All In A Sunday

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I enjoy having a Sunday off. It’s not a common occurrence when you work in the glamorous world of retail, and when it happens you have to make the most of it. Having Sunday off is even better when your normally hectic schedule aligns with that of your best friend, and you can meet up for brunch. Yes, I’m a brunch person. I love starting my breakfast with a mimosa, digging in to a savory dish, and lingering over coffee, all while catching up on life’s latest trials and triumphs.

If you ever find yourself in St. Paul on a Sunday morning, make your way to Meritage. It’s French. It’s fabulous, and you won’t leave hungry. The restaurant itself is charming, and the food is divine.

IMG_2422We started with beignets, followed by eggs en coccotte, and finished with espresso pot de creme. Yes, there was coffee…a lot of strong coffee.

 

It's listed on the menu as the "Velvet Hammer".
It’s listed on the menu as the “Velvet Hammer”.

 

Fueled by a superb breakfast (and probably one-too-many cups of coffee), I decided to pop in to the Yarnery to pick up a much-needed circular needle to finish the neckline of my Snowfall Sweater. It’s turned out to be quite pretty, and if I can get the finishing wrapped up today, I’ll still have the chance to wear it before it gets too warm. (Reality check: I live in Minnesota. It won’t be “too warm” for at least two months.)

Just need to sew the saddles and underarm. Then it's the neckline for the win.
Just need to sew the saddles and underarm. Then it’s the neckline for the win.

 

As I walked down the street, I chanted in my head “I will not buy sock yarn. I will not buy sock yarn”. You can guess what I did.

IMG_3783In my defense, you can never have too many pairs of hand-knit socks. Oh, and I forgot that I was out of Euclan. After all, I’m going to block my sweater one last time after all is seamed up. The Fringe Supply Field Bag? Well, let’s just say I’ve been staring at it on the Fringe Supply Co. website for several months now. Yes, I justified it all.

Now it’s time to sign off and finish my sweater. The sooner I do that, the sooner I can knit up a pair of socks.

Oh, The Things You Learn

12439052_10153130744876642_3526328300172650788_nWhen I’m not knitting, I’m surfing the internet for knitting related material. This snippet that I found had me laughing. For all the proclamations that “knitting is the new yoga”,  this little piece of data has finally quantified the calories burned. Pass the Oreos, please.

Actual knitting has occurred as well. I completed my Aise. It’s light as a feather and oh so lovely. I was so intent on my knitting that I never noticed all the gorgeous shades of green until I photographed it this past weekend.

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It’s not a complicated pattern, which was what I needed as a break from some of the stranded colorwork that had me bogged down. It was my comfort project. No real thought. Just knitting and purling with an occasional row of eyelets. The yarn is from Sweet Georgia Yarns in the colorway Willow. I still have one more cake of it, but it’s heading to the stash for a little break. I’ll have to find the perfect project for the remainder at some point. In the meantime, it has company with some other lace-weight residents in the stash.

The Aise is so light, I’ll still be able to wear it this spring when the rest of my knits will be far too heavy on a sunny day. Enjoy the vanity shots!

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The Snowfall Sweater is well on its way too. I’ll share that with you soon.

 

Knitting With Broomsticks

IMG_3494Have you ever knit with size 50/25mm needles? I did this afternoon. It was like knitting with broomsticks. My neck, shoulders, and arms are killing me, but on the bright side I started and completed a blanket this afternoon. It was a project that offered instant gratification, and as a result I have a surprise gift for my friend, Cody, who is a fan of my knitwear. He had sent me a link to a designer who specializes in over-sized knits.

Ohhio's Grande Punto Blanket (via Ohhio.etsy.com)
Ohhio’s Grande Punto Blanket (via Ohhio.etsy.com)

 

If you haven’t heard of Ohhio, you need to check out her Etsy page. Anna Mo creates the most gorgeous blankets and accessories from super thick merino. It looks more like roving than spun yarn. While she creates most of her work by arm knitting, she does offer 64mm needles.

