It is certainly odd to think that over a year has passed since I last had the time or energy to consider my knitting. I've been working through projects and sending them off, but I haven't taken the time reflect on them. My son has now passed his first birthday, I think it is time to return to this space, and devote a bit of time to project enjoyment and reflection.
I think that rats can be a sensitive subject. There are people in this world who love rats more than any kind of animal in the same way that there are people in this world who love dogs or cats or birds, etc. I often wonder why I delight in a squirrel my my stomach flip-flops at a rat loose in the world. To truly love rats is to join a fellowship. If you know a rat lover, tread with caution. If they have revealed themselves, they are giving you very personal information.
Tread lightly, but it is also good to celebrate. I wanted to make something for my friend's birthday, and serendipity intervened. When I have a little downtime, I will often drift over to Ravelry, and brows a feature there called "pattern highlights," a recommendation engine where new patterns are pushed to you based on things or designers you've knitted or liked.  (If you go to the main "patterns" tab, the highlights are on the right hand side, half way down.)  Because I had knitted a few patterns from Sara Elizabeth Kellner (Rabbit Hole Knits), and liked a few more, her new patterns always show up in my pattern highlights. Her cute little Rats! pattern showed up there, and I knew I wanted to make it. Here is the result:
As with all the Rabbit Hole Knits patterns that I've done, there is a lot of beautiful attention to shaping the piece through increases and decreases. The pattern is worked in the round, so there was very little seaming, and because so much of the shaping of the finished creature is done while knitting, I think this would be a good beginner toy project because it is much less dependent on finesse while stuffing. Using worsted weight yarn, the pattern is designed to come out somewhere close to life size, so I didn't have to make adjustments. This piece is worked on size 4 needles. 
[Edit: As I went to compose a new post, after a year of time away from this space, I found this post hanging out in drafts.  I am back and I will start using this space to document my projects once more.  Consider this a demi-restart with more to come later.]
Just a few more bits and bobs of finished projects that have come through in the past few weeks.  I expect this might be the last post for a little while so I wanted to be completely caught up! 
Here are some blue shoe covers for my dad for Father's Day.  They are designed to cover a gentleman's dress shoes while they are in his suitcase to keep shoe polish from getting all over everything.  The pattern is free through the Lion Brand website.  I did alter it slightly, only knitting for 12 inches, instead of the 14 inches called for by the pattern because my dad isn't a big footed guy.  
I just couldn't resist making one more toy for my baby, this super cute little puzzle giraffe.  It comes apart into three pieces, but is also very sturdy when assembled.  I really love the face, and the yarn was all stuff I already had in my stash, so it was a great free project.  With the circle spots sewn on the outside, and all the nooks and crannies, I think this will make an easy to grab baby toy.  The designer, Dedri Uys, has designed a lot of other puzzle animals as well, and when I get a chance I look forward to making her octopus (free pattern!), and this sweet little fish.
This poor mini Nessie (a mini replica of the Hansi Singh Loch Ness Monster pattern) had been hanging around with one fin for at least a year!  A few nights of eye strain and he's finished and now lurking in our onion bowl in the kitchen.  Much like a larger counterpart that I made a few years ago, his neck has a quizzical turn to it.
And finally, no this isn't for my baby!  Some friends are having a baby in August, and my husband and I just wanted to send them a little sweet something.  I found the pattern for this infant sweater just too cute to resist.  It is designed to keep the baby's back and arms warm while leaving their chest open for skin to skin cuddling.  I used a self striping sock yarn, and was even able to let go of my fastidious tendencies and let the arms not match up perfectly.  Of course I still had plenty of sock yarn left over after making the sweater, so I took an extra day or two and made this little hat to match.  
And with these projects I'll sign off for a little while.  I would imagine I will still steal a little time to knit, but I doubt I will finish any projects :)  I'll try to check in again soon!
It has been the time to make things for babies, my own as well as other people's.  
First off, I've been busy making hats for three new to the world little girls.
