the painted iris

I've started a simple lace mohair scarf for my mother for Christmas. I did a few test swatches and settled on a garter stitch border of 4 rows by 3 stitches at each side. I chose a colorway of Crystal Palace Yarns Kid Merino called 'Painted Iris' to use. I love the name, and a beautiful yarn to match! It brings about romanticism of the iris works of VanGogh and Monet.

My only criticism of the project is that my aluminum needles are too slippery for the mohair, so I really have to stay alert. This may take a few weeks to complete as I currently have an attention span of only one repeat. I'm OK with that, I have until Christmas.


entry garden plantings

I picked up a few things at the local garden club plant sale this morning to add to the garden beds in the front. The beds upon moving in already were established with 'Goldmound' spirea, a Star Magnolia tree, and a Pyramidal Arborvitae. Last fall next to the door I added a Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis), 3 Anenome 'Queen Charlotte', 2 Liriope 'Variegata', and a Hosta 'Patriot'. Today I added 2 Coral Bells (Heuchera 'Plum Pudding') for color. You'll note that my neighbor has added the new mulch that was recommended by the townhome association this year. I have yet to get said mulch as it is only sold in bulk and I don't drive a pick-up. Please also note that these plantings have yet to be established, so they are still sparse. Don't judge me! (Just kidding :))

At the end of the garden near the driveway I planted an old fashioned purple Iris (Iris sp.), Hen and Chicks (Sempervivum), Roman Wormwood (Artemisia pontica), and 2 Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantia). I also transplanted a Rudbeckia species that was there but certainly not flourishing.

I also planted a Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) in the back garden bed. That garden is yet to be planned and established. It is currently a receptacle for run-off water from the roof and is pure clay. In fact the entry garden is mostly clay as well (another disadvantage to living in a developed subdivision) , so I added quite a bit of composted cow manure.

In addition to finishing the garden bed, I will also be adding some planters for color. More to come... (It's okay, you can be excited!)


the fiber addiction deepens

So, while I was out and about today getting some yarn for upcoming projects I also bought this:

Yes, I am going to try my hand at spinning. We'll see how this turns out. So far I have sections that resemble bailing twine and others that more closely mimic sewing thread. This should be interesting.


not-so-rugged finish

I finished my Not-So-Rugged scarf. I love it! It really is a great manly way to wear mohair. It adds a touch of class to the cool weather ensemble :)
I knit the scarf on size 8 needles using Louisa Harding Cinnabar and Crystal Palace Yarns Kid Merino 'Espresso'. I noticed as I was nearing the end that the mohair was running low. I stopped at 31 rows in the middle section where there was to be 36, and I ran out at 5 rows in the top border where there was to be 6. In the future, I would knit 30 rows in the middle and 6 on the top edge, to match the bottom. I would also choose a different cast on technique as I wasn't happy with the long tail cast-on once I had cas
t off. The cast on was much tighter and created an overall funnel effect. However, when worn this isn't noticeable.
I will definitely make more of these. It's a very easy pattern (all done in stockinette) yet creates a beautifully elegant mohair fabric. These scarfs
will make great gifts!


it's really not-so-rugged

My latest knitting project is the Not-So-Rugged scarf from the book Knitting With Balls. I'm using Kid Merino mohair 'Espresso' from Crystal Palace yarns as well as Cinnabar from Louisa Harding yarns. I'm loving how this is turning out! I've already decided to make another one for a friend. This is also my first time working with mohair, and I'm really enjoying it. I think I'll have to make a mohair lace scarf for my mom for Christmas. You really can't start to early :)


more planting fun

I planted the seeds and bulbs that I bought yesterday. I planted 4 Stargazer lilies in 1 gallon nursery pots, so that I could start growing them and decide where I'm planting them later. I also thought they would be easy to move if we had a frost. I planted a flat of Jewel Mix nasturtium in fiber pots and a 6" pot of Sequoia beans. These are the purple beans which turn green when you cook them. I planted similar ones before and grew them up a tee pee stick trellis in a pot, however after I planted these ones I noticed that they are a bush bean. A little change of plans, but I'll make it work.

Last weekend Dan and I visited the Morton Arboretum. It was beautiful and very tranquil as we hiked through the preserve. We were able to snap a few nice photos too!