I’ve contemplated arm knitting. I’ve watched tutorials on YouTube. There’s one catch. You can’t put your work down to take a break. Your knitting is attached to you. Oh sure, this doesn’t seem like a big deal until you need to take a bathroom break. But just look at that photo. Who wouldn’t want to curl up with a blanket like that?

I guess it’s going on the “to do” list.

 

 

 

I’ve Been a Bad Knitter

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My “Aise”: in progress and gracefully resting on my vintage Pendleton blanket

 

I’ll admit it. I wanted to work on my sweater sleeve. I wanted to share the progress, but I’ve found myself sidetracked. Stress at the day job has been leaving me somewhat exhausted as of late, so I’ve fallen in to the rut of endless streaming and mindless knitting. “Aise” (pictured above) has become my bit of comfort knitting. It’s just endless rows of stockinette occasionally punctuated by eyelet. It’s light. It’s laceweight. It doesn’t demand increases, color changes, or tracking a chart. It’s easy, and I need a bit of easy right now.

Then, of course, there has been the absolute onslaught of knitting magazines. This is the high season for knitting, so everywhere I look there are new issues filled with yarny loveliness. I fell hard for one sweater in particular. It’s Jesie Ostermiller’s “Snowfall Sweater”.

Photo from Interweave's KnitScene Winter 2015 Issue
Photo from Interweave’s KnitScene Winter 2015 Issue

I mean, seriously. Look at it!! I thought about running out to the store to pick up the yarn as soon as I saw the photo. A wee smattering of snow I could handle! So far removed from the daunting “Lillehamer”. In the spirit of honesty, though, I have to admit that the sleeve isn’t that daunting once I’m in the zone. I just need to get to the zone.

In the meantime, I’ve also been daydreaming about making a life change. Photos like the ones posted by Benjamin Hole on Instagram certainly make the country life look charming. But just like city life, it’s got its fair share of trials and tribulations to be sure. Still, look at the lambs…

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I grabbed this screenshot off of Instagram. It makes me smile. It’s sweet. And I think we could all do with a little sweetness.

Where Did October Go?

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The mantle at the White Gull Inn. Fish Creek, WI

I’m back from my vacation, and I keep thinking “Where did October go?”. It’s hard to believe that November is already here. A real reminder was opening Sunday’s paper and seeing all the ads for Christmas candy. I just want to continue to celebrate Autumn in all its glory. Thankfully, the coming week promises to be mild and lovely, and there is still that sunny crispness in the air that Autumn brings.

Every year I head home for the last week in October…home to my mother’s house and home to my dearest friends (who at this point I consider more family than friends). It’s my time to relax and unwind. It’s my time to celebrate the season before the full force of the holidays hits.

IMG_3342I can’t help but be a bit festive this time of year, and that includes baking treats that range from granola to pumpkin and apple breads to these sweet jack o’lantern cookies. My grandmother made these for me every year when I was growing up, so I decided that it was time to revive the tradition. My piping skills may need improving, but they’re as tasty as ever.

As I always do, I made the drive up to Door County. For three years (post college) it was my home as was the White Gull Inn where I worked. I get to fulfill my eggs benedict craving while catching up with former coworkers and employers. Door County itself is a charming peninsula dotted with small towns, charming shops, and an abundance of produce stands. I absolutely love it there and always return home contemplating whether or not I should move back. It’s my slice of heaven. If you get the chance to go, do it. You’ll be in love too.

IMG_3363The day after my excursion I spent a few days with my friends in Madison. It was only appropriate that I drink a bit of Door County after being there.

Saturday was rainy, but we braved the weather to make our way around the farmers’ market at the capitol. It was the quickest trip we’ve ever made, but we left with baked goods and produce in hand. We decided to do some shopping, and spent a great deal of time in Sur La Table. There’s always something inspiring about kitchen stores. I think it’s the creativity that can happen in the kitchen, and my own sense of comfort of being in a kitchen. I left with a new stockpot that I’m absolutely mad about (cherry red Le Creuset) and a mug to match my sweater.

