Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Friday, December 31, 2004

My New Blue Sweater

Success! At last... well, almost. I finally finished MY blue sweater, and aside from the fact that it was intended to be for my husband, it turned out really well. I will get pictures up on the blog when I get a chance to have my husband take some. It turned out to be the nicest looking thing I've knit so far. The problem with it being too small actually stems from my bad measuring job of my husband. Looking back on it, I didn't consider ease at all. Of course, I wasn't making a skin-tight club shirt, but that's essentially what I measured for. So, if you like the tight sweater look, I suppose it would look great on my husband. But, since neither of us are into that, it's my new sweater. And, I happily replace the first adult sweater I ever made with this new beauty. I've been itching to retire the other one for a while now. As I've mentioned before, it's made of yarns I don't like very well (inexperience can make you purchase yarns you'd never wear if you only knew better). It's also too big, because the yarns didn't hold their shape well, and I was pregnant when I finished it. It's light-weight and warm, so I can always wear it around the house. But, now I have a brand new, navy blue, alpaca, v-neck to proudly wear indoors or out.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Trip to Lyon

Well, we spent a nice few days with my husband's family in Lyon. It's a nice city. Of course, for me, living in the country probably makes any city seem nice to visit from time to time. It even snowed. That was great, since none of us had seen snow in the past 3 years. The kids loved it. They made and destroyed a little snowman. I also took a nice (childless) trip into a shopping district to visit a yarn shop called La Droguerie. It's a national chain that has okay yarns and lots of fun accessories for making everything from felted slippers to jewelry. There is one in the city I live nearest to, but the last time I was there was a couple of years ago. With my two little ones and the fact that they're making Montpellier into the largest pedestrian city in Europe (punishment for those who must drive in and park), trips into the city are about as fun as getting a bikini wax. So, being surrounding by potential babysitting family members in Lyon, I jumped at the chance to go to a yarn shop. This was both a good idea and a huge mistake. I actually stood in line for an hour and a half (apparently, it's always like that in there), and there wasn't even a Disneyland ride at the end of my wait (on the bright side, imagine such a wait with the kids). I was patient, and got several fun yarns for new projects I've been wanting to do (not to mention an enormous urge to make jewelry). Of course, all this means I need to finish those that are still on needles.

The blue hubbie-sweater-most-likely-turned-my-sweater is almost done. I meant to finish it in Lyon but left my extra skein at home. I did get some cute little socks made for my 1-year-old son. For my first attempt at socks without a pattern, I was pleased at the outcome.

Getting home yesterday afternoon, I found a package awaiting me in the mail. How exciting! It was a Christmas present from my sweet mommy. She sent me a set of Denise Interchangeable Needles. If you don't know what these are, you must find out. Click on the link on the right side of this website for their page. I haven't been able to use them yet, but I will soon need to in order to do the neck on that blue sweater. I'll give a full review after trying them out, but they look great so far. A very original idea and something that's been on my wish list for a while.

In other fun knitting news, I did an experiment of dyeing some strands of natural merino wool with food coloring. I'm really happy with the results. I used mostly green with a couple drops of yellow and came up with a vibrant limey green. We don't have Kool Aid or Jello here, so straight food coloring is the way to go. I'll have to find myself a source of some thing other than the red, yellow and green available in the cake decorating section of the supermarket.

Check below for pictures of the new additions to my stash. And, though I could ramble on a while longer, my daughter is dying to go ride her new Christmas bike. And, anyway, do you really want to read more of my lengthy ramblings?

Wool yarn from La Droguerie for v-neck sweater

Here's the last of the evidence of my sins at La Droguerie. This yarn is all 100% wool, but in different yarn types. The solids are softer than the tweed, but I really liked the look of the tweed. My plan is to make a v-neck sweater with them. The top 2/3 to 3/4 of the sweater body will be done in the tweed, then, the bottom will be done in horizontal stripes. I did two swatches of stripes to see which I prefered the look of. I like the varied sized stripes much more than the swatch with stripes of all the same width. So, it will be done in the varied sized stripes. There will also be stripes on the sleeve cuffs and most likely around the collar as well, but I haven't came to a final decision on that one yet. I'm excited to see the finished product on this one since I really like the colors together. I'm hoping that tweed will get softer with washing, though.

