I think that everyone crafts for different reasons.  While I love giving gifts, I am all about process.  I am incredibly pleased by pieces of a sweater laid out on a bed.  I love socks in progress, as though they are falling out of the circle that my needles create.  Charts and graphs sing a siren's songs to me.  Their black and white symbols demand to be recreated in color.  My first real craft was cross-stitch.  I 
think that this was not by chance, because I asked to be taught many crafts over the years.  Cross-stitch, though I could never say it is my favorite, is a sort of guilty pleasure now.  After all, cross-stitch is so non-essential.  It only makes things better, never practical.
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The Original Pattern
When moving offices not too long ago, a co-worker and I found an opened, but unused, cross-stitch kit in the bottom of a file drawer.  How tragic, my secret mind thought, and so I took it home to sew and personalize.  The fact that the text on the cross-stitch made little sense was only a bonus.  The other aspect of cross-stitch being so decorative is that it is almost always saccharine.  Wise words become pablum when stitched in little x's on even weave fabric.  Only, that isn't quite what I mean. Wise words are still wise, but serious and well meaning tripe are stripped bare and revealed to be nothing more than greeting card sentiment.  However, when that powerful force of banality is harnessed, I think the results can be quite charming.  One of my favorite artists, Steotch, creates samplers of pop-cultural idioms.  The surprise is the joke, because no one expects much out of cross-stitch.  Not that I did anything revolutionary, but I altered this little picture of a sleeping kitten so that it also included a silly, boastful phrase about the Reserves department in the library.
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The Finished Product
And just to document my process, I took pictures after completing the stitching for each color. Cross-stitch looks so mechanized and pixilated to me, that laying down the colors, almost like a printing process, seems like a natural step.
If you found this appealing, then may I please recommend this and this, some great Lego build stop motions that I can't get enough of.
 
Such a ridiculous time without posting merits an extra long “run-down” post.  So either sit back and get comfortable or plan to do this thing in phases.  One of the major barriers to posting (or at least I tell myself so) is that for a while I was working almost exclusively on Christmas presents.   And really, you can’t post pictures of Christmas presents, even on your blog that most people don’t read. 
Before I get down to the (k)nitty-gritty a few updates.  First is that that grey sweater from two posts down is toast again.  I got the whole thing totally done and it was looking super and then I sewed it together waaaay too tight, and then, for reasons that I can’t totally remember right now, instead of just cutting the seams, I took the whole thing apart and gave up on that darn sweater.  I’ve got other similar patterns in mind for the yarn, but part of me believes that perhaps I was just not meant to make a raglan sleeved sweater and should stick with yolk necks.  I can sew armpits together till the cows come home.  Shoulders, not so much. 

A quick list of things I made in this period of time that I didn’t take pictures of:

·         A charming green owl baby sweater
·         8 spherical knitted fair isle Christmas ornaments
·         A crochet Queen Ann scarf using handsome and inspiring home spun

