Thursday, December 29, 2011

What I Knitted for Christmas

Now that Christmas is few days behind us, I can tell you, finally, what I had been knitting for Christmas gifts!  I made everyone in our family, a washcloth and included a nice facemask or shower product with it.  I did a pattern search on Ravelry and used the words “dishcloth” and “washcloths” in my search.  I made about 25 washcloths in all! 

Here are a few that I made: 

And a skull and cross bone one.  I blogged back in October that I made one for The Shaker to take on business trips and that I wasn’t too pleased with the shape of the washcloth.  I worked a little more on it and made another one Vodka’s son for Christmas; I would have liked it be squarer but I was happy with the facial detail. 

This would fall under the category of “the process of knitting” for me as it may have to do with the needle size and the yarn weight.  I need to play with different weights of cotton yarn and possibly, different needle sizes.  But for now, I am 90% pleased with the outcome and I hope my nephew likes it too!

Here are the instructions:

Materials:  100% cotton yarn (the photo is using sport weight 100% cotton and size US 3 needles)
Size US 3 to 7 knitting needles (bigger needles and yarn will make the cloth bigger)
2 stitch markers – optional (I like to use stitch markers to separate the border stitches from the pattern work)

Cast on 53 stitches

Notes:  Border stitches are in parentheses () beginning and end of each row.

Rows 1 - 6:   Knit
Row 7:           (K4) K45 (K4)
Row 8:           (K4) P45 (K4)
Rows 9-12:   repeat rows 7 and 8
Row 13:         (K4) K10, P2, K21, P2, K10 (K4)
Row 14:         (K4) P9, K4, P19, K4, P9 (K4)
Row 15:         (K4) K9, P5, K17, P5, K9 (K4) 
Row 16:         (K4) P8, K6, P17, K6, P8 (K4)
Row 17:         (K4) K6, P8, K17, P8, K6 (K4)
Row 18:         (K4) P6, K9, P15, K9, P6 (K4)
Row 19:         (K4) K7, P9, K13, P9, K7 (K4)
Row 20:         (K4) P8, K10, P9, K10, P8 (K4)
Row 21:         (K4) K7, P9, K13, P9, K7 (K4)
Row 22:         (K4) P14, K4, P2, K5, P2, K4, P14(K4)
Row 23:         (K4) K16, P1, K2, P7, K2, P1, K16 (K4)
Row 24:         (K4) P12, K5, P1, K9, P1, K5, P12 (K4)
Row 25:         (K4) K10, P6, K2 (P1, K1) x4, P1, K2, P6, K10 (K4)
Row 26:         (K4) P8, K7, P2, K2, (P1, K1) x3, P1, K2, P2, K7, P8 (K4)
Row 27:         (K4) K2, P3, K2, P6, K3, P3 (K1, P1) x3, K1, P3, K3, P6, K2, P3, K2 (K4) 
Row 28:         (K4) P2, K9, P5, K13, P5, K9, P2 (K4)
Row 29:         (K4) K3, P7, K2, P21, K2, P7, K3 (K4)
Row 30:         (K4) P4, K5, P2, K9, P5, K9, P2, K5, P4 (K4)
Row 31:         (K4) K4, P4, K2, P11, K3, P11, K2, P4, K4 (K4)
Row 32:         (K4) P3, K4, P2, K13, P1, K13, P2, K4, P3 (K4)
Row 33:         (K4) K3, P4, K2, P27, K2, P4. K3 (K4)
Row 34:         (K4) P2, K5, P2, K27, P2, K5, P2 (K4)
Row 35:         (K4) K3, P3, K3, P7, K4, P5 K4, P7, K3, P3, K3 (K4)
Row 36:         (K4) P9, K7, P4, K5, P4, K7, P9 (K4)
Row 37:         (K4) K9, P8, K3, P5, K3, P8, K9 (K4)
Row 38:         (K4) P10, K8, P2, K5, P2, K8, P10 (K4)
Row 39:         (K4) K10, P9, K1, P5, K1, P9, K10 (K4)
Row 40:         (K4) P11, K23, P11 (K4)
Row 41:         (K4) K12, P21, K12 (K4)
Row 42:         (K4) P13, K19, P13 (K4)
Row 43:         (K4) K14, P17, K14 (K4)
Row 44:         (K4) P15, K15, P15 (K4)
Row 45:         (K4) K16, P13, K16 (K4)
Row 46:         (K4) P17, K11, P17 (K4)
Row 47:         (K4) K45 (K4)
Row 48:         (K4) P45 (K4)
Rows 49-52: repeat rows 47 and 48
Rows 53 - 58: Knit

Bind off all stitches

The Martini Knitter

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

While out Christmas shopping with The Shaker for our girls this past weekend, we came across the annual ice-carving event in Arnhem.  I always forget about this event, and usually stumble across it while shopping.  We took a few minutes to look at the finished and still-in-progress ice sculptures. 

