Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FO: Gus the Giraffe

Yesterday I put the final touches- or pompoms, rather- on Gus the Giraffe, and he's ready to go with only a week before the baby is due!
Pattern: Giraffe from Susan B. Anderson's book Itty-Bitty Toys
Yarn: 2 skeins of Brown Sheep Nature in "Impasse Yellow" and one skein of Cascade 220 in a bright orange.
Needles: Everything was on size 5, but my favorite part was that almost the entire giraffe was knit on my Grandma's old needles. Something cool to pass down to the little one :)
Time Frame: June 2nd-June 27th, 2011
Modifications: After knitting two Elijah elephants from the patterns by Ysolda, I've loved the idea of picking up the stitches for the limbs straight from the body. It's a mild pain for the first couple of rows, and turns your project into a very large traveling project, but in the long run means the kid has to really work hard to rip off any limbs. Therefore instead of casting on the 8 stitches per needle for the legs and arms, I just picked up the stitches from the body. Really wish I could have done that for the head and body, too... next time. :)
I also took away row 16 on the arms for the decrease in the hoofs, because it made the hoof less pointy. :)
Worst Part: Probably the anticipation of all the details, especially the pompoms. My last experience with pompoms involved much swearing and explosions of yarn (leading to wine), so I wasn't looking forward to it. Luckily, after some searching on the web, I found a great way to easily make pompoms that worked for me. And a couple episodes of TrueBlood helped in making and attaching all the spots.
Best Part: Definitely his journey in becoming the awkward huge giraffe that he is. :) Notice his potbelly in the front? Love it. I didn't stuff him too full, so he's super super squishy and perfect for lots of hugs. I also didn't really anticipate how huge he was going to be- he'll probably be bigger than the baby for the first couple years of the baby's life! It might sound silly, but I loved the guesses from observers of what exactly I was knitting while making him. At first, I got a gourd and a pear, and it evolved to a bear, a monkey, or pretty much anything but a giraffe until the last couple of days. I also loved how he turned out- it was a pretty detail-oriented pattern with lots of clever ideas (LOVE the drinking-straws in the horns to make them stand up idea!).
I have a lot of other patterns in that book to get through for baby presents, but I'll definitely cycle around to this one again for the right baby!

Today is my last day of work at VE before a day of packing and setting off on my adventure- getting nervous, but getting SUPER excited!! Yosemite, here I come!!!
Now to just decide exactly what knitting to bring... 4000 miles of driving means a lot of knitting time... :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Birthday Sail!

My birthday was yesterday, and I turned the ripe old age of 26! I remember being younger and thinking that 26 was the best possible age to be, because you were still in your mid-20's and young, but still old enough to have all the cool adult things like your own apartment and job and all that. Now, as reach that age, I'm hoping that it's all my teenage self thought it was cracked up to be. :)
As a celebration, I got to go out on a sailboat ride from Duluth to Two Harbors yesterday! S's Dad owns a 42' sailboat, and swallowing my nervousness settled down for a relaxing afternoon on Lake Superior!
Gus the Giraffe- finished except for attaching his pom-pom mane- took a quick tour of the boat before I threw him back into the car. :)
One of my favorite parts was possibly leaving the Duluth harbor.
Because there was close to no wind as we left, we had to gas up the motor and wait for the Canal Park lift bridge to go up. I've seen it countless times from the shore, but going under the bridge was a whole new experience!
After we got out of the harbor, the sails were hoisted:
and we set our course!
While leisure time is in abundance on a calm day like yesterday, there's always something to do on the sailboat. When S's Dad found out I could sew, he immediately put me to work wrapping the ends of some new ropes:
as well as teaching me how to properly tie a few sailor knots I hadn't done in climbing yet. Don't worry, I did get some leisurely down time, enjoying the coast line and keeping my fingers busy:
quite busy, actually:
It was a relaxing and fantastic day!
I was almost sad as we pulled into the harbor at Two Harbors, and got dropped off by the lighthouse at the end of the pier. We made sure to wave goodbye a few times:
before watching the boat head off on its course north, up to Tofte.
It was a very cool way to spend my birthday, and I'm super grateful to S and his Dad for offering the opportunity to me! Afterwards was dinner, wine, and more relaxation time. All in all, a great birthday and chance to relax before more working and the craziness of a month-long vacation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Little Things