 Onward to actual projects with pictures!
The Grandma's Flower Garden Quilt: I got lots of work done on my quilt, and then because I had put off Christmas knitting till the last moment, I had to stop.  Now I worry that my hands won’t know what to do once they get started again.  I did manage to take lots of pictures of the quilt though, in various phases, with which I will now favor you:
In these photos you can see the cutting table over which I labored with my hexagonal graph in the foreground; all my little square bundles laid out, because chance is for the insane; the morning the kitten found the scraps can; and finally about how far I got before Christmas descended like a craft time absorbing sponge.
One better documented Christmas project this year is the Santa’s Clothesline.  The pattern originally came from Mary Maxim, but Mary and I seem to have differing ideas about the correct sizing of clothing for a fireplace garland.  Or, more aptly, I have a skewed concept of how big a fireplace is and love a challenge.  I started to make the jacket and was horrified by the dimensions.  I sized down repeatedly until I ended up working with bedspread crochet thread and size 0 needles.  The results look something like this:
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In the end I made two medium sized garlands, one Mary Maxim sized one ,and one tiny one for personal use.  For those keeping score, that is 4 little jackets, pants, hats, scarves, and long johns, and 8 little mittens and socks.  Here is my husband with the finished MM sized and tiny sized, as you can see, the MM sized garland actually looks very cute:
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And finally, a Christmas gift that has been given and so can be posted about.  Mittens.  Two pair to be exact.  One for my father who favors deep blues (these are the only photos I have of them and were taken before the thumbs were finished.  In fact, they had complete and finished thumbs before they were given:
The second for my husband, who fly fishes, and requested convertible mittens with convertible thumbs so that he can tie flies, which apparently involves the thumb.  I used the same pattern as for my dad’s mittens, from Never Knit Your Man a Sweater, the unfortunately named and concepted book with some quite nice patterns.  Because I was using a thicker yarn than the recommended fingerling, a Rowan 4 ply soft,  I ended up having to use 00 sized needles to get the right gauge.  The ladies at knitting night said I was crazy, but really you get used to the tiny needles quickly, so that before you know it size 5 look like tree trunks.  Instead of doing the diamond pattern on the back, I wanted to make them more fish related.  Despite numerous drawings and graphs and consultations with real fisherman, I still ended up with something that looks like a dolphin.  Also, on the first mitten I made the design by doing pearl stitch on a sockinette ground, and after being dissatisfied with the detail definition, and because these are for my husband and he doesn’t mind such lack of symmetry, I did the second mitten’s design outlined in pearl stitches, but the design itself and the ground in sockinette.  One looks more like a salmon than a trout, and the other, as stated, looks like a dolphin.  Thankfully my husband loves me and is so thrilled about the thumb that he doesn’t care what is on the back.  The final mod I did was to do the palms in seed stitch, which seems to be everyone’s favorite detail.  My father in law was so taken with them at Christmas that there may be at least one final pair of mittens in my future. 
In non-Christmas related and exciting news, I was a finalist on the Mochimochi Land blog photo contest.  I made it to the final 10 with this charmer:
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I’m already planning my entry for next year. 
The icing on the cake is a wedding gift cross-stitch.  This is actually the most complex project I’ve ever designed myself.  Because I’m computer un-savvy, I used MS Paint zoomed all the way in the make the graph.  Changing Mario’s colors was the most challenging, and my favorite part is the shading in Peach’s bodice.   The finished product was framed in an oval of gold.  The happy couple’s names and the date were done below in block letters in dark blue.
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I think that is all.  In honor of the new year I will make attempts to post at least once a week, if not once a month.  We’ll see what happens.
 
  Well, a long time with no posts. This is accounted for by the lack of finished projects I've had recently and the great number of crafting failures. I don't take these failures to heart, but I also didn't really want to post about them. But what the heck, everyone has them.
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 1. My sweater. I found thissweater pattern on Knitty perhaps almost a year ago. I got the yarn for my birthday (in October). It is Adrienne Vittadini, Natasha, in Truffle. It is the yarn used in the sample on the site. In general I am squeamish about changing the yarn used in the original project for reasons which will become clear further on. The benefit of using the fancy yarn recommended by a project months after the project has been designed is that the yarn is usually on sale by that point. The lovely folks at the California Yarn Company were able to supply me the million balls of yarn needed for this sweater at ½ price. I held on to the yarn for some time, making all the socks and things that appear here. I live on the California Central Coast, so it is cold in the summer, a perfect time to make and wear my new sweater. I knit a swatch. I don't know why I do this. Invariably I'm more careful when knitting the swatch then when doing my actual knitting and the stitches come out smaller than when I'm actually knitting. What this means is that for every project for which I've knit a swatch, no joke, I've gone up a needle size to accommodate my small stitches and ended up with a giant thing that I have to frog and start over on the originally recommended needle size. Well, guess what happened with my sweater... I got the back, both front pieces, and one sleeve done. I held that sleeve up to my arm and had flash backs to the first sweater I made, a fair-isle disaster that would have fit the chimpanzee President of the United States, but not a human with normally proportioned arms. Well, that was two weeks ago. Since then, I took a short break from the sweater and then went at it again with such gusto that my wrist hurts most of the time, but, i've got a back, two front pieces and most of a sleeve. I'm on pins and needles until that first sleeve is done.

 2.  I can't post pictures, but I've got some Christmas projects going. Let me just say that photographs are deceiving and that the photo of a Christmas thing that you think looks adorable and cute is actually going to be giant when it shows up at your home. And if you think you can solve this problem with smaller needles and smaller yarn without altering the actual number of rows and stitches, well then my friend, you are as misguided as I. Rows will have to be taken out at the very least. I'll let you know when I've had the heart to take my misshapen objects apart and try again. I hope it is before November.

