New Year, New Sweater

After knitting a myriad of hats and other gifts for the holiday season, I wanted to change things up and work on a larger project. Over New Year’s, I cast on what I’m calling my Snowy Weather Sweater. I’m following the pattern, Ease by Alicia Plummer. It’s a raglan sweater, knit from the top down, with slight waist shaping. There are two neckline options for this pattern: a scoop neck or a high collar with a drawstring. At the moment I’m leaning toward the scoop neck, but I may change my mind.

ease sweater front decrease section of pattern

View of the sweater front, a little more than halfway through the decreases for waist shaping.

For the yarn, I chose Berroco Vintage in Douglas Fir. I love this colorway, it’s one of my favorite shades of green. I’ve had the yarn for this sweater since the summer, and it’s perfect for this cozy project. The yarn is very soft and it’s a good weight.

yarn balls and yarn bowl

Next skein wound and ready to go. Love using my yarn bowl, and the colors are so serene!

Working my gauge swatch, I had to make some adjustments. The pattern calls for size 10 needles, but I needed to drop down to a size 9. Also, my row gauge doesn’t line up, I’m about two rows short. Since this sweater is a single color in stockinette stitch, I don’t think this will cause too much of a problem. It may actually work out in my favor, since I’m petite and my previous sweater (knit using another pattern by the same designer) was a little too long for me. Nonetheless, I’ll need to keep it in mind as a go along, and make sure that the sweater length stays proportional.

gauge swatch berroco vintage

Worked three gauge swatches using a leftover skein from a different dye lot.

This sweater has been extraordinarily relaxing for me, and has made for the ideal project right now. I’ve been knitting while watching shows or commuting and am surprised at the quick progress. Though I have been a little distracted at times, and more than once needed to frag rows because I missed an increase or a decrease row.

Happy Knitting!

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The Constellation Quilt: Capricorn

On the last day of 2018, I completed one more square for the Constellation Quilt: Capricorn, the Goat. This is the tenth pattern block from the book Fancy Tiger Crafts: Constellations. (I cut the missing strip for Scorpio over the holidays, but have yet to sew it.)

capricorn block

The last block completed in 2018!!

After the crazy amount of strips to sew for the Sagittarius block, the Capricorn block felt much more manageable. It still took a few hours to sew together, but having a sewing session with your college bestie while binge-watching a show on NetFlicks isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon.

With the completion of the Capricorn block, I only have three blocks left in this quilt. It’s been slow and steady progress thus far, but I’m glad to have a long-term project like this one in the wings. Long-term projects are very relaxing, because when you’re in the midst of them it feels like you’re drifting in the ocean on a wave with no beginning and no end. At some point, the project reaches the end, and the satisfaction of a long-term project’s completion is unparalleled.

Happy Sewing!

This post is part of a series, check out other constellations Aries, Taurus, GeminiCancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, and Sagittarius!

Kanazawa

The second city we visited during our trip to Japan, Kanazawa is located on the west coast of Japan on the main island of Honshu (same as Tokyo). We traveled via shinkansen through the mountains from Tokyo to arrive at Kanazawa Station and spent the weekend here before journeying on. Less touristy than Tokyo and Kyoto, Kanazawa was a very walk-able city that seemed to be preparing for the 2020 Olympics with their excellent setup for welcoming foreign tourists with guides, maps, and buses. These are a few of my favorite sites from the city.

Kanazawa Castle Park

Kanazawa Castle Park was the first place we visited after arriving in the city. This park was large and expansive, and in its center was a beautifully restored castle. We could not walk inside the castle, but it was such a beautiful afternoon that we were more content roaming the grounds and exploring the small adjacent garden.

bridge to kanazawa castle

The sky was incredible as late afternoon turned to dusk.

We visited Kanazawa Castle Park the next day as well, on our way to the nearby Kenroku-en Garden. The sun was high in the sky and the park’s design didn’t include much shade, so it was very hot.

Kenroku-en

Kenroku-en Garden was one of my favorite places I visited on the entire trip. This garden is immensely beautiful and very easy to walk through. The name Kenroku-en means the Six Attributes Garden,  and it derives it’s name from the six qualities necessary for a superior garden including: spaciousness, artistic merit, majesty, abundant water, extensive views, and seclusion. The garden indeed met all these qualities.