100% linen yarn from La Droguerie for tank

I've had an itch to try knitting linen for a really long time. Of course, it helps that I love its light airiness for the heat of the summer. My original thought was to make stripes, but now I'm leaning toward making some large blocks of different sizes in the three colors. The main color will be the green. I'm excited to try it. The girl at the shop said it's a bit stiff in the beginning but with age it gets softer and very comfy (definitely my kind of garment).

Alpaca yarn from La Droguerie for baby booties

I got just a tiny bit of this yarn so I can make some baby booties for the baby girl my sister-in-law is expecting. I haven't started sketching out any plans for a pattern yet, but my idea is to make some little booties that look like tennis shoes. I thought that would be a fun change from the usual baby booties.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Well, a very Merry Christmas to you all. We're having a good one so far. We awoke this morning to no gifts where our three-year-old expected to find them and had loads of fun watching her not see them right in front of her face for a good ten minutes. She was pleased with her new bike and all of its fun accessories. I think I'd like to have a bell and a little baby doll seat for my own. Our one-year-old was happy with his toddler play'n ride car. Now everyone has their very own vehicle. I, of course, did not finish the infamous hubbie sweater in time for him to open it today. And, sadly, it is looking more and more like it will be my sweater after all. Was that subconscious, you think? I'm actually rather disappointed. He doesn't look like a medium, but according the measurements I made before diving into this project, that's the size I should have knit. And, that is the size it turned out to be, but it's also apparently not the size he is. It's not toooooo far off, and I'm wondering if it's worth it to try to stretch it a bit when I block it. I'll see when I wash it how well it stretches when wet. If it pulls into the right size well, perfect, if not, I'll shape more for my size. Heavy sigh.

On a happier note, though, I was given a nice travel book for a weekend trip to London. No tickets included, but it came with the promise of a little trip in the near future. So exciting! I really liked London the one time I was there years ago. And, little does my sweet gift-giving husband know what he has gotten himself into. There are some yarn shops I'd love to take a gander at while there! Not that I need a bigger stash of goodies, but I certainly wouldn't turn any down if they tried to force themselves on me.

Well, my non-traditional Christmas dinner appears to be ready (pork with potatoes, onions, currants and carrots). I guess I'll go wake the family. All the gift-giving excitement knocked everybody out. Or, should I just let them sleep and enjoy some more quiet knitting time? Oh, bad Mommy - we've got to eat some time.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Joys of Having Kids

Not only are kids great for blaming things on - inappropriate noise or smells made by bodily functions in public, anything you've lost, the messy state of your house - there are other hidden joys of parenthood, too. Recent example: the Periwinkle Poncho. While I was knitting it, my daughter told me repeatedly how pretty it was, and said, "Mommy, you're good at that." It's enough to bring tears to any mother's eyes. Now that it's done, she refuses to wear it. She's a sweet little brat, isn't she? Alas, I suppose I'll have to pass it on to her cousin as a Christmas gift. Well, I thought it was cute. Such are the joys of having children.

Oh, and, of course, you get to play with their toys while they crawl around in the box.

Not Much Sleeping Going On

I certainly didn't sleep as much as I would have liked last night, but I did get a lot of knitting done. I've gotten the first sleeve of the hubbie sweater almost totally done. Yay! I never realized how boring great expanses of ribbing can get after hours and hours and hours and hours of doing it. I'm not a huge fan of the look of cable or intarsia, but I'm ready to give it a try just to break the monotony. Would it look funny to put a random cable here and there amidst the seas of ribbing on my husband's sweater? He'd think I had gone made half-way through. Well, I just need to hang in there and keep going on. It will soon be over. Then, I think I'll make that little cross-your-heart vest for my daughter. Doing all this ribbing has given me some bursts of creativity. I've got some lace ideas I want to try on that little vest. Can't wait! Stay tuned for some pictures of my husband in his new sweater after Christmas. Cross your fingers that it fits, please.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

French Funnies

From time to time, I may decide to share some non-knitting fun things about my life as an American living in France. The most recent is a real quickie to describe, but it's pretty funny to an English speaking mind, so I'll share. They're doing road work on a main entrance area to my home, so we get to sit in traffic a bit and watch the road crew do their work. And, what is the name written all over the company's equipment? SCAM. No, I'm not kidding. What kind of message are they trying to send here, I wonder. Do you really want them doing work for you??

