.) Don't let woolens go dormant.
The more often you are disturbing the woolens the more likely you will find an infestation early. I also have squished many an adult and larva that was preparing to cause havoc. Don't let that bag in the back corner go untouched for too long.

5.) Freeze the Bastards.
After infestation starts the only thing to do is use physics. It's been cold enough here for me to use the back porch as an auxiliary freezer, so I've been cycling all my bins of yarn and bags of fleece in and out. Freezing does not kill the eggs, so you need to get a good deep freeze, then a thaw, then another freeze to kill newly hatched larva. With a freezer the standard plan is 1-2 weeks in, 1-2 weeks out, repeat as necessary.
I discovered a lovely black alpaca fleece (gifted by my awesome man, *SOB*) was heavily infested. I tossed it on the back porch and began going thru my entire stash. I found many things that were untouched, many slightly damaged, and a few totally ruined. I tied and rewound skeins that were damaged so they will be ready to use, and made plans for a whole lot of stuff! I plied a few of the damaged yarns for ease of use as well. This event has forced me to create a long stash-busting list of what I have and what I'm planning to do with it!

I've been installing moth traps as well, but they are only a part of a larger pest-management plan. They killed many males who were flitting around the closet, but in the infested fleece there was a self-sustaining colony. Those Bastards. I hope that none of you have to experience a craft panic like this, what steps do you take to protect precious yarns?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Own Little Piece of the Woods

Ever since getting a wood-burning tool every piece of unadorned lumber has become a potential canvas. Everything in the garden can be labeled, utilitarian can become decorative, and sticks in the yard have a chance at becoming something more!

I had gathered an ash branch from the tree in my front yard, and a pine branch while I was out cutting limbs to be my Yule Log. My boy's folks have some power tools, so I cut these branches into neat little disk on my last trip to their house. A very simple way to get nice rounds, I personally like the bark on them as well.

I burned the outline of a pine on all the pine disk, and a tall ash on the ash disks. I know, super creative of me. Now I have items to use for crafts, jewelry, or to burn as offerings. I've already begun seeking deadfall from other types of trees...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Finds - A Touch of Color.

This time of year it's a little gray and faded outside. The world is sleeping, the plants are dormant, the sun light is even a little pale. To combat the urge to hibernate (sadly in this modern world we can't just stop doing everything in the winter.) I like to keep a few touches of bright rich colors in my life. Here's some brilliant red goods from around Denver...

Send a bright greeting with cards from IdeaChic.
Add some color to the decor of your rooms, throw pillow by SvetaStyle
Or, if you wanted a wild and whimsical touch check out these mushrooms from FeltLikeIt. (Who also, incedently, made me some amazingly cute vegetable ornaments!)
Take some color with you wherever you go, to share the love! Wallet by SnapDragonStyle.
Put a touch of color on your body to really wake up the winter doldrums, from WinterGardenStudios.
Start a new project with some exciting yarns, handspun by WildAboutKnit.
If you need a cuddly buddy to help survive the harsh weather, how about this adoreable friend made by WarmPersonality?

I love the winter snows, but I need some splashes o brightness to make it through the dark time of the year. What do you do to add cheer to your home in the winter?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One Sweater Done!

Finished my first Lopi sweater this week, complete with terrifically dramatic steeking! It's the Riddari sweater from the Icelandic Knits book, but I made a cardigan instead of a pull-over. This wool is so heavy that it's best worn as a bike-riding-on-a-twenty-degree-night sweater. I tried that out last night, it worked. My face was cold as hell tho, 

I used vintage buttons and a single sheep's tooth at the top. I was tempted to buy full sets of buttons for both sweaters when in Iceland, but they were pricey so I bought one for each sweater. That's right, I have two sweaters worth of yarn! I start my second Lopi sweater this next week to take part in a KAL at Fancy Tiger. Let's get sweatered!

What's the scariest crafty thing you've ever done?