31 December 2012

Reflecting on 2012

Since today is the last day of 2012 (whew, what a year!), I decided to sit down and reflect on my fiber accomplishments for this year.  That is one of my favorite things about writing a blog, it allows me to go back in time in a sense.  I definitely learned a lot of new things and knitted a lot of fun and challenging projects!

Upcycling thrift store sweaters:
- Acrylic/Wool upcycling disaster
- Upcycling cashmere
- Upcycling soft wool

- Dyeing with tea
- QR code yarn labeling system
- Organizing stash with recycled materials

Knitting without a pattern:
- Textured cowl
- Scrap blanket

New experiences:
- Spin to knit sock
- Steeking
- Granny squares

- Dyeing for a project
- Dyeing with Wiltons food dyes
- Dyeing with egg dyes

- Lagoon merino
- Brown alpaca
- Lilac
- Silk hankie
- Pretty pink alpaca
- Targhee jewel
- Cotton candy
- Romney

In addition to having over a hundred posts here this year, I have been so incredibly fortunate to meet so many knitters, crocheters, and spinners from all over the world.  You all are so talented and creative, and inspire me every day.

Looking forward to another wonderful year!


02 December 2012

This week's fascinations

A lot of my time is spent either flailing in lab (a lot like this, but with much less dancing) or studying some admittedly pretty neat stuff.  So, just in case you are all starting to think that I don't do anything but whine about work, here are some non-work related interests.

I recently found my new favorite iPhone app:  Afterglow.  There is just so much that you can do with it and they don't force you to buy extra filters or features like many of the other photo apps out there.  These are both photos I took with my phone and then modified using Afterglow.

I've been following the show 30 Rock for years because I have the humor of an odd adolescent.  Is anyone else still flabbergasted that Liz Lemon got married?  Tina Fay has given young spinsters (or maybe spinster-in-training?) like me hope that there is some special guy out there who can put up with yarn stashes and other eccentricities.

Have ever ever had a song stick with you for a while, a song that just resonates with you and you have no idea why?  Well I hadn't come across one of those for quite a while until now.  Trent Reznor is my all-time favorite musician, I love that he is capable of composing both the score for the movie The Social Network and the theme for the new Call of Duty video game and doing so perfectly.  But I didn't really care for his side project with his wife Mariqueen Maandig until I heard this song.

Lastly, I know that you are all probably tired of seeing photos of my big kitty, so I'll disguise this one as one of the easiest DIY projects ever.

The perfect cat bed, requires:
-- 1 shallow cardboard box
-- several paper bags
Directions: place bags in box and show to kitty

Caution: kitty may not want to leave box and develop a severe case of laziness.

Disclaimer: I did not intend for this to be a kitty magnet, I just threw some paper grocery bags into the box my new pair of boots came in while tidying and now I have this nasty feeling that she will eat me if I throw it away.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

30 November 2012

New skill - Granny Squares

I've mentioned in the past that I have been frequently frustrated with my inability to learn how to crochet.  I was able to do basic cast ons and stitches (lovely crocheters, please don't be offended if I use the wrong terminology, I'm in uncharted territory here!), but never could do anything beyond that.

For some reason my mental yardstick for being able to crochet at a basic level has always been the granny square.  Over the Thanksgiving break I needed something new to work on, so I sorted through my yarn scraps and pulled up one tutorial after another until I figured it out.

Needless to say, I found it addictive, especially because I was able to use up scraps (many of you know that this is my thing).  Oh how fun it is!  Now, I'm aware the the color combinations are not the most attractive, but I don't really care because they are both square and crochet!

Now I'm not super accomplished like Robin, she isn't restricted to squares, in fact, she can make just about any shape!  Her experiments are so pretty and creative that they are works of art.

I'm also enjoying learning this new needle craft at the same time as my friend Sue.  She definitely is a few steps ahead of me though having learned multiple stitches and good technique.

I would eventually like to make a colorful scrap blanket because I've always wanted to have a granny square blanket.  Although it is definitely not going to be as organized as Heather's, she's got the power of Excel on her side!