Getting There!

I'm so excited. I think this sweater may turn out to be the nicest piece work I've done so far. I finished the torso, and I did a preliminary stitch-up (just tied some off-color yarn in strategic places) to see how everything fits together. I'll have my husband try it on tomorrow to see the fit. I hope it fits him. If not, at least it fits me pretty nicely (I tried it on to see if it was at least even - always a great fear of mine). I could have just made myself a really nice v-neck sweater. At least I didn't make it to masculine. It could actually nicely replace an old, navy blue, cotton sweater I love.

Oh yippee! My hubbie just got out of bed (poor thing can't sleep with this flu he's got), and I took advantage of it to see the fit of the body. I'm happy to announce it fits him. It's tighter on him than it was on me, but we'll just say it hugs his manly muscles! He seemed as pleased as he could be considering how he feels today. He probably won't believe his eyes when he sees it's finally done. That sweater's been a long time coming. What did I say? I bought that yarn 2 years ago? Maybe even longer.

Well, as my mom would say, I'm just tickled pink. That'll be something to give me sweet dreams tonight. Then, back to work on the arms tomorrow morning. No time to spare. I've got three days and counting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Furious Christmas Knitting

For the past couple of days, I have been knitting at as close to mach speed as I can get. Why the maniacal pace? I must finish that sweater for my husband! It has been going well, considering the fact that I'm also taking care of a sick family (both kids and now the hubbie). I'm almost done with the front (I am at v-neck level), which will leave the sleeves. Those always seem to be quick compared to the body.

I'm excited about getting the body done. I'm going to stitch it together in the major places and have him slip in on to make sure it fits. I hope I won't need to frog any of it. That would suck! Everyone cross your fingers, or do a little dance to whichever gods are necessary in hopes that it will turn out okay. That would be a great Christmas gift. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be expecting that.

Well, let's get back in there! I'll keep you updated as to my progress.

Monday, December 20, 2004

My Goal This Week...

I've decided to make it my goal to finish my husband's sweater in time for Christmas. I've worked some more on it, and it seems to go so quickly (maybe all my recent knitting has gotten my speed a bit faster) that I may just be able to do it. So, let's all cross our fingers and see if it can be done. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep my mind from straying to other projects in the meantime. Such lack of will-power! Wish me luck and "God-speed."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

We Come in Peace "Glitten"

Originally uploaded by Reder Family.
Here is the first of the mittens I've been working on today. I spent a nice day of mostly only knitting, and this is the result. It's really warm, and I've called it a glitten because it's shaped like a mitten, but it's more form-fitting, like a glove. That makes it look a bit like some alien hand glove (hence the, "we come in peace"), but I like the practicality of it. It makes it easier to pick things up and use your hands without taking the thing off.

I think a fun thing to do with it would be to make some green and black ones and go all out on the alien motif. Maybe for later. For now, I'll have to get to work on doing the left hand.

Periwinkle Poncho

Periwinkle Poncho
Originally uploaded by Reder Family.
Here's a little shot of the poncho I made for my 3-year-old. Took no time at all. I would have taken a picture of her in it, but I don't want to torture her since she's sick (and she tried it on several times last night while I was playing with the finishing of it).

I originally had a pink ribbon woven vertically in two places down the middle, but my husband liked it better plain. I'm still not sure I agree, though. Maybe I'll post a picture of it decorated a bit later and let others give their opinions.

Knitting Some Mittens

Well, I'm such an impatient person that I couldn't wait to find the set of five double-pointed needles I thought I needed to make some mittens. Instead, I started playing around with a set of four I had in a slightly smaller gauge. Turns out they work out okay. When I got to the point where I would need a fifth needle, I just put some stitches on a holder. Works out okay, and I've got one mitten mostly finished now. I'm happy with the way they're coming along since I am not using a pattern and have never made mittens or gloves before. I rather enjoy fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants knitting. I hate counting stitches and rows, so it's nice not to use a pattern. I'll attempt to get a picture of a finished mitten up soon, as well as the finished poncho.