Kenrokuen Garden pond 10.6.18 b

View of the central pond from the opposite shore of the famous lantern.

Central to the garden was a serene pond, that was so still it reflected the clouds and the trees beautifully upon its surface. There were large koi or carp fish in the pond too. Small streams flowed through the garden as well, adding to the quality of abundant water. The garden featured many small hills and outlets that provided majesty and extensive views. The overall design showcased the artistic merit of this garden.

kenrokuen lantern

The iconic lantern of Kenroku-en Garden, located near the main entrance (across from Kanazawa Castle Park) along the edge of the pond.

In regards to seclusion, my Fodor’s guide said that with all the tourists it’s hard to find that aspect here anymore. However, I disagree. Yes, this was the most touristy spot we visited in the entire city, but I didn’t find that the other people disturbed the sense of serenity I found here. The largest amount of tourists centered around the iconic lantern featured above, but many times on the path (especially in the more wooded areas) there would only be one or two other people besides me and my husband. The visitors to the garden were very quiet, because I think everyone was enjoying its beauty and didn’t want to mar the moment with noise.

Nishi Chaya District

We stumbled upon this neighborhood by accident on our way to Myoryu-ji Temple. This was one of the most architecturally stunning neighborhoods we saw on our trip. Similar to Kyoto’s famous Gion District’s architecture, the Nishi Chaya District features traditional building designs. Set back from the main road, the area was quiet and we could hear faint shamisen music (a shamisen is a traditional Japanese string instrument) emanating from the tea houses.

nishi chaya district

Beautiful buildings like these lined the street on both sides.

Myoryu-ji – The Temple of the Ninja

First of all, this Buddhist Temple has absolutely nothing to do with Ninjas. The temple earned this nickname because of its unique architecture that includes trap doors, hidden staircases, concealed entrances, pitfalls, and a seppuku room. Built during a time when the Shogunate prevented buildings from being taller than three stories, this temple is actually a four-story building disguised as a two-story. It features 23 rooms, 29 staircases, and seven levels (because many of the staircases are short and lead to floors in-between floors).

ninja temple

Street view of Myoryu-ji. An active site of worship, photos were not allowed inside this temple.

To visit this Temple we needed to take a tour, which was given only in Japanese. However, the guides provided us with an English pamphlet so we could follow along. Reservations by phone are required, but the helpful attendants at the Information Desk in Kanazawa Station booked our reservation for the tour upon arrival in the city.  We really enjoyed this tour, and for those interested in unique architecture and history this place is a must see!

Oyama Jinga Shrine

Our final morning in Kanazawa was rainy. We visited this shrine before catching our train to Kyoto. In the early morning hours and with the gentle rain, this shrine was one of the most peaceful places we visited on our trip. There was a small garden pond featuring some of the largest fish I’ve ever seen.  There were tiny bridges and narrow boards to walk across the water, which I absolutely loved. The architecture of the shrine was gorgeous, I loved the sloping lines of the rooftop and the shrine lanterns.

oyajima shrine

Serene in the morning rain, this was one of the most peaceful and beautiful shrines we visited.

 

Kanazawa was a magnificent city and will hold a special place in my heart. It is beautiful, with fantastic architecture and gardens. I am so happy that we visited this city, which is not on the traditional tourist path for a first visit to Japan.

Happy Travelling!

Quick Knit Beret

After finishing a slew of holiday knitting hats, I found myself with downtime needing to be filled with a new knitting project. I didn’t have a pattern or a project in mind, but I had the yarn. A few years ago, my aunt gifted me two skeins of Red Heart Boutique Midnight in Serenade. The yarn is a mix of burgundy tones with flecks of sparkle. Boutique Midnight is discontinued, but you can find a list of substitutes here.

Quick Knit Beret top

Top view of the beret

I started by knitting a 1.5 inch brim, then switched to a size 10 needle and started looking over the hat at eye level to “see” a pattern. I decided to try a beret style. My Vogue Knitting book states that berets are a knit with increases after the brim and decreases for the crown, so that’s what I tried. I knit a few increase rows and then knit straight for a few more rows before starting a slow-progressive decrease to the center of the crown.

Quick Knit Beret brim and underside

View of the brim and underside of the hat.