A lot of my recent posts mention how crappy the weather has been recently in Duluth. We had one or two days of 70 degrees back in early May, but since then it's been rain, drizzle, fog, cold, and wind every single day. It got to the point of pulling out my little space heater for my room, since the heat is turned off in my apartment building (controlled by the landlords) and it's been high forties for the last week or so.
The only "good" thing about all this gross weather is the increase in productivity for my crafting. I finished sewing a chalk bag for a friend, and I'm really happy with how it turned out!
The design was completely my own, and it was fun writing up the pattern for it. I cut out newspaper pattern pieces so I can continue to make more chalk bags, because it was a relatively fast and easy project. I made a chalk bag once before (it was more of a chalk pot), and had to scale down the design to a more normal size. I'm happy with the result, and plan on making more in the near future!
I finally got to give a long-standing project to my friend Mark over the weekend- meet Ben Fish!
When Mark and I first roomed together our sophomore year of college, we lived in a house that would only allow fish as pets. Mark named his new pet mouse "Ben Fish" in order to qualify him under the rule!
I started this project a loooong time ago as part of a swap, but never actually finished and he's been sitting on the shelf for a very long time. I pulled him out recently, realized he would be perfect for Mark, and quickly finished him!
Pattern: Mousie by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Brown Sheep Wildefoote in light pink and gray
Time Frame: April 2009 to June 9, 2011 (oops... another one I've left off...)
Favorite Part: It's such a cute pattern, and super fast to knit up!
Worst Part: Leaving it for so long, because I had to figure out what my notes were for where I left off. All the increases and decreases were a mild pain because of the teeny needles and stitches, too. :)
Mark was pretty happy to get him, and I'm glad he enjoyed it so much!
Last night I put in a movie and made a quick mug cozy for Tyler with some leftover yarn, blocking it and setting it out in the "sun":
Unfortunately, the downpouring rain today and continuous damp is going to make fast drying hard. I'll probably have to set it in front of the heater to actually dry.
I can't believe I'm talking about my heater being on... June 22? Really?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grandma's Marathon Weekend

Despite working a fair bit over this last weekend, I was still able to enjoy one of Duluth's biggest events- Grandma's Marathon!
The weather was pretty chilly for spectators, with on-and-off rain and drizzle with a mildly strong wind. Us Duluthians were used to it, but I saw a lot of people from all over the country cheering on loved ones that were wrapped in several layers of blankets, fleeces, even garbage bags to protect against the wind and rain.
As usual, there was plenty of silliness going on at the race site! This year, there was a "Bacon Station":
passing out pieces of bacon to the runners with tongs! They were set up a block down from my apartment, and all morning you could hear the sizzling of the grills. I got to hang out with a piece of rhubarb:
who was wandering around taking pictures with people (why? I have no idea!).
After watching the race, I spent much-needed quality time with two of my favorite people, Mark and Larissa! We had the necessary coffee and shared a caramel apple from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (covered in white chocolate, peanut butter, and everything else that ladies like to share):
OM NOM! They also came down to the climbing gym at the end of one of my shifts, where I ended up cheering them on when they tried out climbing! It was just the sort of hang-out weekend that I needed with friends, and I'm hoping that I'll get at least a little more time with them before I head out to Yosemite in just over a week and a half!
I'm starting to make my lists as my trip approaches, and I'm getting almost a little nervous as the days count down. Today: cleaning out my room, running errands, working on my lists, and squeezing in a little climbing. It's another lovely Duluth summer day- 50 degrees, super windy, rain on and off- so outside stuff will have to wait. Good thing I have enough errands and chores that I can wait out these gross days. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Temperance and Gus