Husband's Sweater

Originally uploaded by Reder Family.
This is a version of a sweater in the first Stitch 'N Bitch book. I'm obviously not doing it in the same yarns, so some modifications were needed. This is being knit in Classic Elite Alpaca. So far, I have the back (shown) and part of the front done. It's a long job, so I do other little fun projects when I feel uninspired about it. As for my husband, I think he's getting antsy about it. I would liked to have finished it by Christmas, but....

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Mission Accomplished!

Wow! That periwinkle chunky yarn sure knit up fast. I think I may have spent a total of 5 hours on that one (and, I don't think I'm the world's fastest knitter). I'm really pleased with the way it looks, and I'm pretty excited about having designed it myself from just measuring my daughter and making a little diagram of it before diving in. It turned out to fit just right. And, I think it looks pretty cute. I'll have to work on getting a picture of it on here for all to see. For now, I'm just pleased it's done. It's great to see the finished project so soon after starting. I guess I like the instant gratification of a quick knit. And, that makes one more Christmas gift to put under the tree! By the way, I've decided to name this little poncho Perry. Well, now it's back to work on my husband's sweater again.

Friday, December 17, 2004

More fun goodies!

Hello, my name is Krista, and I am a yarnaholic. Of course, many of us knitters are. I've got plenty of yarns around here to play with. Many are leftovers my mother-in-law passed me, but since I didn't pick them out, it's just not the same. Or, at least, they don't inspire me. So, here's how we know I'm a yarnaholic: I took the circular needle back to the store, and I didn't even bend and get any of the double-pointed ones they would have had. I don't like their brand of needles, and the metal makes my tricky arthritic finger ache. But, before you go getting all proud of my resolve not to purchase anything in exchange for the returned needle, I have to own up to being weak.

First, I had to use up the seven bucks the needle cost me in a store voucher. That wasn't too hard. I got a couple balls of yarn for that. One is a cute little furry creme-colored yarn to make mitten cuffs from. Then, I got a sport weight aqua wool/acrylic blend to match the cuff yarn for some other mittens. Hey, now all I need is to find some double-pointed needles, and I'm good to go!

Then, of course, while I was in the store, I had to take a little gander. I know, I know. I was just there the other night. And, I'll even admit that nothing had changed. So, I ended up falling in love with almost the only yarn in the whole shop that is 100% wool (and, wouldn't you know, it's even discontinued). The fact that it was discontinued allowed me to convince the lady to at least give me a little discount. Lucky me, I didn't have to pay the sales tax! Better than nothing, I guess. So, my newest acquisition is a periwinkle blue yarn that goes from very chunky to very thin and knits up nicely on 12.75 mm needles (US size 17) - fast! I've done some calculations, and hopefully, if my math is correct (not my strong suit), I'll be able to make a little poncho for my 3 1/2-year-old daughter.

So, wish me luck, since this poncho is entirely my own design. We may be doing lots of frogging here pretty soon!

And, incidentally, I may be a yarnaholic, but I have no intentions of getting help. I'll justify all of my recent purchases by saying that it has at least been 6 months since my last yarn purchases.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Backward Knitting: A Knitting Metaphor for Relationships

I know you're thinking I'm going to say something cornball about the closely knit relationship I have with someone, but I will spare you such a cliche. In fact, I was just knitting and thinking about the way that I knit. I am a Continental knitter or "picker", as I've also seen it called, where I knit with the yarn coming off of my left index finger as I pick the stitches with my right needle. My mother-in-law knits from the other direction, using her right index finger to loop the yarn around her needle. Whatever the merits of each, I chose mine due to the arthritis I have in my right index finger after breaking it as a teenager (not to mention that it just seemed easier when I attempted both methods).