Two of the hats are the Poppy pattern that I have used before and find simply adorable.  It lends itself to as much or as little embellishment as you like.  
The hat on the left has two simple green leaves, and is reminiscent of a cherry to me.  This was my first time working the pattern in worsted weight yarn (the pattern is written for nearly any weight of yarn and nearly any head size, a great, great pattern!).  This was a commissioned piece for a friend to give to her brother's granddaughter.  
The hat on the right was made for a friend who's little girl is due right around the same time my little baby should be coming along.  She loves sharks, so I thought it would be fun to try to make a sweet girly shark.  I think I succeeded.  I spent about a minute trying to design my own shark, but ended up feeling like, why reinvent the wheel?  I found the perfect shark pattern on Ravelry, and consulted the book 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet: A Collection of Beautiful Blooms for Embellishing Garments, Accessories, and More to find a flower that would allow the shark to swim among the stems.  I settled on the forget-me-not (which is also available for free on Ravelry!) .  
It is time for babies right now!  My cousin and her husband recently had a baby and I wanted to send something special to their little one.  They also had a girl, but instead of doing another Poppy, I wanted to try something different.  I found this pattern on Ravelry and thought that it stood out from other patterns in this style because of the way the decreases fall in the leaves, looking like stems.  All three of these hats are made with acrylic yarn because babies are not mindful of how hard it is to wash wool.
Of course I've also made a few things for my own baby!  
Hooray for this crocheted hippo!  I love it.  Puzzling over the colors was a little bit stressful, just trying to keep an even distribution and representation of each color, but the shape is so great, and I stuffed it well (with this weird slightly more "natural" stuffing), so it is very good for squeezing and hugging.  I was able to almost finish the whole thing over a long weekend while my husband was camping.  The yarn is all super wash wool in sock weight.  
I also made a floor blanket for the baby.  I've included images of before and after the border was added because the true colors of the yarn fall somewhere in the middle.  Somehow I just never got a great photo of this one!  I picture taking this blanket with us to parks and on visits to give the baby something soft to lay on.  My sweet mom splurged and bought the yarn for me, which is a beautiful hand dyed super wash wool from Tanis Fibre Arts (Tanis also designed the pattern).  I'm so glad I was able to work this pattern with a nicer yarn!  I think what really makes this pattern is the wonderful subtle differences in the colors.  The hand dyed yarns have a depth and variation that commercial yarns just wouldn't have.  I often ponder that consistency of color was probably prized over all in yarn dying, even 20 years ago, and now it is the subtle variation of the hand dying process that catches our eye.  So it goes, I suppose.  
And I have one more wedding blanket to post about, but I'll save that for another day :) 
Though most of the country is covered in snow, and I'm sure it is ideal knitting time, our house is getting hot enough in the afternoon to make you sweat!  Not exactly motivation to pick up wool.  But I've been able to get several small projects out the door despite the not so conducive temperature.  
My bow tie wearing husband requested a knit necktie like his brother's.  I took to heart the lessons I learned from the first knit necktie I made: a.) it takes a lot longer than you would think to knit a long skinny strip, but b.) what really take a long time is sewing down the ribbon backing!  No, I kid, (but those things are true and should be taken into account if you are planning on knitting a necktie.)  I did the actual knitting for this project over Christmas break, and then stuffed it in a bag, with the already purchased ribbon backing, dreading giving up the knitting time to sew on the backing.  The perfect opportunity presented itself when we hung out with friends on the only cozy rainy Saturday we've had all winter.  I was able to sew on the backing ribbon without thinking too much about what I was doing or how long it was taking due to the good company.  This tie did go faster than the last tie because the yarn was a little heavier weight, a discontinued Knit Picks sport weight, and so, because of the heavier weight yarn, fewer stitches were required to get the same width.