It was such a joy to finally tackle this challenge and now I've been able to bring that energy to my many WIPs that are waiting to be finished.  I think that I will always be a knitter, but I definitely enjoy the process of crochet and appreciate all that is possible with it.

27 November 2012

What I've been up to lately

I drove down to Charleston, South Carolina to meet up with my family for Thanksgiving.  It was nice and warm during our time there and so we were able to get out and see a lot of the city.  It wouldn't be a family vacation without several trips to different old churches and graveyards (it is just our thing for some reason).  We also ate at several of those amazing, cute little hole-in-the-wall restaurants that are scattered around the city.

Visiting local yarn stores:
While I was in Charleston I finally got to visit a LYS for the first time in months.  I probably looked strange running around stroking all of the yarn excitedly.  Knit was very friendly (my siblings loved playing with the adorable little dogs) and had an amazing selection of Madelinetosh, it was a wonder I didn't walk out of there with more yarn than I did.  I ended up leaving with a sweater's worth of Berroco Vintage as a birthday present from my mother.

Watching Moonrise Kingdom:
I recently rewatched this movie by one of my favorite directors, Wes Anderson.  Each of his films are so meticulously made and aesthetically gorgeous, but this one may be one of my all-time favorites along with The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums.

Listening to Radiolab podcast:
I've been working away in lab as always while trying to keep up with coursework and writing that journal article.  If you have any interest at all in the area of science that my article is on (perhaps more for my family members who want to know), you should check out this new RadioLab episode.  They explain epigenetics in a very understandable way and make it interesting for people who aren't science nerds like me.

I've also been knitting away in my spare moments.  I should have a finished project to show you soon, as well as my latest crafting success!

Thank you as always for all of your encouragement and friendship!

10 November 2012

Facing the hard truth

Thank you so much to those of you which left feedback on my infinity scarf, you all are just so wonderful and helpful.  Is there anything a group of knitters can't solve?

So, I finished up the wacky infinity scarf and tried it on to get a better idea of how much I might like it.

The answer is, not so much.  I know that a lot of you really liked the color combination, but I highly suspect that is because the green appeared gray on some monitors.  But no judgement here if you liked the mix, everyone has their own distinct aesthetic.  The color is more of an army green, a gray would have gone nicely when paired with the yellow though.

And so, I faced the hard truth and frogged my poor scarf.  But I'm still glad I knitted it, it was a fun little project and I loved working with the wool/cotton blend.  I'm definitely looking forward to knitting it up into something else (each color separately of course).

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!  I especially hope that everyone up on the East Coast is staying warm after the snow.

07 November 2012

Knitting Progress Report

Some of you had the most amazing Trader Joe's suggestions, most of which I've never tried.  Needless to say, my shopping list is a bit longer than usual this week.

So, where to start with my huge pile of in-progress knitting projects...

Here is the latest progress on the draft blocker.  I'm almost to the length I need and I'll still have some scraps left over for another project.  Good thing Nancy keeps on posting amazing scrap project inspiration.

These socks really should have been finished by now, but I've had to rip back several times to fix some unfortunate mistakes.  I know that they won't be as long as the knee socks shown in the book example because I only have one skein of yarn, but I've decided to make them as long as possible.

This scarf is a little bit out of character for me.  I started it a few weeks ago when I was really stressed and needed a quick project with a comforting yarn.  This Cascade cotton/wool blend was gifted to me by some wonderful family friends and it fit the bill.  Now if only the colors went together in combination with the pattern.  I'm strongly considering ripping it out, but what do you think (honestly)?

I've also resumed slow progress on the BFF cowl I'm knitting along with Ashley (by the way, have you seen her beautiful desk space yet?  So creative!).  This project serves as yet another reminder that I'm just so lucky to have such wonderful knitters from all over the world that I get to connect with every day.

Also, a random question: why can kitties be so relaxed one minute and then completely spazz out and look like a wild panther beast the next?  It may not be obvious from the photo, but one of her little fangs is sticking out making her extra goofy-looking.

Now I'm going to return to my busy week as a student while contemplating Ness' tempting plan to build a comforting nest of yarn, I hope you all have a great rest of the week!

