Thursday, March 27, 2014

More Knitting!

Because I turn my year's blogging into a book every January, I want to get these knitting project photos posted as well.  But first a note about sizing and how much it has changed in 50 years.

I'm learning that the trend here in the U.S. for "vanity sizing" has really gotten out of control.  When I was in high school, I weighed about 112-115 lb and wore a size 10 in Levi jeans.  I sewed all of my own clothes back then and used a size 10 pattern, modifying the patterns only to shorten bodices and skirts to fit my 5'2" height.  The smallest size available for women was size 8.  Tiny women for whom a size 8 was too big shopped in the Junior department.   Today I weigh about 118 lb and wear a size 6 Levi jean.  I have clothes in my closet that I wear regularly that are size 4 or 6.  All this to say that knitting a sweater today is a real crap shoot when it comes to sizing.

My first sweater project since re-discovering knitting was a cute sweater jacket that I thought would become a staple in my wardrobe during winters here in S. Texas.  I downloaded the pattern, bought some luscious charcoal grey yarn and got to work.  The thing about knitting a sweater is that, depending on its construction, it's impossible to try it on as you go.  It's not until you get it assembled or, if knit in one piece, off the needles to really gauge its size.  When I got that sweater jacket finished and assembled and tried it on, it swam on me.  I followed the instructions exactly for a size small, made sure my knitting gauge was correct, yet it engulfed me.  I'm guessing it to be about a size 14, maybe even larger.

This came out huge!  Even with adjustments to length, the sleeves
were 4 or 5 inches too long.  They're rolled up in this photo.

Since when is a jacket that would fit a size 14 woman considered a size small?  Even those weight loss commercials with testimonials where the woman says, "I used to weigh 240 lbs.  Now I weigh 145 lb and wear a size 6" make me gnash my teeth!   I weigh 118 and wear a size 6!  If I weighed 145 lb I certainly would not wear a size 6!

Hours and hours of work down the drain....I "frogged" it (unraveled it) and used the yarn to make this pretty cabled lap blanket.  I really like that sweater jacket pattern and may revisit it again some day, but not for now.  Maybe next fall or early winter.
Yarn recycled into this beautiful cabled throw

So my next sweater project was a beautiful little cardigan called February Lady.  I had already downloaded the pattern from Ravelry and was just waiting to find the right yarn.  I found that yarn at Knit Wits in Sedona! The pattern was written for a size medium, but the author gave advice on how to modify it to make it larger or smaller.  Burned by my previous experience, I got to work with pencil and paper and did the math needed to convert the sweater to an approximate size X-Small.  Because of the repeating pattern in the body and sleeves of the sweater, all adjustments for size needed to be made in multiples of seven.  And the yoke had to be adjusted appropriate to the adjustments in the body and sleeves.  Making these adjustments is not for beginners or those who are math-challenged.  It came out great and fits perfectly.

Emboldened by this recent success, I bought yarn for another project, a really cute flyaway sweater vest, also downloaded from Ravelry.  It's called Shalom.  The pattern claimed to be a size Small, but users were advised that it was designed for a tall woman and that we should remove "lots of rows" to make it shorter if we weren't tall.  Indeed the woman wearing the sweater in the photo at the pattern's webpage appeared to be slim and tall.  I knitted the pattern with no adjustments to size, only to length and again ended up with a sweater that was huge!  It has a ribbed yoke that was so big it came almost to my waist, and the armholes came down to my elbows.   It was ugly!

But I spent a lot of money on this particular yarn, and really liked the sweater design so, unlike the previous disaster, I was determined to make this one over and make the adjustments necessary to make it fit.  I "frogged" the finished sweater and then got to work with pencil and paper again, making the necessary changes to the pattern.  It needed to be smaller in circumference overall, and the ribbed yoke needed to be much smaller.  The ribbing pattern on the yoke made it easier to compute than the February Lady sweater, since it was only multiples of two, not seven.  I cast on 10 fewer stitches (about 2.5 inches smaller) and did fewer repeats in the ribbed segments of the yoke (about 3 inches shorter).  I added fewer stitches to the underarm (6 instead of 15) which made it even smaller around.  It came out lovely, don't you think?

