Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knit Along: Fingerless Coffee Mitts

It's Wednesday, so I'm joining Ginny's Yarn Along.

I finished my Fingerless Coffee Mitts!  (Pattern here.) What a fun, fun project - and BIG THANKS to Heather for gifting me the lovely Erin Wool Heritage Yarn in Glazed Pecan that sent me to Ravelry to find something fun to make.

I will admit: the thumb scared me a bit.  I will also admit: I did not rock the thumbs.  They are OK.  Not awesome.  Picking those stitches up was a little tough.

I lovelovelove the straps and the buttons though.  Talk about a wonderfully easy way to make something POP!  The straps really make me seem like a hard-core knitter when it's just a simple seed stitch.

Here they are in action:

As for my reading: I just started SAVVY by Ingrid Law.  It's a Nutmeg nominee in these here parts - which means it's supposed to be pretty darn good.  I've heard good things about it.  I'm only on page 14 so it's too soon to tell if it's going to hook me or not.

We shall see.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bad Ass Boy's Cap: My First Knitting Pattern

I had a decent amount of yarn left over after making my Fingerless Coffee Mitts.  Heather said I should make a hat for Magoo.  Good idea!  I had the needles (US5 and US7 circular and dpn) and I went on Ravelry and found a basic boy's hat pattern to get me started and I was on my way.

Then, at a certain point, I looked at my ball of yarn and thought, Uh oh - I'm not going to have enough to finish this.  So I went through my scrap yarn and found some of the lovely Madelinetosh Merino DK in Cove that I used to make my shrug.  It's the most beautiful color of blue and it has warm tones in it so it was a perfect companion to the glazed pecan wool I was already using.  I put in a stripe of the blue, then switched back, then repeated the stripe at the crown one more time.

As I knit along, I thought There's too much brown at the base.  It's going to look weird.  So I pondered different ideas and settled on adding a skull and crossbones in Duplicate Stitch.

I have to admit, I'm SUPER pleased with it.  I think the colors go together like peanut butter and jelly.  The fit (which is pre-blocked here on Magoo) is pretty good.  I think I'll stretch it just a tad while blocking, and I think the Duplicate Stitch design came out well for having never done one before.

I thought since I changed the pattern up a decent amount, I would write a fresh pattern.  So, may I present:

THE BAD-ASS BOY'S CAP  (sized to fit an 8 yr old's mellon)

US5  24" circular
US7 24" circular
US7 16" circular
US7 dpn's

Madelinetosh Erin Heritage Wool in Glazed Pecan (worsted)
Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Cove

Using your US5 24" circular needle, cast on 96 stitches.
Place marker and join.
Do a rib stitch (K1, P2) until the band is 1".

Transfer to US7 24" circular needle, stockinette stitch.
I knit in the Glazed Pecan wool for another 2 1/4" , then I switched over to my Cove.  (Note re: Cove.  My cove was a smaller dk weight - so I doubled it up when I knit my stripes. If you use another color int he same weight, there's no need to double up, obviously.)

Do you know how to switch colors?  It's easy.  Bring the new color in and knit 3 stitches with both the new color and the old color, then drop out the old color and keep knitting with the new.  Cut off the old color, leaving enough to weave through when you're done.

I did 1" of blue (Cove), then I switched back over to brown (Glazed Pecan.)
I knit one round (in brown) in a regular stockinette stitch, then, on the next round, I separated it into 8 equal sections of 12 stitches each. In other words, knit 12 stitches, place a marker, knit 12 stitches, place a marker, and so forth until you get to the end of the round.

Now it's time to decrease - and doesn't that always feel good? Yes.  Yes it does.

To decrease: Every time you pass a marker, k2tog then knit the rest of the section. Pass another marker, k2tog, then knit.  Do that eight times.  You should have 88 stitches when you're done with that round.

What's that you say?  You have a couple extra?  That's cool.  Just divvy everything up as evenly as you can and decrease normally.  You can loop some strays in at the end.  No worries.

So, after you decrease a round, then you're going to knit the next round just like normal.  After that normal knitty round, then you're going to decrease again (pass marker, k2tog, knit, etc.). You should have 80 stitches.

At a certain point, your 24" circular needle is going to be too large.  That's when you either transfer to a US7 16" circular or  US7 dpn's.  (I'm not in love with dpn's so I'll work on circulars for as long as I can before I switch over.  But if you LOVE dpn's, you can knit the whole hat on them.  Knock yourself out!)

After another 1 1/4" of brown (maintaining the decrease round, knit round, decrease round, knit round pattern), I switched back over to blue (still following the decrease, knit, decrease pattern) I knit another inch of blue then finished off with brown.