03 November 2012

Life flies by

It has been a while since I've posted here, I'll admit it.  But life has been pretty crazy, because apparently being a PhD student is challenging.

A lot has been going on though:

--> I'm excited to announce that I am currently writing my first scientific article!  It has always been a major goal, I just didn't think that it would be happening this early in my career.

--> I've been spending a lot of time with this enormous textbook (~1300 pages):

As a graduate student I didn't think that I would have textbooks anymore, that I would be learning from the literature rather than books that are obsolete the moment they are printed.  Nevertheless, I've been learning a lot and am constantly amazed that we don't all just fall apart with all of the amazingly complex systems of things happening in our cells!  That's not even taking into account the fact that we are more bacterial than human.

--> I've been baking because it makes the perfect study break.  My most recent experiment was crock pot chocolate lava cake, it was pretty darn good but not very photogenic as you can probably imagine.

--> A little bit of knitting has been going on in the form of this hot mess:

It has been getting cooler here in North Carolina and my back door is really drafty!  I've discovered that just because my apartment is a "green building" doesn't mean that it is efficient.  I don't like turning on the heating system unless I really have to, so I'm making a draft blocker using scrap yarn.  

--> The most exciting development in my life has been that there is now a Trader Joe's five minutes away from me rather than an hour and a half away in Charlotte.  My family came for a visit last weekend and we actually dared to go the day after opening.  The entire parking lot was packed and police officers were present just in case a fight broke out over the black licorice scotty dogs.  I'm not sure how we made it out alive.

Here is my latest haul of deliciousness, but they are also my go-to place for oats, nuts, cheese, frozen berries because it is all so much less expensive there.  Needless to say, if you haven't been to one, you have no idea what you are missing.

That's all for now, I'll try and check in more often in the future!

16 October 2012

Romney Handspun

Look everyone!  I finally finished something!

I had no idea that finishing something substantial would make me feel this good.  I have remembered that this is one of the reasons I knit and spin, that rush of satisfaction that I get when I wind that handspin into a (un)tidy skein or weave in that last end on something I simply cannot wait to wear!

Sorry...back to the handspun...

This is handspun from 100% Romney wool, it is 2-ply DK weight and about 220 yards.  It has a rough edge to it, but I felt that it should, it is a rugged sort of fiber.  I love the nice natural color too.

In knitting related news, last weekend I went to a bookstore to look for a specific magazine, predictably I didn't find it, but look what I did find:

Apparently Barnes and Noble carries a large array of knitting magazines!  To many of you this is probably old news, but I had no idea!  I always assumed that they might have Vogue Knitting and Interweave, but not such a wide selection (and some I had never seen before).  

Also, this post is brought to you thanks to iPhoto's Photostream which has allowed me to be even more lazy by automatically downloading the photos on my phone to my home computer right after I take them.  I love technology.

Now, back to the books for me, I hope you all have a wonderful week!

10 October 2012

Work-in-progress Wednesday - #15

This WIP Wednesday brought to you by....the sun!
That's right!  The sun has finally decided to return to the triad area of North Carolina!
So, I'm more energized and halfway decent photographs are now possible!


I attempted further work on my poor self-designed sweater...this did not go well.  I'm still struggling with the shoulder/neckline shaping.  At this point I'm positive that the key to shaping in this case is short rows.

I have also cast on a new project, one I've been dreaming of for a while now.  These will be a lovely pair of Belle Epoque socks (sorry for lack of project photo right now, the hospital frowns upon the use of bandwidth for frivolous things so I am blogging from my phone today). ***Sorry for the confusion here, I'm perfectly fine, I work at the hospital because I'm a student at the medical school. Sorry!

Next I have the start of part of a BFF cowl that I'm knitting with the talented (and fellow scientist) Ashley from Misty Mountain Designs/Geoknitology.  This is part of a KAL with Evelyn from Project: Stash, you all should find a buddy and participate too, it's a great way to connect with other knitters!

I hope that you are all having a great Wednesday and I hope that you also join in for WIP Wednesday with Tami's Amis.