FullSizeRender-8Oh! And I did knit. I knocked out a pair of house slippers for my mom. And I continued to work on the sleeve of the Lillehammer. I am determined to get it done this year. So I’ll sign off with a photo of my progress because I really do have to get back to my knitting.

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Preparing for Autumn’s First Chill

FullSizeRender-4Some time back I had mentioned the Melrose Peacoat. I had indeed finished the seaming and blocking, and it was resting on the dress form awaiting its snaps and buttons. I finally found a free day that lined up with my friend, Christopher. We got together for a stitch ‘n’ bitch. He sewed, and I knit. He also did me the favor of lining up a crucial snap for me.

You know that crucial button or snap if you have any bustline at all….too high or too low, you inevitably get that ugly gap. It’s bad enough it happens on store bought sweaters, I wasn’t going to let it happen to one I had made.

I have to say, I love this cardigan. It’s got a great shape, and it’s the perfect weight for Fall. It’s warm enough on a mildly chilly day, but not so heavy that I get overheated wearing it indoors.

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It’s a bit too big on the mannequin, but perfect on me. And I adore the buttons I found for it.

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There’s a rose detail on the back as well.

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All in all, the perfect project.

Preparing for Winter

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In grade school you are taught that squirrels prepare for winter. They gather nuts and acorns and store them for the long, cold season ahead. Like the squirrel, knitters prepare for the winter to come. Late in summer you start to think about what is required to survive the onslaught on snow and wind and temperatures dipping below zero.

Several months ago, I knit wool socks at a feverish pace. Four brand new pair are stashed away, ready for the moment when it’s too cold to walk barefoot through the house. My feet will be nestled into what I believe is one of the greatest luxuries there is. The hand-knit sock while small in size is gigantic is the number of stitches. The Yarn Harlot wrote a stellar piece on this. She is absolutely right. That is why, when you receive a pair of hand-knits socks from a knitter, you know you are special. There’s a lot of work involved in those little garments. They aren’t to be given away frivolously.

Right now, I’m obsessed with knitting mittens. At the end of last winter, I acquired two new coats. One is vintage (a gift), and one I found on the sale rack at the department store. Both require knitted accessories, and the stranded mitten is the best for both warmth and style. If you’re on Ravelry, you’ve heard of Spilly Jane Knits. Her designs are whimsical and eye-catching. I love them. It’s hard to pick just one. So I picked three. Through the end of August, she had discounted her mitten patterns 50%. They’re just so darn cute. I started the “Polska” mittens immediately. I’m Polish and also own a piece or two of the pottery, so this one was a no-brainer. I dove right in, and they knit up rather quickly.

tumblr_nt9d6u2DJM1r1fjzlo1_1280Thankfully, my friend Christopher was able to lend me a hand (literally) so I could take a picture.

Each mitten took about a week to knit, and that wasn’t even knitting at a steady pace. They probably would have been done sooner if I didn’t actually have to go to the day job. Today I finally got around to photographing both of them. While I’m not hoping for snow anytime soon, I have to confess I’m really looking forward to wearing these.

tumblr_nviuwzuXLh1r1fjzlo1_1280 tumblr_nviuwzuXLh1r1fjzlo2_1280And one more because the tumbler really drives home the point.

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The Seam’s the Thing

imageFinally. Tackling one of the bigger projects. I started knitting the “Melrose Peacoat” as a quick project. Knitting it was in fact very quick. Lamb’s Pride Bulky on US 10 needles makes for a speedy knit. The road block is really the seaming. It’s not fun. And I have to be in the mood. Also, if it’s black or navy, it needs to be done in daylight. Artificial light won’t do. You can see the reasons for procrastination mounting.

I had to commit and commit I did. I sequestered myself away from the television and anything else that might distract me. Once I found my groove, the task actually proved to be relaxing. Yes, starting the sleeve cap always seems a bit fiddly, but then everything seems to line up. My stitches are invisible. It looks as if a real knitter did it.Yes, I do realize I’m a real knitter, but it’s taken loads of practice to get my seams to not look like something a first grader stitched together.

It’s headed to the sink for a leisurely bath and then will be laid out to dry. Even though I blocked all the pieces separately, I like to do a final blocking to settle in the seams. The finished product looks more polished and professional.