Oh, here's my bleeding heart that just awoke a few weeks ago. I'm so proud!


first plantings

Today I planted some 'Straight Eight' cucumber seeds and Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia Alata) seeds in peat pots. I plan to transplant these together into planters on the back patio and train them to crawl up a trellis. Because I have so little gardening space I'm trying to combine veggies into my potted plants. I have a couple of beds that I'm allowed to plant in, but I'm afraid of all of the fertilizers that the lawn people use and the run-off from the roof. So, no vegetables or herbs in those beds. I also planted 5 Harvest Yellow Cannas. There were supposed to be 4 in the bag, but I got a bonus! I'll transplant these into the flower beds once they mature some.

I stopped by the hardware store to get a rake and ended up with more seeds and bulbs. Well, I had to walk right past them to get to the rakes! Seriously, who designed that store? Anyway, I'll be planting those in the next day or so. I love spring!


when life gets in the way of knitting

Things have been a bit slow in the knitting front lately. I've been focusing the majority of my efforts on decorating the house. The Living Room is for all practical purposes complete, and the Bedroom is well on it's way. I'm also painting a faux wallpaper on the Powder Room wall, which I'm unsure about at this time. I'll just need to complete it and live with it for a few days before making a final judgement. I'm also getting busier with my Master Gardener training and will be volunteering for the program by the end of this month.

My sweater has been set aside as of late because I can't make the neck look decent. It looks more like a tall boat neck which is so not the look I'm going for. I've already taken it back once and although this version looks better, it's still not wearable for me. I may need to research some patterns and see how the neck of a sweater is normally done. I should have knit my first sweater from a pattern instead of the recipe from Elizabeth Zimmerman, so that I had the basics down. Oh well, it's all a learning experience.

Most recently I've begun to knit a pair of basic socks for myself out of Koigu KPPPM 537. It's the perfect colorway for spring socks.


spring has sprung!

It's official, spring has made it to Northern Illinois! I found my Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) sprouting near the front walk! It was 65°F here yesterday and we're hoping for similar temperatures today. I love this time of the year and I love watching my plants grow, it makes me feel like a proud papa!


crochet placemats

My latest crochet project is a set of placemats inspired by a bedspread pattern on the Antique Pattern Library website. I've been working on this for several weeks, doing picking it up only occasionally. I've almost completed one placemat. In order to get the size I wanted I had to change the size and quantity of the crochet stitches. My original idea was to make a contemporary, solid border around the flower motif. However, now that I have a few flowers joined, I'm thinking that I will just make more and leave the edges unfinished and organic. While I love this pattern, I certainly don't live in a "doily" house, so whatever I decide it has to have a modern twist to it.

My sweater has really been coming along. I've attached the sleeves and I'm decreasing my way to the neck. I can barely put it down. I seem to want to go faster in the final stretch!


rick's first sweater

I've just started my first sweater! It's the Seamless Saddle Shoulder Pullover by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I've had this in queue for a couple of months now and I've been contemplating what stitch patterns to use, the color, the style, etc. I've finally decided that I want a very basic sweater in stockinette. This will allow me to focus on construction and form as opposed to pattern, and I will get a lot of wear out of it as it will be a versatile garment.

I'm using Paton's Classic Wool Merino "Worn Denim" on size 8 needles. At this point the plan is to create a hem in a contrasting color (to be decided), and create a crew, or possibly v-neck. I think I have some time to figure that out.


grandma's shawl completed

I've finally completed the Lehmus shawl that I was knitting for my grandmother. I'm very happy with the way it turned out. I may need another lace project soon!


grandma's "lehmus" shawl

I've been working on my first lace project. This is the Lehmus shawl pattern and I'm making it for my grandmother. I'm making this out of a worsted weight yarn, Lion Brand Wool-Ease "Dark Rose Heather", on size 8 needles.

My grandmother is going into the hospital for hip surgery later this month and I wanted a heavier shawl to help keep her warm while she is away from home. She's had both hips replaced before, however the newer one is over 15 years old and she has to have them both done again. She's more worried this time around as she's a little older and has difficulty getting around as it is. I'm hoping this shawl will help to ease her anxiety and encourage a quick recovery.

I was a little intimidated at the begining and it took me a few tries to get started. Most of the pattern is in another language and I didn't see where it told me to purl every even row, I had to figure that out for myself. I also had a difficult time following every stitch on the chart, however it became easy once I figured out what each stitch did and how it worked with the row below. Now I don't have to refer to the chart as much. Let's hope it continues to go well, I still have much more to knit before it's finished.