The project was very methodical and meditative to knit. Since I didn’t have my notebook, I kept pattern notes on the notepad on my phone as I went. I finished the beret in two days. It was a fast knit, but I had the dedicated knitting time.

I’m really pleased with the finished outcome of this hat, so I cast on a second one. I’m trying to consolidate my pattern notes and correct my mistakes that I compensated for in the previous version. Pattern writing is becoming a fun process for me.

Happy Knitting!

The Loon Alpine Hat – Another Fair Isle Ski Cap

The Loon Alpine Hat was a quick knit for my cousin for Christmas. A simple pattern of stockinette stitch with accent stitches in a contrasting color and basic ribbing for the brim. It’s a very warm hat, as the yarn is very thick. My cousin said she doesn’t like pom-poms, so I resisted the urge to top with a black and white pom-pom as a finisher.

Alpine Loon Hat 1

I love how accent knit stitches look like tiny hearts.

The hat is knit in worsted weight yarn on size 8 and 10 needles. I used Loops & Threads Impeccable in Black for the main color. The contrasting color, an off-white, is an unused skein of worsted weight wool yarn from my Nonna’s stash.  Since the two fibers felt similar to the touch and had a similar matte finish,  I thought they would work well together in a project.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this hat was that the two skeins were so puffy, the project didn’t fit in my usual travel knitting bag. I needed to keep them in a canvas shopping bag instead! I also thought the Loops and Threads yarn would have been a pull skein, but the center strand continuously got tangled in the center.

After successfully completing one Fair Isle style ski cap, my needles were anxious to try another. I had been mulling over this pattern for a few weeks trying to work it out on paper, but I really needed to see it in yarn to feel if it was working up the way I wanted. This hat was the first incarnation of my Loon Alpine Hat design sketch. I would like to tweak this hat pattern a few more times, now that I’ve seen a completed version. I’d like to try knitting it in lighter weight yarns to see how that affects the pattern, and I definitely want to try it with a pom-pom.

Happy Knitting!

2019 New Year’s Goals & Resolutions

At the start of the New Year, I like to make goals and resolutions for myself. Looking ahead to 2019, I set two goals and one resolution. I chose one goal for each knitting and sewing, and one resolution related to crafting.

Sewing Goal:  Finish the Constellation Quilt

The Constellation Quilt has been my major quilting project of the year. I have completed 8 out of 12 of the Zodiac Constellations thus far. After I finish the final four, I can assemble the panels for the quilt. At that point, I’ll connect with my friend for continued sewing lessons on how to assemble a quilt and sew the backing. I’ll also need to learn how to embroider with the sewing machine, which will provide the finishing touch for each constellation. I’m excited to learn these next steps, especially since our sewing circle has widened to include my mother, my cousin, my college roommate, and my brother’s girlfriend – we’re all taking lessons from our close family friend and it’s a great way to connect with each other.

Knitting Goal:  Knit the Expedition Sweater

When I first started knitting, my husband said the one thing he would really want me to knit him is a sweater. He’s been patiently waiting for my skills to improve enough for me to have the confidence to try. I had him browse sweaters on Ravelry and select his favorites. From those lists, I narrowed down to patterns that were within my skill level and would be a good fit for the type of yarn I want to use.

The Expedition Sweater by Todd Gocken has been in my Ravelry queue for over a year. I finally bought the pattern this December, and I’m looking forward to casting on soon. Ideally I’d like to finish it by June, in time for my husband’s birthday. The sweater will be challenging, but having already completed one sweater I think that it’s something I can manage. I need to select the color yarn for the pattern next; I’ve already decided I will knit it in Berroco Vintage (one of my personal favorite yarns).

Crafting Resolution:  Reduce my Yarn Stash by Half

My yarn stash has ballooned out of control, and I now have more skeins than I could possibly knit. Also, many of these skeins are single colors, which is difficult because when working a project I typically need more than one skein of any single type of yarn. Hence I’m afraid many of these skeins will go to waste or sit unused for years. In 2018, I resolved to not purchase yarn skeins unless I had a project that specifically called for yarn I didn’t have. This served well for not adding to the Yarn Stash, but hasn’t helped with dropping it.

I’d like to make room in my Yarn Stash for fibers I truly love and want to knit with, and  reclaim some precious storage space in my closet. I currently have yarn stored in three fabric bins, two plastic tubs, and one canvas bag. So my goal is to use up as much as I can of my current stash on this year’s projects, in order to reduce the Yarn Stash by half.