05 October 2012

Azzu's Shawl

I have finally been able to find a little bit of time to update!  Thank you all for the very kind words and for those of you who continually post amazing work on your own blogs, you inspire me.

I finished my Azzu's Shawl many days ago but hesitated in writing about it because I cannot seem to get it to behave...

That is me attempting to show you the design of the shawl, which is pretty, but this fabric loves to curl up.  I've attempted two blockings, actually taking the time to pin it down perfectly.  But no, still not behaving.

I even blocked it in the world's best blocking sink ever (when I first saw my apartment, this was the thing I was most excited about).

The pattern was Azzu's Shawl by Emma Fassio, it was an simple, easy pattern that was perfect for mindless knitting.  It did get a little boring, but rows of yarn overs helped break up the bordom.  Also, when looking at the pattern page, mine turned out a little smaller than others even though I made gauge (I think..) and did the proper number of repeats.

The yarn was Regia Hand-dye Effect, you all probably already know how I feel about this yarn.  But I completed my goal, to complete a project with it, so I'm ready to move on to bigger and better things.

21 September 2012

Where do the hours go?

I have to be honest, not a lot of knitting has been happening lately.  Life has just sped up on me suddenly, before I know it the day is over and no time remains for knitting or reading.  I'm not sure why  I thought that graduate school wouldn't be too much different from undergraduate.

The special sweater has been placed in time out, I have been struggling with the shoulder shaping and I just don't have the time or brain power to think about it right now.  But someday this warm little creation of mine will be finished.

It is also very difficult to knit when my kitty decides that a project is just the perfect place for a nap and she is so happy that I don't have the heart to move her.

I have been able to find little bits of time to work on my lastest spinning project.  I love the smell of the wool and watching the fiber wrap around each other, spinning is just so relaxing!

A lot of my time is spent studying or preparing for exams and presentations, being a scientist is hard work!  I am loving it though, especially now since I found out I get to work with data from ENCODE.

For the science nerds out there, learn more about this, it is amazing.  For everyone else, still be excited, this project is going to lead to so many breakthroughs in disease research and personalized medicine.

Lastly, I have waited to have my own kitchen for a very long time, I suffered through college food (which is worse when you are vegetarian) for too long.  Now that I finally have a kitchen, I want to make everything (even if it is a little too difficult).  Last weekend I made a baby dutch pancake (the best!) and somehow it didn't cook right and ended up smoking.  Now I know that my smoke detector is quite sensitive...

I've also been having some health problems (nothing life threatening), so I may not be posting regularly for a while.  But I still enjoy reading and commenting on your posts everyday!

14 September 2012

Fuzzy family member

Can you keep a secret?  I'm taking a little time away from studying for tests and running statistical analyses today to write a short blog post (in a desperate attempt to get back into regular posting patterns).

I really want to share with you all a fluffy ball of happiness that has recently entered my life.

This is Mattie:

Ever since I found out I was moving into an apartment that allows pets, I became very excited that I might finally realize my long-held aspirations of becoming a crazy cat lady!

My family has always either taken in strays or adopted from the shelter, not that I have anything against people who prefer breeders, I just believe there are so many unloved animals out there, why not take in one in need?

The wonderful people at the local humane society immediately pointed me towards Mattie when I mentioned that I wanted an adult kitty.  Everyone in the office loved her (her bed was in the main office) and wanted to see her placed in a loving home.

Needless to say, I fell in love with this 13 pound fluffball immediately because she loves people and is the most affectionate cat I have ever met.

She makes a great study buddy and will sit out on the patio with me.

Her other hobbies include:
- trying to eat bees
- sleeping on my head at night
- spazzing out and doing little burnouts when something excites her
- spreading litter through the entire apartment
- purring at me affectionately when I come home from work

Now for what you are all probably wondering, yes, she does like to attack yarn, but only when I'm knitting with it, naturally.

I'm so lucky to have found the perfect pet and I'm looking forward to many happy years with her.

Linked to Caturday, an excellent meme by Tanya at Tanya Today!

12 September 2012

Work-in-progress Wednesday - #15

I have been a very bad crafter, I cannot seem to keep focused on any one project as of late!  This means that nothing is getting done!

