Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter is here


To be filed under Be Careful What You Wish For—it snowed.  A lot.  And as the wind blows, I keep having to move the same four-foot drift of snow away from the chicken house door as my glasses fog up and my back reminds me of my advancing years.  But it sure does look pretty!  Dean and I sat beside the window in a cafe yesterday, drinking hot coffee and sharing a crossword puzzle as the huge flakes drifted down against the gray landscape.  The whole world outside that window was dripping with snow, the trees laden and drooping and frosted.  Spectacular.  And then we came home and shoveled some more.   I asked for some winter, and hoo boy!  It came.  Best enjoyed from the warm side of a steamed-up cafe window. 


This is the Infinity Cowl from this book, made yesterday in support of this.  If you’re looking for a way to let them know you care, check it out.

Friday, December 28, 2012



Post-holiday, my thoughts turn to de-cluttering.  We are somewhat short on square footage here at the Cozy Things cottage, and in direct proportion to the number of college students in residence, the stuff, especially the bathroom counter stuff, begins to multiply. 

What do I do?  I fight back with knitting! 


These are the Stripey Washbags (which sounds like an inventive insult along the lines of so’s your old man, and which is also a good name for a band—the Hilton/Bloomington is pleased to welcome The Stripey Washbags!) from this book.  You hang them on the doorknob and then fill them with all the loose stuff that gathers around the sink; brushes and hair ties and contact lens solution and toothpaste.  Brilliant!  


Hopefully, these will help keep us from turning completely feral.  The end of the year is so indolent around here, with cookies for breakfast and too much tv, and there’s always someone scavenging in the kitchen, and I got so lazy yesterday that I forgot about a dentist appointment (Kath, I’m so sorry!  I will reschedule!) and thank goodness that always ends in a burst of renewed motivation to Get It Together for the new year.  Starting now, with washbags.  Tidy that bathroom. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tonal Color Block Blanket

It’s windy.
And it snowed.  (Yay!)
I finished a blanket.
Like I said, it’s pretty windy.
Dark, too.  December in the North.
And that’s when my teeth started chattering.  Let’s go inside.
This blanket was born purely of my personal need to have something to knit that I didn’t have to look at so I could watch Christmas movies.  Tim Allen!  I love you! 
I wanted to work with color, but didn’t feel like doing a lot of thinking or planning or math-ing.  I thought I could just choose two skeins of worsted weight yarn in colors that looked good together and work stripes in stockinette until they ran out.  Then I’d choose the next two colors and do the same thing, and keep doing that until there was a blanket, working in a leisurely fashion over the course of the long dark season, with the comfort of knitting always at hand and cozily across my lap.  What I did instead is choose all eighteen colors in one trip to the yarn store and then race to finish it like I was being chased.  I suppose that is my way.  So here it is already. 
Beginning with the red and deep pink pairing, I cast 100 stitches on a US 7 circular needle and worked eighteen total stripes of eight rows each in stockinette stitch, breaking the yarn at each color change and weaving the ends in at the back as I went to save (a lot of) aggravation at the end.  I made three color blocks per panel, and three panels total.  I even—are you ready for this?—kept track of which yarns I used.  So I can tell you that, for once.  Here’s the list:
Patons Classic Wool Worsted #00230 “Bright Red”
Patons Classic Wool Worsted #77531 “Currant”
Berroco Vintage #5120 (turquoise)
Patons Classic Wool Worsted #77219 “Seafoam”
Berroco Vintage #5121 (gold)
Berroco Vintage #5111 (butter)
Ella Rae Classic #19 (light purple)
Ella Rae Classic #157 (lilac heather)
Patons Classic Wool Worsted #77223 “Lemongrass”
Vanna’s Choice #170 “Pea Green”
Plymouth Galway #169 (light peach)
Plymouth Galway #67 (orange)
Plymouth Galway #170 (pale pink)
Ella Rae Classic #54 (medium pink)
Berroco Vintage # 5167 (wine)
Ella Rae Classic #43 (fuschia)
Plymouth Galway #187 (faded denim)
Berroco Vintabge #5117 (medium denim)
For the single crochet and picot border, I used Patons Classic “Winter White”, Ella Rae Classic 03 (tan) and Plymouth Galway #172 (light blue) and a second ball of Plymouth Galway #170 and Patons Classic “Lemongrass”.
That edge curled up like a cinnamon roll until I gave it a big blast with the steam iron and showed it who was boss. 
A cozy new blanket, just in time.  Brr. 