Watching me knit, my mother-in-law is always awed at the sight of it (apparently, her method is much more common in France than mine is). She says I knit "backwards". She means nothing by it. She is simply amazed. It struck me this evening that this viewpoint of my "backwards" knitting fits well with her general view of my way of doing things. I do not make sense to her and probably never will. This backwards knitting metaphor can be extended to describe many mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships. As for mine, over the space of the past few years, she seems to have learned to appreciate me somewhat like a painting or sculpture you neither like nor dislike. She might see some of the beauty of the finished work, but never understands the motivation or the method. It simply seems backwards.

Pretty in You-Guessed-It All Done

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Here is the finished product. The model looks so happy to wear it, it may end up being HER Christmas present, not her cousin's. Incidentally, the sweater she is wearing is made of the same pink yarn as the scarf - but made by her grandmother.

Wisdom in Unexpected Places

I am in bad need of a personality revamping, or at least a portion of my personality. I believe I may be what the less reputable people in the sales profession call a "live one". I'm not a stupid person. Not usually, anyway. But, despite being of reasonable intelligence, I am frequently taken by surprise and ambushed by sales tactics. It may be a cultural problem, for I am a foreigner living in this sometimes strange land. Thus, I am not fully equipped with the necessary armor to avoid being sucked into what most French would likely see as a scam from miles away.

You see, French sales people have the uncanny ability to make you believe the product they have in stock is the perfect substitute for the actual product you wanted but that they do not carry or do not currently have in stock. Of course, it isn't, and deep down you know this, but they, the all-knowing sales person, with much more expertise in this realm, convince you otherwise. Two years ago, I was tricked into purchasing nigella, a mysterious spice I still don't know what to do with, because I did not enter the store armed with the appropriate translation for the real product I wanted. The sales person used his vast knowledge of English spice terms (he probably at least knows "salt" and "pepper") to tell me that "Oh, yes, this one is most certainly the one." Of course, it wasn't, and as pregnant as I was at the time, I apparently could have done some harm to my fetus by ingesting it (looked that one up on the net before attempting a recipe). Then, there is the sweater I wear almost daily done in a green fuzzy yarn that tends to pill, that irks me almost every time I wear it, because I sensed the colors the sales lady chose did not match correctly. But, as always, she was able to convince me that there was much more green in that purpley mulicolored yarn than I saw. So, I wear it with only a half-pride, knowing that it was my first adult-size sweater, but never really satisfied with the outcome. Why all the philosophical reminiscing, you ask? Well, the all-knowing, yet sadly understocked sales woman has struck again.

This time it was the replacement of a set of 5 double-pointed needles with a circular one. Once again, my American-raised mind was unequipped to deal with the "expertise" of the French sales woman. As always is the case, I sensed during the transaction that this item would not really work out, but I was helpless to stop myself from doing as the sales lady willed me to, and I purchased it. Is it gullibility or optimism that drives this kind of error? I'm not sure. I only know the resulting dissatisfaction and its sting. This time, I reluctantly purchased a circular needle that measures 60 cm in length, being told it would be fine for making a set of mittens. MITTENS! For those of you not familiar with circular needles, there is a certain basic logic involved: the length of the needles must not be more than the circumference of the piece you would like to knit. So, to get an idea of the problem with using this 60 cm needle to knit mittens, measure your wrist, and then compare it to 60 cm. Having trouble with the metrics involved here (which undoubtable is what messed me up in the store)? 10 cm equals about 4 inches. So, basically, I puchased the ideal needle for either making a sweater collar or a pair of mittens for the Jolly Green Giant. Curse you, metric system (don't misunderstand, the metric system has a fabulously simple logic to it, but if you're not raised thinking in centimeters, you are bound to fail the sort of test I was put to in the yarn shop)!

So, the moral to this story is two-fold and oddly applicable to many of life's situations. First, learn to trust your instincts, not the speil someone else feeds you - your instincts are most likely not trying to trick you into shelling out a few extra bucks. Second, always try to enter into any transaction as well-prepared with the necessary tools and knowledge as possible. For me, in this case it was the metric system (or a measuring tape). In the spice shop, it was a simple translation.

So, could this be the forming of a New Year's Resolution? I never make them, but this year, I may just vow to be less gullible. Is that possible? Let's cross our fingers, and hope, for the sake of my pocket book, that it is.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Great Balls of Fun!

