merry happy everything--the after-Christmas post

A few days ago:
The week after Christmas I have a special knack for overlooking the fact that my house looks like the bottom of a parrot cage.  The other 51 weeks I am a ruthless cleaner-upper of messes and devoted organizer.  But after Christmas, I just don't have the energy: people, I am pooped.  You are too, right?  Here at Casa Knitionary, activities are being kept to a minimum.  On Saturday I walked downtown in a half-hearted attempt to take advantage of the day-after sales and came home with nothing but a few packets of paper cocktail napkins for next year--it really was just an excuse for a walk in the fresh air.  On Sunday I went to the mall with my husband as he was determined to get some new duds.  Success!  After three pairs of pants and a sports coat he wanted to go out to lunch and I moaned, please don't make me eat again, take me home, my tummy needs to rest and anyway, we have those leftovers.  Back home I barely had the energy to click the needles together.  Haha, you know I'm kidding--I've been knitting like a maniac while binge watching Grand Hotel.  Can you believe my husband has never had the unique pleasure of binge watching?  After 6 episodes of diabolical intrigue, I informed him we had a mere 60 episodes to go!  You should have heard the groan!  

As for Christmas week--it was a great success with lovely visits with family and friends.  I'm happy to say that as a knitter, I received the best gift of all: my hand-knitted gifts were giant hits; my daughter loved her poncho, son his vest and granddaughter her hats, scarf and wrist-warmers.  Annie left with a new project on the needles; a hat for her best friend.  As for the kind of gifts you actually open on Christmas morn, I did manage to talk my lovelies into giving me yarny gifts even though they are worried I won't live long enough to knit my Christmas gift yarn, let alone the rest of my stash, and they haven't even seen the half of it.

I started this post and never got around to adding my pictures so I thought I'd add a postscript:  It's amazing what a few days of lazy will do.  I am a new person with energy to spare!  Yesterday morning I hopped out of bed and attacked the Christmas clutter.  It's mostly gone now, but I kept a little bit of the shiny and twinkly up, just for January.  My houseplants had been banished to a guest room and are now gathered together in a sunny kitchen window and look very happy.  My yarn is stored away for now--until the right project comes along. Here are some random shots of the past week.

Meet the choir girls, or the church ladies as we sometimes call ourselves.  My long-time girlfriends and I host a party every year after our last Christmas concert.  We met when we had toddlers, now we are grandmothers!

Annie came to visit.  Remember when she was teensy?  Now she is 15!

We stayed one night at the Fairmont, and my son upgraded us to a pretty nice suite! 

Annie loved her fingerless mitts and hat.  More on that later.

There is a Christmas tree on top of that crane!

My son and his girlfriend.
With my husband at a Christmas party.  We didn't know there was a photographer station until we were heading out the door!

Here and below--my favorite kind of gift!

Right now we are headed out the door to see Brooklyn.  We hear it's fantastic! 
  Until next year,
Merry Happy Everything!

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Stay Calm and Jingle On

Hi friends!  Hope you are holding up well during this busy season.  It's supposed to be busy this time of year, right?  And on that it never fails!  For us there's been visitors to visit and guests to squire, parties to attend and parties to host.   And the cooking--goodness, that never stops even though I've really tried to keep the cooking simple.  Delicious always, but simple-ish.  Except for the Beef Wellington I made last week--that was a bit over the top.  In these pictures I know it looks like quite a lot of decorations, but this year I've kept all that to a minimum--for me--relying on greenery and candles and twinkly lights and yes, two trees.  We did put up the big tree in the living room and another tiny tree in my knitting lounge that is adjacent to my sewing room.  It's my little respite from all the busy and a very welcome and soothing place to cuddle down into, especially at this time of year.  I flick on the tree lights, turn on a Christmas movie (there's loads of them lined up in my dvr) and settle in with my knitting.  That activity unwinds me like none other.  Thank God for knitting.

I'd like to take this time to wish you a happy holiday season.  For those who celebrate Christmas I wish you the merriest of Christmases and to everyone, a happy new year.  Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and visit my little knitting blog.  I always appreciate your readership and cherish each comment here and on my Facebook page.  You guys are the best.  I love that we have my three hobbies--knitting, entertaining or gardening, or perhaps all three, in common.

For the new year I have some blog wishes and dreams.  There will always be knitting of course--I've got some great projects in the queue and some scrumptious new yarns and pattern books from Rowan to sneaky peek before they officially appear in the shops.  I'm also hoping I can bring back more gardening posts this spring and summer.  They've been missing from Knitionary this past year as most of you know California is in a serious drought and our water has been rationed.  However, this season is promising to be a wet one and with any luck our reservoirs will fill up again and we can plant our flowers and vegetable garden this year.  And on the entertaining front, did I tell you I wrote a cookbook?  I compiled our church congregation's recipes together in a book to celebrate my church's 100th year anniversary and found the most fantastic publisher.  This was not easy as most publishers of this type of cookbook are very restrictive. I didn't want it to look like an old fuddy church cookbook and I searched high and low to find a publisher who would allow total freedom as far as layout, style, fonts, etc. yet still be inexpensive.  The cookbook is pretty fantastic and was so well received, we are on our third printing.  AND I'm planning on compiling another one with my party-group girlfriends.  We are 8 long time friends, all great cooks and party-givers, including several great writers and one good organizer--me!  We plan on taking a year to do it--taking our time to make it fun and make something we can be proud of.  I'll take you on our cookbook writing journey as we go along month by month, and definitely share my terrific little publisher so you can also make your own cookbook!

thank you again for a great year at knitionary
merry merry

always owl ways

Eek!  I've made the cutest set for my granddaughter for Christmas!  Before it's wrapped up I asked my young neighbor to come over and model, but I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures of her smiling face!  She loved it and I know my granddaughter will love it to!