When you get down to 5 stitches per section, 40 stitches total,  just start decreasing and skip the normal knit rows.

When you're down to 8 stitches (or close to that) cut your yarn (leaving a tail) and put it on a needle and thread it through the final stitches.  Fasten off.  Go back through and weave in the loose yarn.

Woo-hoo - you have a hat!  Woo hoo!

Are you feeling daring?  Good.  Now's the time a design with the Duplicate Stitch!
For those of you who don't draw, here's my simple skull and crossbones design:

If you do draw, perhaps you'd like to try something different?

I followed directions in a book as to how to perform the Duplicate Stitch, but I wished I'd seen this video.  (I would have done a better job.  Check it out!)

Weave in those ends.  Block it.  And you should be good to go.

I hope this pattern is clear.  I've never written a pattern before.  If you have any questions, leave a comment.  I've only been knitting a year - so I am by no means an expert.  But I will try my best to answer any questions.

Good luck, have fun, and be BAD ASS!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

 I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.  We sure did.

One of my FAVORITE things about Thanksgiving is getting all the (child) cousins together for the group shot.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes not.  This year they were all troupers and posed nicely for me.

Aren't they a handsome bunch!

Here's a reference photo from 2005.  Magoo's still in diapers and one of the cousins hasn't been born yet.  When you see a kids only once a year it's AMAZING how big they look.  

It's always kinda interesting to see how Magoo will merge into the group.  You see, all six of the other cousins live in the same town and are quite used to each other.  Magoo is the odd man out.  Last year the girls sort of adopted Cam and played hostess until he was comfortable.  This year the girls squirreled away to the upstairs making stickers from puppy magazine photos.  It was Magoo's youngest cousin, Jack, who wanted to hang out the most, and that brought Magoo into the group.

We always gather at Marybeth's house.  It's big and beautiful.  Here she is setting her gorgeous dining room table.

Mary and Elaine are the matriarchs of the clan.  Elaine is the turkey doctor and Mary is the nurse.  It's very 'ER' in there.  Actually, they were both professional nurses so just remove the turkey and insert some dude needing surgery and I don't think their expressions would change one lick.

Oh, and the pies!  Mary and her daughter Pam and are PIE QUEENS!  There was Pecan, Apple, and Lemon Meringue.  

Not favoring the super sweetness of Pecan, I stuck to Lemon and Apple and they were both DELICIOUS!

And since it was Thanksgiving, and one should always count one's blessings on Thanksgiving, I should say how thankful I am that I married into a family that I adore.  Seriously, I hit the in-law jackpot!  Gatherings are always so much fun; Mike, Magoo and I look forward to the big family Thanksgiving every single year!

So to my married family I say thanks for the hospitality, the turkey, the laughter, the trampoline, the pies, the tolerance of my camera clicking away, and the acceptance of me into your family.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Adding to my Art Collection

Sometimes when a piece of art does not sell at the show I'm kinda psyched because I know just where it'll hang at home.

Murder of Crows was on display down in the gallery at ArtSpace.  Now it is up in my living room and I'm LOVING it there!  This space was previously filled by a large orange/brown canvas I painted in college.  I liked it, but I thought it was time for a change.  Also this allowed me to frame some old photos that I really like.

Here's the photo on top:

These are my paternal grandparents Frank and Antoinette Phillipps and their super groovy VW van.  I remember this van with great affection.  At some point they took the middle seat out, so my brother and I could run around when my grandmother was driving. It was like a disco on wheels.  Hey, it was the 70's.  We did stuff like that.

Here's the bottom photo: 

This, I believe, is my first dance recital.  I must be, like, four years old, maybe five.  I have a few abstract memories of being backstage at this event.  I think I can remember my mother putting make-up on me as well.

Can you find me?  I'm in the middle.

I picked this shot b/c I thought the blue wings might be kinda fun next to the crow collage.

OKAY.  Lots to do today.  I want to get another illo done, tidying, and I have to go through all the gifties I have already bought for the holidays and organize them.  And I can only do that when the men aren't home.

Happy Monday everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Knit Along: Fingerless Mitts

It's Wednesday, so I'm joining Ginny at Small Things for her knit along.  I finished the baby sweater last week (below) so I pulled out the lovely Madelinetosh Erin wool in glazed pecan that Heather gave me for my birthday and got started on some Optimistic Mitts.  (The last photo on the post shows what the finished product should look like.)

I'm reading Maggie Steifvater's The Scorpio Races.  I'm a big fan of Ms. Stiefvater's.  I loved the Shiver series!  So I treated myself to her newest book as a birthday gift from myself.  I haven't had a ton of time to either read or knit lately, but I'm working it in when I can.  At some point, I am sure, the book will hook me hard and I'll do nothing but read until I'm finished.  That's usually what happens.