A couple days off in a row meant the call for some form of an adventure, even if it was a little one. Therefore, I packed up my car to hopefully head up to the north shore for a couple of days of great climbing. Unfortunately, the weather up here decided not to cooperate, and my climbing partner S and I were forced to adapt our plans. Luckily, this wasn't too hard!
We were able to hang out at his Mom's gear store for a little bit, making sure that we were properly prepared for our Yosemite trip in a couple of weeks. I got a fantastic new pair of hiking shoes, and tried them out on part of the Superior Hiking Trail- up to Carlton Peak and down the Temperance River!
It wasn't the best weather- drizzly, overcast, mildly windy and temps in the fifties- but for hiking, it was really enjoyable. Not too warm, and the perfect conditions for giving my new shoes a good test.
Any of the hikes on the SHT next to the Temperance River are beautiful- the trail runs right next to the river, with great views of all the waterfalls for a huge stretch. You had to be careful next to parts of the trail, with 30-70 foot drops into chilly water and huge waterfalls. The mist was cool on the face and everything was crazy green around us!
We also got to check out the climbs at Carlton Peak- a little farther north than I normally go, and something I had never seen before. The climbs were beautiful- a kind of rock called anorthosite, a really strong but abrasive rock that had some really cool looking features and cracks. S and I ran around the bases like little kids on Christmas morning, excited about every new route we could identify.
Despite some bouts of carsickness on the way to and from, I got a ton done on Gus the Giraffe on my jaunt north.
He's got (almost) all of his major limbs, plus a tail. To be knit yet includes spots for his back, little horns, and about fifteen pompoms to attach for his mane. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to these last details. The pompoms especially are going to be a nightmare. Last time I tried to make pompoms, I ended up exploding a few of them all over the place. Yarn everywhere. I have a gut feeling it's going to be the same result this time around as well. Woohoo?
The weekend wasn't complete without abusing S's cat a little bit. Kitty (that's her real name) weighs almost as much as a baby killer whale, so we felt the teasing was warranted. We found a really large, old hex and saw what she would make of it.
Apparently it was too much effort to do anything.
She'd make a great crag cat...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grad Parties and Dance Recitals

This was my last really full weekend before I could officially declare it summer, with a Grad Party for my cousin on Friday night and the dance recital for the studio that I teach at last night.
My cousin Sam graduated from high school, and because of my work schedule it had to be an overnight trip to the cities with a 6 am departure on Saturday morning. Luckily, fun was had. A couple of my favorite guys were there, although they opted to sleep on the entire car ride home, leaving me to very quietly jam to the radio since my cassette deck has been on the fritz (yes, I use the cassette tape deck in the car). Despite the super short time down there, it was still great. My family takes having fun seriously:
and we jammed all night with a super cheesy band, 90 pounds of pulled pork, and my newly-graduated cousin at the end jumping off the 2nd floor balcony of the house onto the trampoline and launching himself into the ground due to a badly-aimed second bounce. Good times were had by all. :)
Last night was the final recital for my dance studio, and despite the length of the show it was still a really good time. I'm going to really miss teaching dance the rest of this summer, though I know have a lot of time to work hard on beginning my choreography and choosing my songs for next year's season!
I'm especially going to miss some of the other teachers- a lot of crazy talented ladies- including the lovely and talented Miss Jenelle.
I know I'll still see her, but I'll miss teaching in the same studio and being around her. She's a remarkable lady, and I hope that I can be as good a dance teacher as her!
Comparatively, today was fairly low-key with working at the climbing gym all day. I did manage to finish the body of Gus the Giraffe, which resembles more of a gourd or a pear than a giraffe.
I'll be starting on the head tonight during a movie, and will hopefully finish it soon since I leave for my trip in a few weeks- right about the time my cousin is due with unknown gender baby. So exciting! Good thing I have lots of baby-friendly books for all these pregnant friends... ;)