[edit:  Somebody asked about how this is pieced together and I totally lost the email, so I'll add that info here--this was knit in three big strips, with only two long seams joining them in the middle.  I started with the red/deep pink pairing and when that yarn ran out, I just joined in the first blue and kept going.  At the end of that strip, after the purple section, I bound it off and set it aside, and cast on for the yellow pairing, and so on.  When I had three long, wide strips, I sewed them together using mattress stitch and then added the edging.  Then I steam-blocked the edges (a LOT; this thing really wanted to curl up) and steamed the sewn seams to make them lie nice and flat.  That's it!  Thank you for your question.  :) ]

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When you get to Craftyville, turn left


My thrifting pal Michelle and I saw this project in Country Living magazine, or maybe it was Country Homes and Interiors; I can’t remember which, and we both thought it was completely bonkers but also a little bit awesome.  It is—are you ready for this?—a Christmas tree made out of lampshades. 


Right?  It leans way more toward crazy if you add all the ball fringe and other doodads you know you have lying around the place:


Man, that makes me laugh so hard!  It looks like a wedding cake I decorated with my feet.  Honestly, I can’t decide whether this thing is a complete failure, or whether I love it with my whole being.  It is totally insane.  Ridiculous.  It is lampshade skeletons covered with junk.  And yet, it is making me smile. 


As if it isn’t way too crafty around here already, now I have this thing, which is smothered in furbelows, squatting on the table beside the front door.  Goodness.  But I laugh my head off every time I look at it, which is not for nothing, you know what I mean? 

Because I am who I am, I already had some thrift store lampshades about the place, and the boy was more than happy to peel the yucky fabric off them to reveal their wire skeletons for me.  I wrapped fabric scraps around the bones, tying on a new piece when I came to the end, and when all the metal was covered, I stacked them up.  Then I decked it out in every kind of scrap trim I could scrounge and fell over laughing at myself.  It felt pretty good. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012



Sometimes, there is no solace or comfort.  After the terrible events of last Friday, I curled up with my yarn basket and hid from the news.  All I can do is send love, which feels like it is not nearly enough, and to wish you all, everywhere, peace and joy. 

Nearly-finished blankets are in abundance here at Cozy Things.  I’m thinking about edgings now, which is a good sign that the finish line is in sight.  Also, I’m assessing the stash for balance, and I find I am shockingly low on green.  What?  Must buy yarn. 

There will be knitting here, and crochet, and probably Barbra Streisand singing that frantically happy version of Jingle Bells, and cookie baking, and they tell me it may snow.  I will hug my safe and healthy children and be blessed. 

Friday, December 14, 2012



My honest plan for the day is to clean the house.  Really.  I have a bucket all ready, and I’m going to clean this place.  Any minute now.  Just let me finish my row. 

I’m having about ten ideas for a striped sweater using blanket leftovers.  Tunic-length cardigan with giant shawl collar and crochet edging!  Long coat with hood and bell sleeves!  Tight cardi with three-quarter sleeves and jewel neckline! 

Stop it.  I’m cleaning.  Today.  Seriously! 


It’s too tempting.  Maybe I’ll clean tomorrow. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lazy Blanket, part one


I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll say it again:  I really need to knit.  I have concluded that no matter how many hatssweatersscarvesblankets I have, and even though I don’t need any more, I will still knit them, and this is not the guilt trip it used to be.  I am not capping my capacity for blanketing, not any more.  I will buy the yarn and I will knit things, and I will crochet up the leftovers into granny squares and other doodads and there will be no guilt, because this is what I do.  Not only are there more good ideas for things to make with yarn than there are blackberries in the bramble, but the plain old need to be knitting something is tremendous around here.  Do you feel this too?  Do you continue to make beautiful things you don’t need?  Is this the line between craft and art? 