Optimistic Mitts, pattern available on Ravelry

And I think once I get going on the mitts, they will knit up quickly as well.  (I'm not looking forward to the thumbs though.  Fortunately, they aren't long.)

Hope everyone is having a great week so far!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Open Studio Weekend: Wrap-Up

Here are a couple shots of my space when it was all set up.  I had intended to take some pics of people mulling about in the hallway - but when it's SHOWTIME, it's hard to remember such things.

It was slower than last year - but I expected as much.  This area was hit mighty hard with the October snowstorm.  Many people just dropped a wad of cash on a generator and others will be giving their first born to the tree-trimming guys.  But I met my financial goal and I sold a decent amount of stuff from the walls.  So I'm a happy pappy.

A Few Things I've Learned:

1. Marketing helps.
On Day 1 - I barely sold any cranes, books, or cards packs.  The cranes were new so I had no idea what to expect there.  But I sold a TON of books and card packs last year.  So I made some little signs suggesting that teachers love card packs and cranes were great gifts, too.  I also made some signs for the books with reviews on them.  All three items sold better on Day 2.   Open Studio can be overwhelming to people, so it's important to remind them of what the little things might be good for.

2. Too Much Theme
This year all my wall art (well, 95% of it) was bird themed.  I did sell a decent amount of it, but I think I went a little bird crazy.  Usually my collages are aimed at kids' rooms.  I've done dinosaurs, fairy tales, fables, cats, dogs, trains.  And despite the fact that I loved my bird collectives, I don't think the kids cared for them particularly and I don't think adults looked at them and thought, "I bet that'd look great in Timmy's room!"

3. People Love a Sale
I know - this one is obvious and it's not news.  But when I start slashing prices on Sunday - people respond.  The sad thing is is that I already price low because I want people to be able to buy original art.  And by "people" I mean, "people who are cheap like me."  Art shouldn't be only for the wealthy.  If you love art you should be able to have some.

There was a lovely young artist near me - fresh from art school - where she was taught to price her art high in order for people to value it.  She said, "Artists owe it to the art community to value their art and price it high."  I said (nicely)  "I don't owe the art community anything.  I price my art for the audience of the show."

I don't think she sold anything.  (But she had wonderful technique.)

So, basically,  when I price my art I have a few things in mind: how long did it take me to make a piece, what I would like to get for it, what I think I'm going to get for it.  Then I name a price that I feel is fair, but also a price that I won't mind knocking some bucks off of if I need to.

It's not easy but you get a feel for it.

Some of the items: prints, t-shirts, cards will go up on my etsy store for those of you far from Hartford who want some Julie art.  I'll let you know when I post them.  Or, if you can inquire through comments here or my email.

MANY THANKS to those of you who came out!  I always love seeing a familiar face!

Now - onto illustrating Monkey Ho Ho!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Open Studio Pre-Show

I spent a portion of my afternoon hanging the wall art at Artspace for Open Studio Weekend.  (Did I mention that it is this weekend? ;)  In my old space by the elevator, I pretty much knew how many things I could fit and where to put what.  But this is a new area - deep into the maze of hallways on the 3rd floor (but close to the back staircase, in case I need to look out the window and soak in some sunlight) so I thought it best to go in today - lay things out - and get a jump start on the set up.

What's that weird branchy thing? you ask.  It's a cheapo display I made from ribbon, branches, and hot-glued tree nuts.  Tomorrow it will hold 40 beaded origami cranes.

In addition to my hall space, my friend Angela and I can also hang a few pieces in the little cubby by the stairs.

This is awesome news because I ran out of wall space.  Sure - I could cram a bunch of stuff on the wall from floor to ceiling, but a few years ago I learned that too much stuff confuses the art buyer's eye.  They can't focus on anything so they don't buy anything.  Less isn't necessarily more, but too much is too much.

Tomorrow, this table will be covered in books, ninjas, t-shirts and cards.  The rack will be full.  And I'll be sitting with my knitting.  So this is a little pre-show for you.

Also, I took pics to document what I had on the wall in case something got stolen again.  Fingers crossed that lightning doesn't strike twice.

Hey - if you're in the Hartford area, it's going to be a great weekend to get a jump on your holiday shopping!  It won't be so nice outside that you'll want to bask in the sun - and it won't be so crummy that you don't want to leave your bed.  Come on down to Artspace (555 Asylum St, across from the train station) and pay a wee visit, won't you!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Up, Up and Away

When Magoo and I left our home last week, it was winter in West Hartford.  When we arrived at Mary's house, one hour later, it was autumn.  How did that happen?!