 

Happy New Year!

Reflections on 2018

As the year comes to close, I thought I’d look back on 2018 and summarize the highlights of what I’ve learned and what I’m most proud of accomplishing this year.

Learned How to Read a Chart

Up until this year, knitting charts were as foreign to me as a map in another language. Though I had a few patterns that were only in charts, I was too intimidated to try and learn them. This summer, I finally gave it a try, along with helpful advice from the shop owner in Plymouth, NH’s Inspire 2 Knit & Tea. Chart Knitting has opened up a whole new world of patterns for me, and it’s also helped open the door for pattern designing, which is something I really want to explore more.

Knit a Sweater

When I first started knitting in 2014, I never thought I would ever progress to the point of knitting a sweater. I was in awe of the women in my local knitting group who had finished multiple sweaters. Finally, this year I cast on my first sweater Keene with yarn I received as a birthday gift. Finishing Keene was one of my proudest knitting accomplishments to date. Even though I knit it without understanding how ease works in a sweater, it’s over-sized and cozy is perfect for a chilly winter day.

Learned to Knit Fair Isle Style

Color work in knitting has always been very captivating to me, but it wasn’t until this summer that I first started playing with colors as the driving element of the pattern. Previously, my experience with color was limited to changing out the entire skein to switch to the next shade, but Fair Isle style knitwear has really taken hold of my imagination. It’s fun to see how patterns come together, and I find myself sketching out color work patterns in my grid-lined notebook.

Completing Quilt Blocks

One of my longer-running projects this year has been the Constellation Quilt. Through working on this quilt, my sewing skills are improving. Continued practice is definitely helping, and with each finished block I’m inspired to start the next. I hadn’t expected the Constellation Quilt to be work-in-progress for as long as it has, but I like having a project that runs in the background like this. When I do have the chance to work on it, it’s very soothing and relaxing.

 

2018 was a year that brought new learning opportunities and I added skills to my knitting and sewing repertoire. I’m excited to see what 2019 will bring! 

Inside the Knitting Bag: Holiday Knitting Roundup

Just a few more days until Christmas and the holiday knitting is now complete. This year I knit more homemade presents than ever before. I started planning the projects early in the year, but didn’t start seriously knitting until October. Often I had multiple projects going at the same time, especially since some projects were more portable than others. In the end, catching a cold right before Christmas and being stuck on the couch allowed for just enough time to finish all the projects. Here’s a roundup of all the projects:

River Shawl

Made for: Mom

River Shawl for Mom

Knit in Berroco Folio yarn, this shawl is very soft and drapes so prettily.

A soft shawl knit in leftover skeins of yarn from previously knitting the same pattern (I way overestimated the amount of yarn required). I started this shawl in Japan and it was a portable project while commuting and visiting relatives.

 

Alpine Owl Hat

Made for: Mother-in-Law

Alpine Owl Hat

Pom or no pom? It was a tough decision.

A thick hat, this project was primarily worked on during my commute and also while visiting relatives.

 

Thor Helmet Hat

Made for: Nephew

Thor Hat side view

Soft and fun hat for nephew.

I like to knit fun hats for my nephews, and thought a superhero themed hat would be neat this year. The beanie was knit during commutes, but the wings required straight needles and concentration in the living room to achieve the shape I desired.

 

Hubby Socks

Made for: Hubby

Hubby Sock 1st Complete 1

This variegated yarn (Carlton Yarns) knits up in a really fun pattern!

Started in August, these socks have been on the coffee table for a few months. Due to the slippery needles, this project wasn’t very mobile (the few times I tried I always dropped stitches). It became the perfect project for movie nights.

 

Thor Helmet Hat

Made for: Nephew

Thor Hat front

So happy with how this hat came out, I knit two!!

The Thor helmet hat came out so cute, I decided to knit it twice.  Also, if both brothers have the same style hat, there will be less cause for arguments. Since I had already knit the hat once, I was able to work on the entire project during commutes. The only part completed in my living room was sewing the wings to the helmet.

 

Jayne Cobb Inspired Cunning Hat

Made for: Cousin

Jayne Cobb Cunning Hat

My husband helped by modeling this hat.