I've had these mittens in queue for awhile. I had to focus on Christmas knitting before getting back to me. I wanted a pair of mittens, but not plain mittens, something with a little kick. I found the pattern for the Chavalier mittens on Ravelry. I loved the texture and detail of the cables.

At first the pattern gave me a little trouble because I had to follow a chart closely, however once I figured out where the cables were going it became easier. I also learned that when I need to increase a stitch, I do it much better by knitting into the stitch one row below as opposed to doing a tight yarnover, as I still got a small hole.

I love wearing these, the wool is incredibly soft and the fit is spectacular. My only issue is an error I made in crossing a set of cables where I accidentally pulled the purled stitches over the knit ones and didn't notice until much later. It really isn't noticeable to the untrained eye, but irritates me none the less.

I need to talk about this yarn. I bought it while visiting family in Michigan. It's from a historic farm which incorporated fiber mill called Stonehedge Fiber Mill. The yarn is Shepherd's Wool and is spun from incredibly soft merino top. It was a dream to work with and knit up beautifully. I love it so much that I may need to make a sweater from it.


kyan's sweater

Although we don't haven't had much snow here in Illinois, it has gotten quite cold. The temperature reached down to 21F last night, not so bad for this time of the year. However, my poor little Kyan shivers every time he has to go outside (this is why I feel fortunate for indoor plumbing). I've wanted to make myself a sweater, but I thought it would be great to try out such a garment on my dog first. He gets a warm sweater to wear outdoors and I get to experiment with a few new techniques. Let's just say it's a good thing I experimented on a dog sweater first.

I found this pattern and began with a left-over ball of Patons Classic Wool Merino "Natural Mix" on size 8 circulars. I had only used 10% or so of the yarn, surely the remainder would be enough for a dog sweater, he was small after all. Well, no. I had to go out and buy another ball, luckily I found the same dyelot that I was using. Once I was able to bind off for the belly, I felt it was time to try it on before I got myself into too much trouble. The arm holes were way too big! This in turn made the overall sweater too long. I put the sweater down and walked away from it for a few days.

Now, I really didn't want to rip the whole thing back. I had worked diligently on cabling, seed stitch, and ribbing and the thought of redoing it seemed daunting. My solution, rip back slightly to make it the correct length and "patch" the arm holes with stockinette stitch. Which I did, and added ribbed sleeves.

All in all, it didn't turn out as ghetto as I expected it too. It's slightly too large in width for him, but he can wear it. I think that next time I should gauge my swatch in a ribbing pattern instead of stockinette, which may help with the fit. I chalk it up to a learning experience.


more finished things!

I think life is finally settling down after the holiday rush! I've certainly been busy with my fiber work! Below are some objects that I have completed over the past couple of weeks.

After a few months, I was eventually able to finish the "My So-Called Scarf" from the MenWhoKnit KAL. This was truly the first knit project I started and I just couldn't stick with it for more than a couple of hours at a time. I guess I'm just not monogamous in the project department. In any case, I love how it turned out and I wear it all the time. I used Manos del Uruguay, colorway "Quail" on size 11 needles.

After I had completed an oil painting of my Grandmother's garden for her, I thought I wanted to give her something knit or crocheted as I knew that she would truly appreciate it. When I saw this
Fan Bookmark, I knew it would be the perfect "little something" to give her. She loved it and the painting (unfortunately, I did not photograph said painting). It's a beautiful bookmark and I may make one for myself as well :) This was made from J & P Coats Royale "Cardinal" #10 crochet cotton with size 1.30mm hook.

I also completed my baby cousin's
Tiramisu blanket. I made this from Bernat's Softee Baby "Pink" with a size H hook. I was fortunate enough to meet new baby cousin on this trip. She's so adorable! (Again no pictures). The poor thing just returned from the hospital and is recovering from a bought with staph, and she's only two months old. Luckily, she has a new blanky to keep her warm.

Okay, I seriously love the
Koolhaas hat that I FINALLY finished! It's made from Berroco Ultra Alpaca, in colorway Leaf, with size 6 and 8 needles. I've gotten several complements on it while wearing it out and about. Although, my dad did say that it reminded him of a hat that my great-grandmother used to wear. I'm going to assume that means that great-grandma was incredibly hip.