I knew that the free newspaper, Arnhemse Koerier, would do a story on the event.  Hoping that my Dutch is good, this is what is said in the article: “each team is given, 5 blocks of ice, each measuring a meter.”  All of the teams use really cool power tools including chainsaws and it was fun watching them use these to shape their finished projects.  I don’t know exactly when they can start but they start in the morning and were finished by 7:00 when we came back for dinner. 
This was our favorite
The Heineken beer ads here are really funny

This is the one that won the grand prize of 1,000 euros

These guys were still working hard at about 4:30-5:00 p.m.

Something for everyone, Angry Birds

This was cool, a tree frog with this suspended cluster of  fruit

The Martini Knitter

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Liquor Kit with a Star!

So I wasn’t sure if some of you were struggling with any last minute holiday gift ideas.  But everyone likes a good idea even if it is not used this year.  I came up with a few last minute gifts on my own that I am happy to share. 

In past years, I have taken the scrapes of my Warm and Natural batting and made small snowmen with handmade Fimo clay buttons.  Everyone loves them.  But, now, everyone I know has one!  So I needed a new idea. 

A few years ago in the BBC’s Good Food Magazine they had an idea for a mulled wine kit.  The kit that they suggested was just ok.  But the Gluhwein that we really like to give is by Mary Cadogan called “Mulled Wine Cocktail” and it is from the Good Food Magazine as well. 

And this past weekend while The Shaker and I were out Christmas shopping, we stopped into our favorite liquor store here and found these I saw these small bottles of Moet Champagne.  And I thought how cute would this be to give a bottle of champagne and a handmade ornament!  So I did a pattern search on Ravelry and up popped this cute little knitted star by Cecile Renaud.  The first star I made it took about 3 hours.  You cast on 5 stitches and then you knit in the round while making your increase stitches. Row 1 is the hardest and then after that it becomes easier.  She says that you can make them in about an hour; but I am at about 1-3/4 hours per star now. And true to myself, I have made 3 of these and not one for my own tree! 

And lastly, but not least, I did make a mojito kit for our hair stylist. 

All ingredients are there;
the mint is hiding behind the powdered sugar

I hope this helps you in last minute gift ideas.  

Happy Holidays!
The Martini Knitter

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Patience and Christmas

‘Tis the season for “Oh! I LOVE that, I can knit that … by Christmas …”

So I have a slight confession, which started with Olive saying that she “sometimes to rarely” does this action: throw your knitting across the room.  I know, I know … it is not very grown up.  The frustration of reading directions and trying to produce what someone has written can be – at times – over whelming at best!  But, well, I might be one of these women ...  And why is it at that very moment your husband, or in my case, The Shaker, walks into the room and witnesses this action?  I swear why do they have special “spidy sense” of: “Oh, let me go and see what my wife is doing?” And BOOM there it is!  The knitting (or quilting block) is sailing across the room followed by sounds from me that I have only made while giving birth!

But I have a fear; see, when I am quilting and the squares go sailing across the sewing room, who cares!?!  It is fabric and it can’t break.  But with knitting, I have a greater fear – dropping a stitch or possibly worst, breaking a needle.  Which then brings my mother saying: “if you are frustrated you need to walk away from this and do something simpler for awhile” (and by the way, this phrase has always driven me nuts!)

But I am proud to say, that this is why I like living here in The Netherlands.  You must have or acquire “patience” while living here.  Here is a side note:  things here move slightly slower than they do in the United States.

Here are some examples: 
  • It takes 3 weeks to get your land-line phone turned on
  • The Internet can be just as long
  • Most businesses (excluding food) do not open until 1:30 on Monday morning. 
  • Nothing is open on Sunday – except for once a month called “koopzondag” or Shopping Sunday.
  • When the grocery store is out of light brown sugar.  They are out (and so is everyone else!
  • But, and this part is the craziest, your cable/ditigal TV can be “hooked up” in under 1 week!
This applies to everyone living here, no exceptions (and trust me, I tried). Therefore, you must acquire “patience.”  No “ifs” “ands” or “buts.”  At first, yes, it was frustrating but once you here the same thing over and over again.  You just realized that is way it is and, slowly, patience creeps in. But back to knitting, where I do expect things to move more quickly and with minimal frustration.