While I was in Sedona at that great yarn shop, Knit Wits, I bought some beautiful Tencel yarn for a shawl that I saw on display.  The shop owner emailed me the pattern and I cast on the project that evening.  It's a very thin yarn, really no more than string, and hard to work with.  I could only do a few rows at a time, and as the shawl got larger with many more stitches on the needle, it got to the point where I could only do a couple of rows in any one sitting.  It sat rolled up in my knitting bag for days at a time, while I worked on all of these other projects until guilt overtook me and I would pull the project out and knit a row or two.

It has beading at the beginning of the fluted border and applying these beads along two rows was really time-consuming, but is what sold me on this project in the first place.

Beads applied on every other row at beginning of fluted border

But then I ran out of other projects - excuses really - and decided I really needed to get this finished.   So Monday evening I got serious and started in on it.  I was only a few rows from finishing this, so worked on it again Tuesday afternoon.  Imagine my relief and even joy when I reached the point where I knew I only had enough yarn to knit the cast-off row.  Finished at last!!

Mizzle Shawl - lovely!
Now I can turn my undivided attention to a second Column of Leaves scarf for a friend and no longer feel guilty for letting that Mizzle Shawl project languish in my knitting stash!  He's tall, so he wants the scarf to be extra long - 78".  I'll be busy for awhile.

Rob's Column of Leaves scarf in Yowza merino wool: "candied pecan"

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gone Crazy With Knitting!

It all started with a visit with friends in Roanoke VA in 2009.  There we all sat in our hospitality suite at the Holiday Inn, snacking on fruit and cold cuts, drinking wine, getting caught up with life events and gossip. One of my friends was managing to do all this while knitting.  She never missed a, a stitch.  So she and I started talking about knitting.  About how I learned to knit when I was 8 or 9 or 10 years old, how I kept knitting right up through college.  How I had sporadically continued to knit until 1990, when I abandoned two projects (a half-done sweater and a nearly done afghan) when I packed up to move to Texas.  And that was the last I ever held a knitting needle.

But I was intrigued and interested again.  She shared with me a website called Ravelry, which is a treasure-trove of patterns, projects, forums, chat rooms.  When I got home from that trip I logged in and created an account, even looked at some of the patterns and browsed yarn at the local hobby store.  But I just couldn't get started.  It actually seemed a little overwhelming.  I needed someone to guide me along.

Then that same friend posted a photo of a nice knitted cowl on Facebook a few months ago.  She'd just completed it and I really liked how it looked.  That's exactly what I needed to get kick-started!  She shared the link to a couple of yarn stores on-line and I bought some beauitful yarn at JustYarn - Malabrigo handspun, hand-dyed wool yarn, colorway "Garden Gate" - and downloaded the pattern and I was then off and running.

So here's that first project:

Infinitude Scarf

Emboldened now, I downloaded another pattern, this one for a nice bandana-style scarf and went to Hobby Lobby to buy some yarn.   The project went quickly:

Age of Brass and Steam scarf

It was all coming back to me now.  I was ready to try something a little more challenging, so I browsed the patterns at Ravelry and found this beautiful shawl.  Bought the yarn at Hobby Lobby - a nice superwash wool in oatmeal color, and got to work:

Lonely Tree Shawl

Love how this came out!  It's the perfect size to wear several different ways

It quickly became my favorite and came with me on several trips - to Las Cruces, to Sedona, and then to Grand Junction - where having a nice warm wrap came in handy.

I still had a skein of that beautiful Malabrigo handspun yarn  so downloaded a pattern for a beret and brought the yarn and needles with me to Las Cruces, where I worked on it in the evenings and during down-time.  When I got to the crown of the hat I realized I needed double-point needles so found a Hobby Lobby near the hotel.
Columbia Beret

More yarn stores on-line, more yarn!  This is Heartland yarn, a beautiful super-wash wool went into my yarn stash.  It knitted up beautifully into this scarf called Little Clouds.  Love the ruffled edge!