One of my co-workers, who works in rare book preservation, and her husband, who is a sculptor, built a tree-house dollhouse for their granddaughter.  I haven't seen pictures yet,  but she described it to me, and asked if I would make some animal dolls for it, specifically a black cat doll.  My co-worker's granddaughter has a pet black cat named Chubby that she loves very much, and my co-worker had attempted to find a black cat doll, but hadn't had any luck.  I asked her about what size, she said "egg sized."  I'm always happy to make requests, and mostly with this kind of project, I just want to make sure that I'm spending my time making something that the person will like.  I first went to Ravelry and searched for tiny cat, tiny bear, etc, to get a good sense of the patterns already available.  I settled on this cute little bear pattern, which was only slightly annoying for having to seam up the back of the body and the back of the head.  I did i-cord legs and tail, and adjusted the ears and eyes to give them a more cat-like appearance.  Though the legs aren't hinged, the tail provides ballast, so that the cat does sit up.  My co-worker relayed that her granddaughter recognized this little version of Chubby right way, so, mission accomplished! 
A UFO is knitting speak for an Un-Finished Object.  I'm not sure, however, if that label can be applied if the project never got started to begin with.  I had this beautiful madelintosh yarn sitting around since February 2013 to make a cowl for myself.  It was one of those projects where I saw the sample and just had to make it.  I started the project as Christmas knitting on planes and by the fire, etc.  It was a simple to memorize stitch pattern, only one yarn used at a time, and just going around in a loop.  I worked on it off and on, not really sure how wide I was going to make it.  I started noticing that most cowl patterns were 7 1/2 inches wide.  I finally measured the cowl that was just hanging out and realized i was only 1 1/2 inches away from being done.  So I finished it in on sitting.  But then, I just wasn't right for me!  And it really was one of those "not right" situations where you just know it isn't getting better.  I know I picked out green yarn because  I don't wear that much green, but, I still don't wear that much green!  So I sent it off to a friend and it has found a happy home.  
Finally, birthday socks for my sweet Valentine of a mother.  These were a fun pattern, definitely improved by using the Felici yarn from Knitpicks with it's wide stripes.  It's a great yarn for socks, very soft, and excellent for esoteric patterns.  These socks are started at the cuff, then knit the entire back, and then pick up stitches in a U shape around the opening and just knit back and forth, decreasing, until a final long graft closes up the front.  I know that probably sounds like garble, but trust me, picking up the stitches evenly was the only annoying part.  I even got the color repeats to basically match up!  

Thanksgiving is coming up and that means the photos of the Under the Sea blanket will be posted in a matter of days!  Until then, a few tiny silver things to tide you over.
BAM!  Tiny Tiny Laptop
I wanted to make a tiny laptop that was tiny enough for a tiny Santa to use.  I'll tell you why later.  Sometimes you just want a tiny tiny laptop. 

 I used 0/5 sized needles, and one ply of embroidery floss.  Sadly, I couldn't work my tiny laptop pattern in the round, but I was able to work the pattern as written, working the rows flat back and forth.  I then graft the top closed and seam up the side and bottom.  The seam ended up being pretty invisible. The keys don't stand out as much as I would like, but we can't have everything, I guess.
BAM! Tiny Mailbox
This pattern is from Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi by Anna Hrachovec, same as the gnomes in an earlier post.  It was made for the same friend that got the magical mailbox way back last year.  It was made using size 1 needles and fit perfectly into a jewelry box for mailing.  
The tiny letter is separate and has it's own little face on the back.  Embroidering on knitted material is challenging under the best conditions, but I think that the initials on the front came out not-too-serial-killer-handwriting-ish.
Tiny Mailbox says "Your your mouth!"
Boy it has been hot here.
Especially to someone from Norway.
Good thing he grew his beard to a modest length. 
Gnothing on Earth could compell me to knit a gnome gpenis. 
Yay! I wrote a pattern for the little laptop that the octopus is holding in the last post.  You can download it on Ravelry, or here, or, there is a link on the sidebar.  Make one!  Tell your friends to make one!  Fill the world with tiny laptops.  It is a 2-3 hour project and good fun for everyone, octopuses and lovers of cute things alike. 