The only thing left will be to sew the buttons and snaps. For that I may enlist Christopher (fellow designer and best friend) to eyeball the button alignment. The trick is to make sure that particular button is centered on your bust so there’s no weird gaping. If you’re a woman, you’ll understand. Somehow, store-bought sweaters never seem to get it right. It’s either too high or too low, and you get the weird gap…as if your sweater doesn’t fit correctly. I promise to share photos as soon as it is done.

In the meantime, I’ll distract myself with a little autumn-theme project. It’s already August, and I need to get my pumpkins in a row (hint, hint).

 

In The Heat Of Summer

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I am not a fan of Summer. I do not like to sweat. The pools of sweat that gather in my bra are unbearable. Makeup melts off as soon as it’s applied. I am the girl with the pale skin that burns. Summer and I are far from compatible. The heat and humidity of recent days made that perfectly clear. I’ve wanted desperately to knit. There’s a cardigan that requires finishing. There are the sleeves to my Dale “Lillehammer” that need to be knit. But the thought of touching wool in this heat stops me in my tracks. Yes, there is air-conditioning, but there is something about the overwhelming heat and humidity that knocks me out. Cooler days are coming, but in the meantime I need a solution that will keep my fingers moving. Streaming series and movies seems pointless if I can’t knit.

Here’s the point at which I’ll make another confession. I am a binge-watcher. I stream everything. It’s a habit that started when I was knitting an evening gown. A friend suggested that I watch a series instead of queuing up individual movies. She was right, and now I’m hooked. Also, I’m in that free trial period for Showtime, so there has been some intense binge-watching.

Then it hits me. The simplest thing to knit is the one thing friends always request.

Dishcloths are perfect. They are small and knit in cotton. The pattern is repetitive, so I can simply knit without overheating my already summer heat-addled brain. I love using “Grandmother’s Favorite” by Traditional Design. I discovered it on Ravelry a couple of years ago when my mother wanted a different dishcloth pattern to knit. Even though the other projects need to be finished, I don’t feel guilty. At some point, someone is going to ask if I have time to knit up a few. Now, I’ll have some stashed for Christmas requests. More importantly, my fingers will be kept busy till it cools down enough to pick up wool again.

IMG_2920Here’s to wishing for cooler days. The forecast looks good, so hopefully I can share the knitting progress of bigger projects.

Saturday Free Day

IMG_2902Today was that rarest of days…a Saturday off. In retail, it hardly ever happens, but by some strange alchemy of scheduling I was free. Better yet, so was my best friend. At her suggestion we met up at the Colossal Cafe on Grand Avenue. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of breakfast. You say “brunch”. I say “where”. I love to have breakfast out. It’s probably because I find it impossible to motivate myself to make anything beyond french press coffee in the morning. This also explains the vast stash of biscotti at home.

We started off by sharing a mammoth savory scone of green onion and bleu cheese. I chose to have my breakfast sandwich wrapped in a flapjack. That and a couple cups of coffee had me set for the day. Our goal was to hit up out favorite designer resale shop for their end of summer sale. I didn’t expect to find much. I’m not a summer wardrobe person. Thankfully my friend spotted a stunning J. Crew cashmere cardigan for me, and I found a buttery soft Coach bag. Normally, I steer clear of Coach, but this one was so lovely. No obnoxious C’s covering it at all! Just gorgeous leather in pale blue. The leather and lining were perfection.

IMG_2906My mission was complete! Better yet, all were 50% off the ticketed price. I now remember why I love resale shopping. The thrill of the bargain is a heady drug.

Bargains in hand, my best friend invited me over for cider. I should clarify at this point that she is a certified wine specialist and a sommelier in training. In other words, she knows the good stuff and has it. We started off with cidre imported from France.

IMG_2903After polishing that off, we followed it up with something bubbly and sparkling. Yes, it was the ideal summer day, spent in the best way. For now, I’m a little too tipsy to knit. But no worries. I’ll soon have some yarny knitted goodness to share.