Little Clouds Shawlette

While in Sedona, I won a $75 gift card and promptly took it to the yarn shop in town and bought enough skeins to make this sweater and an interesting shawl.  The shop had the shawl on display, made in a taupe and grey variegated tencel yarn.  It was different, not something I would have thought to make if it had not been on display.  So I bought a skein of that tencel yarn in a magenta variegated and the shop owner printed me out a copy of the pattern.
This sweater pattern is called February Lady.  I love how it came out!
The woman who developed the pattern took an infant's sweater
pattern and modified to fit, as she says, "a big-assed woman"

The tencel yarn

So, once I got home from Sedona, I had two projects on needles, both vying for my time and attention.  The shawl is difficult, the yarn like string and hard to handle, so I can only work on it for a little while before needing to put it down.
Mizzle Shawl, using shop owner's adapted pattern for
this particular yarn.  Beads applied at start of fluted border.

I purchased yarn to make a sweater from Lion Brand on-line. The sweater was a disaster, coming out way too big!  So I unraveled the whole thing and used the yarn to make a thick, warm cabled throw.   Now I'm on their mailing list for their weekly newsletter - a terrible enabler if I ever saw one!
Lions Brand pattern for cabled throw.  

I made another throw for my daughter-in-law in dark green, the school color for U. Oregon, her alma mater.

And another cabled throw!  This one for my daughter-in-law

Now I can't stand not having a project to work on!  I can watch TV in the evenings and work on a project - perfect multi-tasking.  So I made this scarf.  I had downloaded the pattern a couple of months earlier, when I started to seriously browse the patterns on Ravelry.  But I didn't have any yarn for it, so I went back to and bought this pretty brown and light pink variegated wool yarn and got to work on it. 

Column of Leaves scarf

Now my office is taken over with yarn!  I have yarn for upcoming projects; I have leftover yarn from finished projects; I have "spec" yarn for who-knows-what projects, purchased only because I liked the color, not because I had something in mind.

And a friend on Facebook saw my photo of that Column of Leaves scarf and wants one, too.  So he bought the yarn, had it shipped to my house, and now I'm working on his scarf, along with a really pretty sleeveless sweater for myself.  My horizon is filled with knitting!!

Column of Leaves scarf for a friend.  MissBabs Yowza yarn, in Candied Pecan

Monday, March 17, 2014

Grand Junction Medals and Memories

I decided it's been a while since taking a photo of my half marathon finisher medals, so once I put the latest prize - Dreamcatcher half marathon finisher's medal - on the rack, I took a photo:

Dreamcatcher medal up front and center on my
50 States-50 Half Marathons medal rack

This past weekend the official event photographer posted the link to the photo albums and provided one free download for each race finisher.  Here I am, officially a finisher and a proud owner of the really creative and unique Dreamcatcher finisher's medal:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Off to Tour the Colorado National Monument

The gals who organized the Dreamcatcher Half Marathon thought of everything!  Restaurants, lunches, brunches, tours of the area.  And one of those tours was a 4-hour guided visit to nearby Colorado National Monument.  Well....I'm in!

I visited this park in May, 2009 by motorcycle while attending a get-together in nearby Moab.    While the ride was great and very scenic, riding a motorcycle through this national monument park is nonetheless very nerve-wracking!  So getting to take a guided tour where I could enjoy the views without worrying about dropoffs with no guardrails and oncoming cars that wander over the line into my narrow lane.  This is going to be a fabulous morning!
My tour mate and I at one of the overlooks

I was picked up promptly at 8 AM.  There were two of us plus the driver Donna, the driver who did such an excellent job yesterday on the wine tour!  We headed straight for the park, climbing up the switchback road to the top where the rim road begins.  The nice thing about there being just the three of us, is that we could pick and choose the stops, spend as much or as little time as we wanted, and therefore were able to make more stops than if we were a larger group.  Awesome!!  And we pulled over at nearly every single pull-out and hiked out onto several of the trails to the vista points for photos.

Just a sampling...the rest of the photos can be found in my SmugMug album here:  Colorado National Monument Album.

Now it's time to pack up and head for home.  A nice long weekend in Grand Junction and I have vowed to come back here soon!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Winery Tour in the Grand Valley

The race is done, finisher medal safely stowed away, I'm showered and dressed and (somewhat) fed and rehydrated.  Now it's time to join the others on a winery tour for the rest of the afternoon.  The race organizers had arranged for a group tour using Three Dreams Charter Tours.