So in between working on the Advent Calendar Scarf, where the comments on this project Ravelry have been life saving! I have added another project to work on:  The Misty Swirl Neckwarmer.  I love the pattern but I wanted to make it a little longer since I have 2 skeins of Plymouth Encore ColorSpun (worsted weight). I like the way these soft pastel colors swirl together.  It’s has a texture pattern and it’s repetitive.  It is a nice break. 

Oh, and, not to add any more pressure … but I need to have the cowl done by Christmas morning for Vermouth to open.  She is keeping tabs on the knitting between her and Gin.  Gin got the socks for Sinterklaas, Vermouth will get a cowl for Christmas. 

I have casted on 200 stitches and I am making it
more of an infinity cowl

So if you hear the sounds of knitting needles zinging by, you can bet that I am heading straight to the liquor cabinet to whip up a shaken, never stirred, gin martini.  Because, after all, I am The Martini Knitter ...

I have completed Day 3 and have started Day 4

The Martini Knitter

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kasteel Middachten

On Wednesday this week I went with a friend to Castle Middachten in the province Gelderland.  I have heard about this castle being decorated beautifully during the Christmas season since arriving here. The public is invited to come and view each of the Christmas themed rooms.  They have beautifully decorated Christmas trees.  They also have a small Christmas market as well. 

Christmas markets are not very big here in the Netherlands/Holland.  Sinterklaas is the holiday where as Christmas is truly a religious holiday.  Christmas trees in the past 10 years have become more and more popular.  But to go to a Christmas market, I must travel to Germany (about an hour’s drive).

So I have to say that I was looking forward to going to Castle Middachten because it is only open for one week.  I was so proud of myself because I remembered to charge and bring my camera to the castle. 

Now, I have to say that if I am going to be yelled at in a foreign language, I choose French.  They sound so polite when they are telling you off and I am giving them one of those blank stares in return because I have no clue what they are yelling at me about.  So in France, I really can get away with the “blank stare.”  Here, I just try my best to look stupid when being yelled at because I can read a little Dutch and I can understand a little about what is being said to me. 

Here’s the disclaimer:  I swear, I didn’t see the sign on the way into the castle’s entrance that was by the front door because my I was standing to the right of my friend and the sign was on the other side of her.  You know the sign: no photos, no eating or drinking, put your mobile phone on silent, etc.

So there I am, walking in the front door with my friend, and the entrance is just beautiful.  There’s a harpist playing and my friend says, “Oh you should take a picture of the entrance and the harpist.”  I totally agreed.  So out comes the camera, I take a picture and the flash goes off.  I … umm … forgot to turn off the flash.  So … I didn’t get yelled at by one Dutch lady, oh no, I got yelled at by 5 ladies all at once!  But when being yelled at in Dutch, their voice becomes low and harsh.  Because let’s face it, they want you know straight away that you are “busted.”  Talk about complete and utter embarrassment; plus, everyone in the place had to turn around and see what all the commotion was about!  I politely say in English that I was sorry, I didn’t know, etc. and I put the camera away.  It is times like this that I am happy that I speak English and try by hardest to give that blank stare of “I am sorry, I have no clue what you are saying.”  But the Dutch ... they are smart … they know.

But Castle Middachten was beautiful, warm and inviting; and the Christmas market was nice.  They sold food that was made there on the premise and I bought pears that are steeped in wine and some honey.  They had some jewelry and clothing and small items for your home. I bought a few handmade pewter Christmas ornaments to remember the day. All and in all it was a wonderful “gezellig” day that I spent the day with my friend, Deirdre. 

This is my “illegal” photo of the harpist

The Martini Knitter

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I would like to use my lifeline ...

I finished Day 2 of the Advent Calendar Scarf and I have to say that I really like this pattern.  I knew that I would love the changing knitting patterns and that each Day would feel like a new project starting.  And the best part it’s only over about 24 rows each day. 

I enjoyed Day 2 and I wouldn’t mind making a whole scarf in this pattern.  Its pattern repeat is over 12 rows with the cables running in the middle.  There was an error for this Day and it did put me off a bit.  But once I read the errata, slowly, and realized that she was saying that the error was in the “written directions” and that the “chart directions” were correct, then I was off and knitting.  I do like knitting both ways: charts and written directions.  But I am still new to the whole chart thing so I do like reading both of them first before beginning my knitting for that Day of the project.