The yarn confession:  I broke my rule and did not buy my usual "luxury" yarn, but instead went to a craft store and purchased acrylic yarn.  I think it has a smidge of wool in it, but still, mostly acrylic.  My excuse: I brought the patterns with me on my last visit to my daughter's house and ventured out to go a-wool shopping.  They don't have a knit store in their town and we ran out of time to get into the next town that does.  However, they do have a great craft store.  My granddaughter, Annie and I both fell in love with this oatmeal colored yarn and it was the right gauge.  It has flecks of black in it and really is pretty.  I'll admit my eyes twinkled at the cheap price but honestly, I'm surprised it wasn't even less expensive.  The result:  Despite my snooty misgivings, I ended up liking the yarn and love the finished project.  So there 'ya go. Will I use this yarn again?  Probably not, it's a bit itchy-ish while knitting and I'll have to see what Annie says after wearing it.  I have a sinking feeling that as cute as it is, it would have much much better in a soft and cushy yarn.  I still believe that knitting with higher quality yarn is still a better value in the end.  PS, I don't know if it was the yarn or the pattern, but the scarf only went flat after a good wet-block.  The modeled pics are before the wet blocking.

These patterns--I LOVE THEM!  That was me screaming!  I love owls! (And in fact I love them so much I'm working out something in my mind and on my needles, something owlie for the kiddies.  If I can get it right I'll share the pattern here on my blog.  Wish me luck.) 

Here's all the links so you can go owlie too!

Do yourself a favor and visit Ekaterina's design page.
She has some adorable, well-priced designs. 
The two patterns I used were very well written and I'm really happy I purchased them.


Two Harbors Poncho

Here's my version of the Two Harbors Poncho I've knit for my daughter for Christmas.  Before I sent it off I wanted to get some modeled pictures so you can see how it looks on two very different people; my neighbor who is young and tall, and me, not so young nor am I tall.  I wore it to church this morning and had a few people try it on and it looks pretty darn great on most people.  (Ahem, sometimes I will wear the gift before I gift it, don't tell!)  My 16 year old neighbor LOVED it, I love it, I know my daughter will love it and I have a feeling my 15 year old granddaughter will love it too--it's a pattern that transcends the generations.

From the start I knew I would make a few changes--I didn't like the look of the two-toned collar in the original pattern and also felt it was too high.  I told my daughter I would knit just an inch of ribbing at the neck using the same color throughout.  She asked if there was any way I could eliminate the neck ribbing altogether?  Adding an i-cord bind off to the neck opening made it perfect.  The pattern is one-size-fits-all and could not be any easier.  Other than changing the neck I made the pattern exactly as is.  If I decide to make it again for me, I might make it less wide, but I'm not sure as I do like that it's super over-sized.   I would however, not make this any shorter as this poncho needs to be on the short side or it can look frumpy.  Two Harbors uses an aran weight yarn, but it still needs to be drapey and that can be tricky in a thick yarn.  Just make sure you pair the right yarn with this pattern, you don't want this poncho stiff.  With so much stockinette, it was just begging for a yarn that was earthy and beautiful so I went on the hunt at my LYS.  Imperial Yarn's Columbia was a perfect choice in a luminous Pearl Gray, a lovely oatmeal/gray combo.  It's not quite a tweed, but like a tweed there is some slight color movement in each stitch.  While it doesn't feel particularly soft when knitting, after blocking it became much softer and more drapey.  Many might think Columbia is best suited for outer wear but I personally think it's soft enough to wear against the skin.  I generally like bouncy yarns knit with smallish needles and this doesn't fit into either category, still, it was a very enjoyable knit.

Recently a knitting company that sells individual patterns online asked me what I felt was a fair price for an individual pattern.  I replied that $3-4 for a simple pattern and up to $6-8 for a complicated adult pattern seemed fair, after that and I start to feel ripped off.  This pattern was $9, the most I've ever paid for an individual pattern.  Still I bought it because my daughter loved it. The pattern is simple with no sizing at all, however, no matter how simple this is, it's still the designer's original idea and shouldn't we pay for originality?  I've never seen anything like it, have you?  Perhaps it's fair to pay a little extra for this?  Your thoughts?  What do you feel is fair and what will you pay for a pattern?

As for my Christmas knitting, it's a cake walk from here on.  I've got my daughter's poncho finished and my granddaughter's hat and scarf is done which you'll see in my next post.  My son's vest has just the arm and neck ribbing to do.  I feel so well-prepared!  Today might be the day I go around and take some photos of my Christmas-decorated house.   We have a big, wet, storm today.  It's a rare, dark day in my house so I turned on the inside and outside Christmas lights.  Rainy days and Christmas lights make me happy.

Two Harbors Poncho

 Imperial Yarns Columbia
is one of a half dozen yarns from Imperial Yarns.
100% USA grown in Oregon, from start to finished product.
I loved looking through their awesome website and plan to try another yarn soon.