About 20 of us are signed up to take this tour and two vans arrived to collect us, one a larger, airport-shuttle style van, the other a smaller, more comfortable van.  Most of the group piled into the larger van, leaving three of us to the smaller van.  I was just fine with this!  Our driver, Donna, was personable and chatty, and the young couple that joined me were from Iowa, so we had a nice, more intimate tour and, being a much smaller group, Donna assured us that we'd be able to visit a couple more wineries than the other van.  The two drivers had arranged the route so that we would not be at the same wineries, which really helped with the intimacy of the tour.

Our driver Donna even took us out of town on a different, more scenic route than the other van driver.  Most of the wineries - and all that we would be visiting - are in Palisade and surrounding area, close to the base of Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction.  The drive to get to the first of several wineries was very scenic with spectacular views in all directions.  The area is filled with fruit orchards and vineyards.  It must be spectacular to see in the spring and summer!

First winery:  Mesa Park Vineyards...

Mesa Park winery tasting room

Mesa Park winery tasting room

I've been to wineries for tastings elsewhere, but was quite pleasantly surprised at the limitless tastings of all of their offerings here in these wineries.  Everything on their wine list here and at the other wineries we visited were available for tasting.  At Mesa I tried three of their reds, each quite different.

Then we moved on to the next winery, Colorado Cellars, the oldest winery in Colorado.  At this winery, we were given the chance to taste any of their wines and then select one for a full serving, with a souvenir wine glass to take home.  Donna brought a cheese and cracker platter and we sat outside at a table with a lovely view to enjoy our wine and snack.  So relaxing!

Some of Colorado Cellars vineyards

An impressive collection of awards for their wines

Colorado Cellars tasting room

Enjoying our wine and crackers

Donna (our driver) and fellow race finisher Ollie.

Patch of heather along the drive to the tasting room.
Then it was on to our next winery, actually a meadery:  Meadery of the Rockies!!

I tried a couple of the different meads, one a raspberry mead called Raspberry Chocolate Satin, the other a lighter mead called Camelot. Surprisingly good!  I could imagine making any of these into a wine spritzer with seltzer.  Umm umm!

The Meadery list of products

Meadery tasting room

Meadery tasting room - view into the production room

Meadery tasting room

Some of their wine awards
I was trying to be conservative and only taste a couple of wines from each winery.  It was hard, though, when the selections were so unusual and so good!

Our next stop was at a winery that was actually two wineries in one, both owned by the same family.  One side is a tasting room devoted to their traditional reds and whites (Talon Winery), the other side is a tasting room for some their fruit-infused wines (St. Kathryn winery).
Talon Winery

Talon winery tasting room

Talon winery tasting room

Oh,'s also a fudge factory!

Talon winery on one side,  St. Kathryn's on the other side

List of some of their offerings.
Some great tastings and 1/4 lb of fudge purchased for later, we headed for our last stop of the day, a distillery!

Peach Street Distillers...This tiny little winery/distillery makes grappa, distilled agave (tequila, but cannot be labeled as such outside of Mexico), and gin.  I had a taste of Viognier grappa (love this distillate ever since having it for the first time in Italy many years ago) and then tried two different agave distillate.  He then pulled an unlabeled bottle out from beneath the counter and gave each of us a sip of their special, secret recipe, made from gin, gin-soaked vanilla beans and Trader Joe's brewed coffee.  Holy cow!!  Good stuff!

Peach Street Distillers
 A food truck pulled in to their parking lot just about the same time we did.  As we started to head for the van after our tastings, the aromas coming from that food truck got the better of me.  I was hungry, having had no lunch after running that half marathon, so I bought a grilled ahi tuna taco, which was fabulous and totally hit the spot!
Okay...a food truck and I'm hungry!
The other van was pulling in just as we were getting to leave, so our driver walked over to talk briefly with the other driver.  She learned that they only managed to get to two wineries before arriving at this distillers. Our little group were definitely winners!  We managed five wineries, a fudge factory, and this great and tasty little distillery.

I was dropped off at my hotel, a very tired but very happy camper after a long but extremely fulfilling day!

Tomorrow morning, early:  The same tour driver will be taking me and another runner on a 4-hour tour of Colorado National Monument.