Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sophia the Saw-whet Owl

Isn't she beautiful? This is Sophia, a Saw-whet Owl that lives at Effie Yeaw Nature Center near Sacramento, CA. My sister and I met her yesterday while on our annual, all-day birdwatching trip.

Sophia is very compact at only eight inches tall. Saw-whet Owls are not seen very often due to their small size and because they only come out at night. She was hit by a truck five years ago and somehow clung to the grill for sixty miles. Veterinarians nursed Sophia back to health, but she lives permanently at the nature center because she can no longer survive in the wild.

It was absolutely gorgeous in central California yesterday. We took a walk from the nature center down a short path to the American River and had a relaxing afternoon break by the water.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Flower Power

Last weekend while browsing in thrift shops I found a gift for my 7-month old niece Lily-- a teeny tiny denim jacket.

After taking the jacket home, washing it and gazing adoringly at it for a while, an idea came for adding a pop of color ... a knit flower in bright pink and green.

The pattern for the flower is from the book Vintage Hearts & Flowers by Kate Haxell. The yarn is Crystal Palace Panda Cotton. It is one of the easiest flower patterns I've found and only takes a couple of hours to knit.

I'll take a photo of Lily modeling the jacket later this week when I see her. In the meantime, here is a recent photo of my little darling.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A project on the needles and a novel on the nightstand

This post is inspired by the weekly Yarn Along posts by Tracey at Clover .

I didn't set goals or make resolutions for 2012, but I did make an informal decision to try and use up a good portion of my stash before buying more yarn. Part of the reason for this decision is I still have most of the yarn I bought at Stitches West last year ... and the year before. Stitches West 2012 is coming next month, and I am hesitant to attend. The temptation to buy more yarn will be hard to resist.

As part of my attempt to knit down my stash, I'm working on a lace scarf for myself with this hand painted silk from Urban Fauna Studio that I bought at Stitches last year. It feels strange to knit for myself, but I bought the yarn specifically for me because of its softness (my skin is super sensitive) and because of the color.

On the bedside table is the novel Death Comes to Pemberely , a mystery featuring the Pride & Prejudice characters six years after Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage.

I am obsessed with Pride & Prejudice and love reading "what if" stories that reimagine Jane Austen's original work or continue where she left off. The first few chapters of Death Comes to Pembereley are a bit slow, but I am eager to see where the story goes.

What are you reading and knitting?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jane Austen Knits

A small list of items I love right now ...

I bought this Jane Austen 2011 Knits magazine as a holiday gift for myself and it is quite a treat. Lots of lacy patterns, short articles about knitting back in the olden days, and an exploration of what Jane might knit today. If you are a designer, you might be interested to know that Interweave, the publisher of this magazine, is having a call for entries for their Jane Austen 2012 issue. The deadline is January 31st.

These Flower and Lace Cuffs are my favorite pattern from Jane Austen 2011 Knits. Aren't those little flowers adorable? They are beads! The cuffs remind me of a faded pair of comfy thermals. I have never knit with beads, but I really want to make these.

One thing I've learned from owning a Kindle and an iPhone is that if I use those devices to read in bed at night I will be up until 3am. So I try to remember to read non-electronic books before going to sleep, and this one is my new favorite. I found it at a used bookstore and was surprised to find it contains so many ideas for cute patterns and projects.

Last but not least, I am in love with these snuggle socks from Life is Good. They are the softest socks ever. I love to put them on at night after work and pad around the house in them.

What are some of your favorite things right now?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lap blanket pattern

I managed to finish the lap blanket for my mom by Christmas day. It doesn't exactly look like the scratchy purple afghan my grandmother knit in the 1970's like I was shooting for, but it does have a retro essence. I washed it with tons of fabric softener to make it soft and nice-smelling.

I didn't measure the blanket before I gave it to my mom, but I'm guessing it was about 30" by 30". (Pretty small, but big enough to be cuddly and warm on your lap.)

To border or not to border? (That is the question.)
This blanket features a garter stitch border with picked-up stitches, plus a final single crochet edging. The reason I did this is because I realized halfway through knitting it that it needed a bit more width. I wasn't about to frog the whole thing and start over, so when I finished the body of the blanket I added the borders and they actually worked beautifully, adding extra width and heft plus a nice finished look.

If you don't want to add the borders, when you begin the blanket you could cast on more stitches to make it wider. Keep in mind that the feather and fan lace pattern is an 18-stitch repeat, plus there are three selvage stitches on each side. So, instead of casting on 114 stitchs like the pattern calls for, you could cast on 132 stitches, which would give you one extra pattern repeat on each row while continuing to have three selvage stitches on each side. If you want to cast on less stitches than that, the extra stitches could be added to the number of selvage stitches on each side rather than increase the number of pattern repeats.


Plymouth Yarn Encore Worsted. Five skeins: one champagne (#218), two light lavender (#233), two variegated brown and lavender (#7149). You will have leftovers of each color.

Size 10 circular needles, 32 inches (The blanket is knit flat but circular needles are used to accommodate the number of stitches.)

To knit the lap blanket:

Cast on 114 stitches in lavender.

Rows 1 - 3: Knit.

Row 4: Knit.

Row 5: K3, purl across row, end with K3. Throughout the entire blanket you will maintain the three selvage stitches at the beginning and end of each row.

Row 6: K3, *K2TOG three times, (K1, YO) six times, K2TOG three times*, repeat across row, end with K3.

Row 7: Knit.

Repeat rows 4 - 7, changing colors every four rows. I carried the yarn up the side to avoid having to weave in tons of loose ends. I also added a random four row repeat in champagne roughly in the middle of the blanket ... just because.

Continue the four-row repeat until the blanket reaches the desired length. End with the four-row repeat in lavender, knit thee rows in lavender, and then bind off.

To create the first border:

In champagne, pick up 79 stitches along the edge of one side (a non-cast on or bind off side) and knit five rows in garter stitch. Bind off. Do the same for the opposite side.

In champagne, pick up 102 stitches along the cast-on edge and knit four rows. Bind off. Do the same for the opposite side , which is where you did the bind off.

To create the second border:
In lavender, do a single crochet border around the entire blanket.

I machine washed my blanket and then blocked it on a towel on the dining room table. The pattern looked much more defined after blocking it, plus the little mistakes I made seemed to blend in better.