I saw this pattern while on a break at work and could hardly wait to get home to knit it!  It is designed by Cheezombie it is it wonderfully elegant.  The whole pattern is worked from tail to ball in one piece, with the flippers sewn on later.  This kind of subtle simple shaping makes me feel more confident about designing my own toys.  I made this guy with 000 needles and sock yarn, and then upped it to 0 needles and heavier yarn for the ball.  I think I will make another one and try making the ball even bigger to balance the proportions, maybe I'm even ambitious enough to make it look like a real beach ball.  It is hard to tell from the photo, but this guy is palm sized, as is everyone else in this post. 
This is a belated posting, but I love this little guy, and he deserves to be seen.  He is designed by Jessica Polka.  A little prawn pin, he was commissioned by a friend.  The yarn makes it I think, a pretty hand spun fingerling weight.  The color is ideal, but also, the woolyness of the yarn emphasizes the home made quality of the project which sends the essential awesomeness through the roof.  The eyes are small black beads.  The antenna are a flattened out spiral binding from a report that was being thrown away at work.  The first draft of this project was stolen by my cats, but I'm glad because this version came out so much better.  I sewed a pin back on him, and apparently he is much envied in his adopted hometown of Seattle. 
Another commissioned piece, a Trilobite broach.  Again, 000 needles and lace weight yarn.  He came out great, and even though they are so simple, I really like the antennae.  Also, I'm still loving this yarn.  There is enough of it that I think I will be making toys out of it for the next few years.  It is still the yarn from the mosaic hat
I have been finishing things like there is no tomorrow.  Really.  Because it feels like Christmas is tomorrow and I haven't even started my Christmas knitting.  Not that I have a whole lot.  I think I have actually been fairly reasonable this year.  And it is only October. 
Anyway, I've been trying to finish off some long standing projects as a way of procrastinating.  I've decided not to start any new projects just yet, despite the inviting whispers coming from one of my new knitted lace doilies books.  And before you even murmur "Who needs a doily, you've made tons you aren't doing anything with" I would say that doilies seem like a good road to getting comfortable with a technique, and if I'm ever going to knit the lace shawl of my dreams (which I will only wear in my dreams) then I should get comfortable with the technique. 
Okay, well, enough with the suspense, the Plum sweater is basically finished.  I realized looking back that the first time I posted about it was in February, so, as a reminder for everyone, here is a photo from the original instruction pamphlet:
And here is my nearly finished product:
This poor thing was sitting in a tote bag for months, front and back finished, sleeves finished, just waiting for me to get over my anxiety of side seams.  Well I did.  And also this was my first experience with steam blocking, which, as far as I could tell from my research, amounts to ironing the sweater from the back.  
The torso of the sweater may be a little short to wear with jeans, but it works great with a high waisted skirt.  I'm sure that is what it was planned for.  Judging by the model, I don't think that she wore dungarees unless she was out on the farm or something.  If you look closely at the first photo, you can see the pearlescent snaps along the right shoulder.  Those were quite a pain, and I'm still not totally sure that they will stay.  Perhaps it was the thick knitting, or maybe the lack of special snap applying pliers, but somehow they just don't want to stay.  
The reason I say almost finished is because the original pattern called for "Parapads, the ready made shoulder pad."  I had thought I could get by without shoulder pads, but I think, now, that they would actually add something to the garment so I'm going to have to get some.  I'm putting it off though, because it has been boiling here temperature wise, and I don't really care to wear a fair isle double thick wool sweater right now.
And finally, another little knit co-worker gift as part of what my husband is calling the office beautification project, some happy little fuchsia flowers:
A variety of explanations have been postulated over the years to account for sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. These may be categorised as: misidentifications of common animals; misidentifications of inanimate objects or effects; reinterpretations of traditional Scottish folklore; hoaxes; and exotic species of large animals.
This little buddy was knit with 00 needles and two colors of variegated sock yarn.  His body is stuffed, but his flippers are not, and his head stays up on its own, no pipe cleaners or wires, so he is even baby safe, though he is not intended for a baby.  The little horns are my favorite part.