Friday, June 10, 2011

FO: Owl Mittens

Although the actual mitten part was finished awhile ago, I finally worked on the embroidery for these mittens on the three hour car ride to the Twin Cities for my cousin's Grad Party today. They were finished and ready to model in my aunt's beautiful backyard, and just in time to be wrapped and given away tomorrow! Presenting the Owl Mittens:
Pattern: Owlings by Kerry James
Yarn: Peace Fleece in Worsted
Dates: May 18th - June 10th 2011 (only reason it took so long was finding a time for the embroidery!)
Needles: size 6
Modifications: Instead of the fingerless gloves the pattern calls for, I decided to knit a little further to close the top and make full mittens. You can find the notes I used for closing the top of the mittens on the project page for the mittens in my Ravelry- it was super simple, incorporating the knit-purl pattern already in place. I also embroidered two of the owls (one on the back of each hand) just to make sure everyone who sees them knows what they are. :)
Best Part: I really love how easy the owl cable pattern was, and how effective it is.
Worst Part: I would probably close the top of the mitten a few rows later- they're a teeny bit on the short side for me, but again it's a present and I really hope they fit the hands of the recipient! I also wasn't a huge fan of how long the embroidery takes. Over half the car ride from Duluth to the Twin Cities... uff da!
Overall I really enjoyed these mittens, and they're going to be a nice lead-in for when I make the owl sweater later on this year. I'm excited to give them away- they're a "thank you" present to the woman that runs the dance studio I teach at. Tomorrow night is our final recital for the year, and then I have the summer off from teaching dance until September. I'll hopefully get a class or two in here or there to a couple of other friends eager to tap, but this is the last time I'm going to work with and see these girls performing these dances. Bittersweet moment for me- more possibilities in the future, but sad to say goodbye to these dances. 'Tis the curse of teaching dance, though. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Duluth, we have natural AC...

Yesterday I gave my Mom a ring down in the Twin Cities. She was just getting home from work, telling me how incredibly hot it was and how summer was hitting them with a bang.
I was mildly confused, because though it was a little muggy up here in Duluth, I was more in the "comfortable" stage when biking outdoors and to and from dance rehearsal- not blisteringly hot as she was describing.
Later, when I saw the temps for the day, I saw why:
See the Twin Cities? They're in dark red- 102 degrees. See Duluth, at the tip of the nose of Lake Superior?
52 degrees for our high.
Even International Falls on the Canadian border got up to 64.
If there's one thing about living next to this gigantic cold lake, it sure acts as a great air conditioner.
Crossing my fingers that this weekend we get up to 60...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Big Wall 101

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, finally getting above 60 degrees. I packed up my gear and my partner and went up to Palisade Head to start working on some Big Wall techniques. The wind off the lake kept it nice and cool in the sun, jumping straight on Danger High Voltage. I tried A Feathery Tong, an overhanging, crimpy 5.10d with a huge few reaches that I had never done before. It was fun, but really pushed the limits of my climbing as a lot of the holds were completely out of my reach, requiring some creative technique on my part.
After climbing, we set up Oz- a beautiful 175 foot overhanging 5.12b with powerful moves leading to a long finger crack. I've only worked the finger crack so far, but it would be the perfect route to begin working some big wall techniques. For this particular bit, Oz was plugged with trad gear such as cams and nuts every 5-6 feet. I then rapped to the bottom of the line, clipping the gear as I went simulating me following a leader up the wall. I set up my ascenders to start jugging the line and taking out gear as I went.
Can you see me in my blue helmet?

Here's a better view, where I'm taking a small break:
You can kind of see the red and yellow steps attached to the ascenders. I push the ascenders up and step up on the steps, using my legs and saving my arms. I've done it with one ascender before, but for big wall it's best to use two ascenders and two sets of steps, and takes a little bit of getting used to.
By the time I got to the top of the route, I had gotten more of a stride going but was getting a little worn out!
My harness was also weighed down with a ton of gear, making the last 20 feet even more difficult as I was jugging up my own weight, the weight of the rope, and almost ten pounds of gear. Good practice! :)
I'm a little sore and knicked up today, but working on that made me even more excited for my upcoming trip. :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Projects, projects everywhere...