Sometimes I am put off by pattern repeats.  Only because what if I dropped a stitch? Or my eyes wandered to another place in the knitting pattern/instructions and I began knitting there.  Anything can happen.  Olive taught Gin once the “lifeline” in knitting and then Gin taught me.  I saw a comment and a picture of someone’s Advent Calendar Scarf using a ‘lifeline” on Ravelry. And I thought it is definitely time for me to do the same! So at the start of each day in the instructions for the Advent Calendar Scarf, I weave a piece of scrape yarn on my knitting needles to protect those live stitches.  Then I keep just keep knitting.  And then if I make a mistake I can pull out my knitting needles, pull the working yarn and pull out all the stitches that I just worked. All the way down to the lifeline where the lifeline will not let the stitches come undone any further.  It sounds so pleasant, right?  I am certain that I would be using some choice words here as I rip out!

One lady on Ravelry who is doing this project as well, said that she is not using a lifeline or stitch markers.  I think she is truly brave!  I just don’t have the confidence not to use both.  Plus I love my using my pretty stitch markers! It’s like an accessory.

And lastly, I happy to say that Olive and her knitting group came up with a name.  I think that this group has been knitting together for several years – I think over 5 years?  They will now be referred to as:  Twisted Knitters.  Thanks for coming with a name all on your own you guys! 

The Martini Knitter

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Knit A Long

So I am done knitting socks for a few weeks; I may start another pair sooner then I want I say here. I have started the Harvest Moon sweater and I am really pleased with the outcome so far.  Nice well-written directions are always greatly appreciated!

I work on this while watching TV
and enjoying a wonderful gin martini
But I am branching out in my knitting; trying to get that last learning process in for the year 2011!  I joined the group on Ravelry called the “24 Days until Christmas 2011.”  I am so far 10 days behind.  I have finished Day 1, spent 30 minutes reading Day 2 and have put the spacer section between Day1 and Day 2 in. Olive’s knitting group is participating in this scarf as well and I wanted to join in the fun!  I think Olive is going to kill me because I begged her to do it with me as well.  Her excuse was like all other knitters, “I have too much to knit already.”  I actually do, but didn’t stop me from joining.  I have enjoyed the friendly banter of this knit-a-long (KAL) on the emails with Olive’s knitting bee.  HINT to Olive’s knitting bee:  Get a name!

It took me 2 hours to shop for yarn for this project! I know! How crazy is that? I could have taken the train into Utrecht gone to my LYS, Modilaine!  But no I wanted to do the yarn research on Raverly and so I shopped the online yarn shops in the US.  The 2 hours was because I ran into trouble selecting a color.  I wanted pale blue.  I found the perfect one until I read the yarn comments on Ravelry.  Many contributors wrote that the yarn I wanted would felt almost instantly upon knitting; meaning the knitter’s hands would heat up on the working yarn and would begin to felt.  Not an option for me. 

So I kept hunting.  And I kept running into that word printed on knitting labels: “superwash.”  I wanted to make the scarf in wool because I never leave home with out a warm wool scarf.  (I may be throwing on my coat as I run out to the door to catch the bus, but I have my scarf in my hand!)  I emailed my college/knitting guru buddy, Christina, who works at Nine Rubies in San Mateo, California, asking her if she knew what was meant by “superwash.” 

This is Christina’s answer (with a recommendation):  Superwash wool is a treated wool that is dipped in an enzyme bath to remove all of the scales on the fleece.  Remember the hair conditioner ad that showed two magnified pics of hair pre and post conditioner?  The wool has the same kind of scales and they grip each other, which makes the wool very springy and helps to keep its shape after stretching. It is also why wool felts with heat, water agitation those scales bond to each other and pull together to cause density and shrinking.  Since superwash does not have the scales it will not felt but it also is more slippery and less grabby, that is why it is growing.  Best bet, knit down a needle size or two.

Ok, now I get it; and the recommendation for me to go down 2 needle sizes.  But I did decide on a yarn for my advent scarf.  And from what Olive’s knitting group was saying, I am really happy with my choice.  They said that for some, the yarn they choose was too thin and the ripping out process was becoming a mess.  So, for once, I have chosen wisely.  I chose Morehouse Farm’s 2-ply yarn because – please act surprised here – (1) it’s 100% wool, and (2) the color, “soft blue.” 

On to Day 2 ...

The Martini Knitter