This project was originally started in the summer, and then sat for awhile. I needed to rework the ear flaps and make a pom pom, which I finally finished in December. Because of the focus required, I knit this one from the living room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve talked about all these projects in other posts, but just wanted to share one collected view of these finished objects because I’m so proud of how they all turned out! It’s been a fun time knitting these gifts for the holidays.

Happy Knitting and Happy Holidays!

The Constellation Quilt: Sagittarius

Another square for the Constellation Quilt to share: Sagittarius, the Archer. This is the ninth pattern block from the book Fancy Tiger Crafts: Constellations.

I realize that I’ve skipped the eighth block, Scorpio. When I went to sew Scorpio I realized that I forgot to cut one of the strips. Rather than pull all the materials out to cut that one strip, I decided to sew the Sagittarius block instead since all those pieces were ready to go.

Sagitarius block

This block comprised of so many small strips and stars!

Sagittarius was the most time-consuming block thus far. Assembling the strips and stars and sewing them all together took about three hours! There were a lot of thin strips involved in this block.

I ran into a similar situation as the Libra block where one of my star blocks seems to overlap another, which is not the case in the finished design in the book. I don’t understand why this has now happened twice while assembling these blocks. It is a little frustrating to me, because it feels as if the pattern instructions might be a little off.

I decided a while ago to not be a perfectionist about this quilt, because my goal is to learn the entire process of sewing a quilt. It would require a lot of work and effort to undo the stitches re-cut and resew to correct this minor error that is only noticeable to me. Since this quilt is not a gift, and stressing over perfection doesn’t contribute to my goal, I decided not to worry about it. I will however, be making notes in my pattern book for anytime I sew this Sagittarius and Libra blocks in the future.

Happy Sewing!

This post is part of a series, check out other constellations Aries, Taurus, GeminiCancer, Leo, Virgo, and Libra!

The Cunning Hat – Inspired by Jayne Cobb of Firefly

The television show Firefly has a cult classic following, and so does one particular character’s hat. In the show, Jayne Cobb receives a knit hat from his mother, which he says makes him look “cunning”. When I first started knitting a few years ago, my cousin asked me to make him one. At the time, creating such a hat was beyond me (I couldn’t even knit in the round at that point). But as my confidence improved, I was eager to give it a try earlier this year.

Jayne Cobb Cunning Hat

My husband helped by modeling this hat.

 

Slow Start

This hat was one of the first hats I ever tried writing a pattern for myself, but I was armed with inspiration and eager to knit. There was a lot of trial and error involved from start to finish. In the beginning, I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of estimating stitches needed for a cast on: resulting in the first hat being too large for a human-sized head. Undeterred, I used that finished piece to estimate gauge and sizing, and cast on again.

Jayne Cobb Cunning Hat from behind

View of the hat from behind. My husband is very tall, so I asked him to squat so I could take this picture.

The Ear Flap Dilemma

Succeeding in making a normal-sized hat this time, the next struggle was ear flaps. I tried first by casting on 10 stitches, knitting a triangle shape and sewing the flaps to the hat. It wasn’t a pretty look. Rather than the movie’s hat, this one looked more like an elf’s hat with red baubles. I set it aside for about six months, until the beginning of December getting ready to prep Christmas gifts.

Jayne Cobb Cunning Ear Flap

Picking up stitches from the brim rather than knitting separately made it easier to size appropriately.

I didn’t love the hat at this point, I thought it looked silly with those ridiculously small ear flaps. So on a Saturday sick at home on the couch, I ripped off the tiny ear flaps and picked up 26 stitches from the brim (more than double the original size) and tried again. I was so much happier with the result.

 

Finishing Touches

Jayne Cobb Cunning Pom Pom

One of the fluffiest pom poms I’ve made by hand so far!

The finishing touch was the pom pom. I had a tiny ball of orange, a slightly large amount of yellow, and an absurd amount of red yarn in my stash to work with. I wound the three colors around four fingers at the same time to create the pom pom. I tied it off with the yellow yarn and used that to affix it to the top of the hat; since the crown is knit in yellow and this would blend best. I trimmed the yarn to look fluffy and even.

I’m excited to see my cousin’s reaction on Christmas Eve. I plan on wrapping the hat and leaving a card with a movie quote to add a bit of fun.

Happy Knitting!