I've been working on two sweaters, a scrap pillow, a shawl, some handspun, and a mystery sewing project (still in it's infancy).  That is just too much for one busy graduate student to handle! 

Now I am going to impose absolute project focus until at least one of them is finished.  

First I have a project regular readers will recognize, it is like an old snuggly friend.  My self-designed sweater has the main body and one sleeve complete, the novelty of working with my favorite alpaca/wool blend has certainly not worn off yet.

Next I have my latest spinning project, which is so much fun already!  This summer I went to visit my dear friend Lisa (Wicked Artsy), during the visit we visited a few LYS and I purchased some gorgeous Romney wool.  It is an absolute dream to spin and I have a feeling that I'm going to adore the end product. 

So, those are my two focus projects, now I need a bit of help from each of you...if you find out I have been working on any other projects than those pictured here, heckle me!  It's for my own good!

I hope that you are all having a great Wednesday and I hope that you also join in for WIP Wednesday with Tami's Amis.

10 September 2012

Cotton Candy Handspun

You've all had to put up with me moaning about my failed attempt to dye this poorly processed fiber.  But finally I forced myself to sit down and finish spinning this icky fiber.  I'm surprisingly happy with how it turned out, just look at that texture!

I'm really not a fan of pastel colors or of wool that resists spinning up softly, but honestly, it could have been much worse.  Also, according to the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, Cheviot fiber is "chalky" and doesn't dye very brightly, which is exactly how I would describe my experience.

- Finished: September 2, 2012
- Fiber: 100% Cheviot wool (The Woolery)
- Spindle: Schacht 3" Hi-Lo drop spindle (2.2 oz.)
- Other Information: 1 skein, 1-ply, ~225 yards, 2 oz., fingering weight

The fiber I spun was fairly short staple and very tangled (do I wish I had a comb), which was frustrating.  However, it looks lovely spun into singles, that may have to be what I do with the rest of the fiber I have stashed away. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday!  Happy crafting!

05 September 2012

Work-in-progress Wednesday - #14

I apologize for being so absent lately, graduate school has been challenging and very time-consuming.  But I've been finding little bits of time to work on my projects.

I also have some very photogenic projects right now too!

My very own sweater design is going pretty well, I've been trying it on as I go to ensure I have a good fit.  As always I am thoroughly enjoying the process of working with Ultra Alpaca, I could knit with it ages and never get tired of it!

Next is my Azzu's Shawl, which I'm about halfway through with.  I've started to like the yarn at little bit more as I knit with it more, but I still don't love it. 

That's about it for now!  Right now I've been living vicariously through all of your beautiful projects!  Keep up the wonderful work, you talented people!

I hope that you are all having a great Wednesday and I hope that you also join in for WIP Wednesday with Tami's Amis.

31 August 2012

What's in my library

I don't buy a whole lot of crafting related books, I usually reference the internet for techniques that I want to learn and I vastly prefer patterns from Ravelry to those in dedicated pattern books.  However, there are a few books that I do own and reference frequently.


Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont:  If you are new to spinning or if you are fairly experienced, I would wager that you can learn something new from this book.  The photos are wonderfully descriptive and she perfectly describes (at least for my learning style) a variety of techniques.

The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius:  If you love fiber, this is such a fun book to just pick up and flip through.  There are so many amazing fiber options out there and this book describes many of them in detail.  I especially love how they provide great photos of the raw fiber, spun fiber, and knitted yarn to give you an idea of the texture.


Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan: Much of what I learned about dyeing is from this book.  It provides detailed instructions on so many different techniques and the chapters are so well written, this woman knows what she is talking about.


The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt: This is a new addition to my knitting library.  This is probably the most comprehensive knitting resource I have ever seen, as soon as I opened this book I wanted to read half of the chapters.  The only problem I have with this book is the lack of photos in sections describing complex techniques.

Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson: This is the only pattern book that I have ever found where I love every single design in it.  I learned to do toe-up socks two-at-a-time from this book, her instructions made so much sense to me and the photography is gorgeous.

What are some books that you just had to buy or continue to keep coming back to?