This is the laziest blanket design I could possibly have made up.  In fact, it is so lazy that it scarcely bears discussion.  It totally sacrifices form for function—the function in this case being the focus of my need to be knitting something, and, come to think of it, the laziness itself is a function of this design, too—and I realized way early on in the process of this two things:  first, I have chosen a pattern that requires by design that I buy a bunch of new yarn, and second, that I could have gotten a lot more bang (both in design and in economy) if I had only taken four seconds of time to plan a little.  And yet, I powered forth with the knitting, because I am—and I mean this in all sincerity—absolutely compelled to knit.  Compelled.   I can’t even stand to wait four seconds.  And in my mind, as I knit, I considered the other idea that I could have used here if I had spent four seconds in planning and realized that there is much yarn and with luck many years yet left to me, and all blankets will eventually be knit.   That next one will probably be really amazing and I’m really excited about it, which spurs me to knit madly on this one in pursuit of the opportunity to start the next one, which then isn’t lazy at all, but rather more, um, maybe focused is the word I’m looking for?  I keep thinking that at some point I’ll lose interest in all this yarn, but so far, there’s no sign of that. 


I am already—and I realize this is ridiculous—halfway done with this.  It is half done.  I know. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fairy Tale Jacket


After waiting three days for the rain to clear so I could photograph this sweater (what, is this Seattle or something?) I gave up and trudged helplessly into the gloom with the camera.  Such flat, gray light.  Which, it turns out, is adding considerably to the already ethereal quality of the project.  It is sucking all the color out of things, but in rather a dreamy way, and I’m a little bit okay with it.

The decision to re-knit the mistake sleeve was the right one.  It hurt at the time, oh yes, but I’m glad I did it.  This design is such an elaborate confection of elements, such a riot of things to do and stuff to look at.   From a technical standpoint, there’s a bit of a challenge in the contrast between the two fabrics.  The knitted parts are very soft and drape-y, and the crocheted bodice feels, by comparison, a bit dense and thick, so making the sleeves fit nicely in the armholes required some thinking.  In the original, Sidsel joined the squares as she went, which goes a long way toward ameliorating the typically firm qualities of granny square crochet.  I decided to join the squares by crocheting them together on the wrong side, and the result is quite sturdy, but I think it all drapes together very nicely.  It’s in the blocking, friends.  It’s all in the blocking.   


Goodness, I love it.  It’s like Sgt. Pepper Joins the Circus.  Or Sgt. Pepper Gets a Package From His Mom.   Or Sgt. Pepper Falls Asleep in a Room Full of Industrious Elves.   (There’s a collection of short stories in here somewhere.  A future children’s holiday classic, I’m pretty sure.  Feel free to take this idea and run with it.) 

As I’ve said before, this pattern is only available in Norwegian, and I think only in hard/print copy as well, which is why I undertook the challenge of trying to adapt it on my own.  I simply applied what knowledge I have accumulated in the course of my lifetime of knitting and crocheting, and built a garment based on Sidsel’s brilliant and beautiful design.  She tells me she hopes to include this pattern in a forthcoming book, which will (fingers crossed) possibly be published in English.  Let us all hope very hard!  If it happens to be published in a way I can get my hands on, I can tell you my closet will shortly thereafter be bursting with color.  Have a look at her website, even if you can’t read Norwegian.  So inspiring. 


Doesn’t that just look fantastic?  This should be the cover shot for my imaginary upcoming album “a Cozy Northwoods Christmas” with eight-piece all-elf backing band, and featuring me on the autoharp.  Songs include “It Must Be Snowing Somewhere” and “Is That the Last Piece of Kuchen?”  (Who am I kidding?  I can’t stop knitting long enough to do that.  You should, though.  Another free idea, if you want it.)


I used Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool in Oatmeal (this comes in huge skeins, and I used two) on a US 7 needle for the knitted parts, and worsted weight scraps in a whole bunch of unidentifiable colors and yarns on a US F hook for the crocheted parts. 

I’d like to wear this over a knee-length jersey dress, with cabled tights and red clogs. That is so cozy.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pom pom wreath


Inspired by this and this, I finally knew what to do with my overflowing bowl of pom poms. 





The pom poms and the little bundle of silk flowers are sewn on—nothing is glued.  So when the rose leaves wither and I decide to take this down, the pom poms can be rescued and recycled. 

Right after I hung it on the door, it started to snow.