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Here are those yarns that jumped into my car and hitched a ride home with me from the yarn store. I just couldn't stop them.

How much is that doggie in the window?

It wagged it's tail and looked at me with those sad puppy dog eyes, and I just couldn't resist. All it wanted was a nice home to go to... Okay, you know we're talking about yarn here, right? Of course, this isn't the first time I've been sucked into buying something I hadn't planned on. You know how they just jump out at you and beg to be added to your already substantial collection of yarns on the wait-list. How did this happen to me? Well, I took a little trip to the not-so-local yarn store (the closest to me is 1/2 an hour away) with the purpose in mind of buying a set of double-pointed needles to make some mittens out of some acrylic yarn my aunt passed to me. Of course, you have to look around a bit at the selection of yarns. I mean, why take such a long drive just for a few needles, right? You have to bundle the kids up and pack them in the car, and why go through all that trouble just for a couple of lousy needles? I'm sure you can see where this is heading. Well, I have to be honest here and say that I don't really like much of the yarns sold in that shop anyway. It's a brand here in France called Phildar, and much of it is quite synthetic. It often looks okay on the ball, but when you knit it up... So, I wandered through their goodies and found a couple of fun yarns that had to come home with us. I've got this pattern my mother-in-law gave me for making a little cross-your-heart vest for my daughter (who is 3 1/2). And, right there in this store was a great little angora/lambswool blend that would be perfect for it. I had my eye on the fuschia, but there was no convincing my daughter of it (even if she is usually a huge fan of anything pink). She chose the aqua blue, and I must say it'll liven up her wardrobe. The other yarn I got was just so much fun that I had to get it. It's just a little multicolored synthetic boucle thing that I plan to use with some mittens. Afterall, I've got tons of this acrylic stuff my aunt gave me that I just don't know what else to do with, since I'm not much of an acrylic kind of gal. So, these are the latest acquisitions, and I'm not even all that ashamed of myself.

Oh, and wouldn't you know, they didn't even have those double-point needles in the size I needed. I settled for a circular and I'm hoping that'll do. The lady said I could always bring them back in exchange for the double-point when they come in. I'm sure she knows that even if I have to get the others, I won't be giving these back, because, "you just never know when you'll need those needles later." We all think it, and she makes her living off that sort of thing.

Pictures to follow...

Pretty in You-Guessed-It

I'm currently working on three different knitting projects. Yes, I'm one of THOSE knitters - you know the kind, always starting another project before finishing the last. I guess I tend to work on one big project and a couple of smaller ones all at once. When I feel like I'm not accomplishing much in my life, I leave the big one aside for a quick jobbie that makes me feel like a success. For the moment, the big job is a sweater for my husband, who is certainly no munchkin. I'm using a beautiful navy blue alpaca yarn made by Classic Elite (my only complain is that it sheds). I bought it several years ago while on a little trip to New Orleans with my family. (Incidentally, If you get the chance to stop by the little shop called the Quarter Stitch, it's worth a little gander. They have some fun stuff in there, and if you end up coming away with your hands full, they do a superb job packaging up your purchase). It took me a couple of years to get up the courage to start in on that sweater. Unfortunately I'm not a speed-knitter, so, I work a while on it and then work on something else till the mood strikes me again to dive back into the sweater. I've so far gotten the back and part of the front knitted.

The side projects include the alien scarf in the Stitch 'N Bitch book and a little pink scarf I'm doodling (I know you only usually doodle with paper and pen, but I thought doodling was a suitable word to describe just playing with some yarn and needles to see what happens). So far so good. I kind of like it. In the end, it should be a Christmas gift for my niece or my daughter. For now, it's just a fun way to use up some leftover yarn I had around.

So, here's a picture of the scarf I'm thinking of naming Pretty in You-Guessed-It. Not all that original maybe, but it fits, I think.

I think I'll actually have plenty of these yarns left over to try some other fun kid's scarf (My mother-in-law gave me a massive leftover ball of pink yarn!). I'm thinking some sort of wavy pattern....

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pretty in you-guessed-it

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Scarf knit in pink Bouton D'or baby superwash and Paton Cha Cha.