 

3.  And though I don't find it to be a failure, that had ended up a little unsatisfactory.  The band never quite got how I wanted it.  Again I credit needle size, changing yarn from that recommended, and not blocking. You know, you can only take a project apart so many times before you can't anymore. Its recipient claims to be pleased.  I will say that if he ever decides to grow some hair, the extra room in the band might come in handy. 
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 In a nut shell that is what I've been doing for the past two months. On the up side, I did finish my family tree. Here it is in all its full glory. Not sure when I will get it framed, or how I will contrive to get back into it as my husband and I have little additions, but I try to remind myself that a sane person wouldn't worry about that now.
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 Despite the number of recent failures, the future looks bright. I would like to use this forum to say that the people at Jimmy Beans Wool are wonderful. I placed an order on Friday night, Friday! And on Monday it was waiting for me when I got home! The yarn is lovely, perfect for a little baby who's gender you don't know one might say.  Here is another project like the Christmas ones that I won't be posting pictures of until after it has been gifted.  Also, it is a wool/cotton blend, and claims it can be machine washed, also perfect for a baby.

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 I have found a new love for Jimmy Beans, mostly because they are such a more plesant experience than some other jerk craft supply companies, and if you've never ordered from them in the past you will perhaps be encouraged to by the fact that they send you candy. I've seen other people post about this as well, but I just thought it was worth mentioning and documenting. The last time I ordered from them the candies were Werther's and now they are Brach's.  The economic downturn effects everyone in its own way.
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  And just as a capper, two more projects in progress, both critters, one is a hermit crab (without a head for the moment) from Hansigurumi's Etsy shop, and the other will be a monster some day...
 

So, it has been a little while since I posted last.  I know.  Sometimes, you just knit a bunch, and then you don't want to knit anymore for a while.  And then you find your way back to it.  Or sometimes your hands just hurt from working with tiny needles.  Now, at some point I thought I wasn't going to post pictures on here of work done from kits.  Well, in the end, who am I to belittle work from kits, some of my best friends are kits.  No I kid, but seriously folks, when I'm doing work from a kit, that's what I've got to show.  So here it is, what has been keeping me from finishing that hat that was in the last post:

My family tree cross-stitch.  Now, this thing has spaces for four baby names, so really I have no buisness working on it right now.  Also the excuse about my hand hurtting really doesn't hold a lot of water as a reason to work on this thing, because it causes the same problems.  For me, though, cross-stitching is quite possibly the most relaxing thing a person could do.  And though I don't want a giant cross-stitched portrait of the Pope, or Princess Diana on my wall, a family tree seemed like a really appropriate cross-stitched item.  I just have to finish the boarder on the left hand side and put in more little children and then I will start adding the names.  That is probably the best part of cross-stitch, the plan of attack.   Less Zen, more constant strategy. 

The real shame about all this work that I put into the cross-stitch was that the hat from the last post was so close to being done.  I know how close it was, because I finially finished the knitting.  In 3 days.  Well, slack a lot, work a little.  Of course now I've gotten it into that dangerous time where it is almost done, but far from finished. 

Thinnesses of yarn and changes of needles mid project aside, this will be a warm soft lovely hat if I can get my act together.  But then, other projects are beckoning, saying things like "It is too hot for a hat now, he won't need it till winter" and other equally bad things.  But I'm pretty dedicated to the idea of this sucker being finished by the weekend.  If that comes to pass, then two posts in one week!  In this corner of the above picture is a back view of what this hat will look like.  The two selvege ends of this, the short ends of the rectangle, get sewn together into the back of the hat, and then the top gets sewn into four corners.  My favorite part is that braid stitch, at the bottom and at the top.  It looks like it is done after the fact, but it is really just a matter of twisting the yarns as you knit color A and then color B over and over again.  I think i mentioned last time, the patterned part is mosaic.  Don't know why you would do it another way. 

My gosh, I made a list of all the projects, like, full concepts and colors selected, etc, that I would like to work on.  There were twelve items on the list.  I don't know too much about the life cycle of a crafter, but it must involve forgetting planned projects at some point and just starting the list over.  Oh, just a final note about the hat.  The grey colored yarn is a lovely hand dye, lots of subtle variation in the color, which comes out more in the ball than in the knitting in the picture.  But the dye came off on my hands while knitting.  Not a whole lot, but enough.  So I got some dye fixative.  I'm nervous about using it but also excited to see if it works.  Update on that later for sure.  Whatever the outcome, I'm sure I'll have something to say about it.