In between working as many hours at VE as I can (the more I can save for Yosemite, the better!) I've been trying to put a nice big dent in the knitting queue, completing some projects before I head out.
Cheryl and I hung out on Thursday to get some collective knitting done:
where I continued to work on my Vivian sweater, probably 1/3 of the way done with the hood. Woohoo! Some time on Friday plus a mostly-quiet twelve hour shift at VE yesterday allowed me to get farther on my Alice in Wonderland mittens for my advisor!
I want to have those finished if possible before I head out. I've been noticing that they're becoming more of a pain and less fun to knit as I go. I'm not sure if that's because I just want the project to be done, or that the pattern is hard fair isle with tons of stitches sometimes between colors.
Either way, I worked on it until I was sick of it yesterday before switching over to the autumn leaves wrap. I'm really growing to love love LOVE that project- it's a really fast knit, pretty mindless, and really pretty.
Completely the opposite of the mittens, and exactly what I needed at the end of a long day.
I'm really discovering exactly what kind of projects (at least right now) I enjoy the most. Cables are by far my favorite, and right now lace is taking a close lead over fair isle for my second favorite. I think a lot of it has to do with how much actual thought goes into the knitting- I like being able to talk to people, or watch movies, or be in the car when I knit. Only devoting partial attention to it. By the way, did you see what the yarn for the wrap was being held in?
A beautiful little yarn bowl!
I was lucky enough at the end of my visit to the cities to see two of my absolute favorite people:
the lovely and talented Larissa
and the witty and dashing Mark!
The bowl was my Christmas present from them that never quite made it to me because I haven't seen them in so long! It was great to have coffee and hang out with them again, and now whenever I knit I have a little reminder of them. It's been working great so far, hanging out next to my bed for quick access to my knitting, keeping the skein untangled as it feeds yarn through the little hole in the side! :)
On to another full day of work today. We can play the "what knitting should Katie bring to work today?" game! I know what I should bring- the Alice mittens. I'm actually to the point where I'm closing the top, and getting the first mitten out of the way would be fantastic. What do I want to bring?
Right now, anything but that. I'm mildly fair-isled out right now.
Hmmm... maybe Gus the Giraffe... :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FO: Catching Butterflies

Quoting Pooh Bear, "It's a blustery day" up here in Duluth. June has rolled around quite sneakily, and it looks like we won't hit 60 degrees until (hopefully) tomorrow up here in the north. Until then, I feel no guilt as I blast onward with the hood for my Vivian sweater while starting and finishing other little projects on the side.
This weekend I was able to give one of my closest friends her birthday gift, the Catching Butterflies handwarmers!
I fell in love with this pattern a long time ago, and knew that it would be perfect for her. It took awhile to track it down, because it was printed in a magazine that we didn't get here in the US (and certainly didn't get here in northern MN) so I ended up having to order an online digital copy of the magazine, and I plan on printing out about five copies while I still know where on the internet it's stored.
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Fresco for the main handwarmers in white (om nom!), leftover Mirasol Nanu in bright blue for the butterflies on the palm, and leftover Tahki Cotton Classic in light pink for the butterflies on the knuckle.
Time Frame: May 23- May 26 (when I really want to knit something, apparently I can crank it out...)
Needles: US sizes 1, 2, and 3
Modifications: Instead of stitching down completely the butterflies on the top of the handwarmers, I only attached them by the "body" of the butterflies- that way the wings could come up and "fly". Because the cotton yarn was a worsted weight, they actual stay up on their own really well! I also cast on only six stitches for the smaller butterflies on top, again due to the thicker worsted weight yarn. It worked well!
Best Part: It's a tie between the pattern and the yarn. The Classic Elite was soft and feathery and felt like butter to knit with, and it worked perfectly for what this project was. The pattern is simple and well-written, and the finished product is adorable. I plan on making at least a pair for myself, if not more for gift knitting if it will fit the personality of the person receiving it!
Worst Part: Probably tracking down the pattern. It's always frustrating when there's picture of it on Ravelry, it seems available, and then there's a lot of hoop-jumping to finally get the pattern. I don't like that I can only access my paid-for pattern now through a website- I would rather just have the PDF.
A big thank you to my Mom's flower garden for providing a pretty background for the pictures, and my Dad for learning the art of taking "knitting pictures"! :)
I'm still working my way through the Vivian, and it's my goal this month (besides training like crazy for Yosemite) to blog at least every other day before I leave (hopefully about all my finished projects I have planned). A friend actually made this website for me to keep track of when exactly I head out- check out the URL title! :) I have a lot to get done in the next few weeks- let's see how it goes.
Off to work soon, hopefully I don't get blown away trying to get there... ;)