So, one afternoon when we wanted to get out of the house, we bought a small wooden wind-up plane and took it to the beach.

One of the tricks to successfully flying the plane is to aim it into the breeze so it would fly straight.  In the little video, Magoo aims it to the side and almost takes out the lady on crutches.  Niiiiiice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Countdown to Open Studio Weekend

Sat, Nov 12 - Sun, Nov 13
11 am - 5pm
ArtSpace Building, 555 Asylum Ave.

One of the things I was able to do during the power outage was make sure all the art was wired and ready to hang.  Inventory the art.  And price it all.

It's good to get things done.

I was also able to make some ninja softies.  And in the last two days I did all my Wink the Ninja T-shirts.

So I'm in good shape.

I still need to locate one collage that has gone AWOL and get that matted and framed.  And if I can do a massive everything inventory - that would be great too.  But it's not necessary.

I have a new space this year (3rd floor by the back staircase) so I'm not sure how everything will fit.  But I'll load the majority of the stuff on Friday and I'll hope to see any local friends who might be coming out this weekend.

All my ninja-making inspired Magoo to make his own stuffed ninja.  He cut the pattern, sewed with the mini-machine, stuffed, and hand-sewed it with little help from me.  And he stuck with it too!  There have been times in the past where he's started projects like this and then grown bored with it.  So I'm very proud of him - and I think he's pretty proud of himself too.

(Magoo's ninja not for sale.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Halloween That Wasn't

On the Saturday morning of the snow storm - pre-snow - I thought it wise to dress Magoo up in his Halloween costume and get some shots.  Man, was I ever right about that one!

Magoo asked to be a frilled lizard this year.  Once again, I made the mask out of cardboard, wire, and paper mache'.  The costume is basically a green sweat suit that I painted.  And I sewed a tail and hood.  We took the shots in front of our neighbor's bush - which turns such a beautiful shade of red in the autumn.  (That sucker got completely crushed, but it seems like it's going to be OK.)

At least Magoo got to trick-o-treat a little at his Gramma's house.  She lives in a rural community, so he only hit a few houses.  And despite not being able to eat any of the candy - he still likes to go around, show off his costume, and take treats (for which he exchanges for cash. Except for the dark chocolate, which Mama eats.  Ooooo yeah.)

Sadly, the jack-o-lantern I carved got no love.  It didn't sit on a step.  Apart from taking this photo, it never was illuminated. 

It's currently on the back porch, rotting.  And this reminds me that I need to haul it out to the garbage today.

Sorry Pumpkin Mario.  At least I got a picture.

As for the frilled lizard - maybe you'll see him next year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Power's On and I Have Pictures

Power came back yesterday at noon.  Cable/phone/Internet came back about 30 minutes ago.  That was a long haul, but it's over (for us - not for everyone.)  

Here's some of the images.  (Above.) This is out house LAST Sunday morning.  All the branches are bending - some broken.  The mighty oak in the back looks like a menacing claw threatening the house. And the maple in the front has blocked our door.  (Most of that is gone now.)

(Below)  Here's the backyard.  Pretty!  There are still some broken branches up int he tree, but all the tree crews are working like crazy around here so we're just making sure the kids don't play int he backyard.  Hopefully someone will be able to get their truck out here and get them before it gets windy.

The grill took a hit on the side.  It still works but one of the side shelves in bent down.

What do you do when you have no power?  You curl up by the fire with your comic books.

Or knitting.  See our smiles?  This was Day 1 with no power.  It was still kind of novel then.  We thought, "What an adventure!"  It got a lot less cute the following day, and the following, and the following...

 This shot was taken a couple days ago.   The town is sending trucks around to mulch up the branches if you can drag them our front.  We were able to clear the front yard, but some of the limbs in the back are enormous.  There's no way we can deal with all of that.

Look at the poor maple out front?  It's like Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree.  The whole thing might have to come down.  We're not sure if it will survive.  I'll let a professional guide me in that one.

Last night we had heat, slept in our own beds, and were able to offer some comfort to neighbors who's power hadn't returned yet.  It did us all a world of good to get back to a somewhat normal existence.  No school today.  Hopefully tomorrow.  And I've been chug, chug, chugging along with preparations for the art show this weekend.  More on that tomorrow.

Thanks to all of you out there who sent good wishes!  Sometimes it's nice to whine and have your friends send sympathies your way.  Small comforts, but comforts indeed!

If you don't have your power back - I wish for it's speedy return for you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One Week With No Power

As of 5pm tonight, we have been without power in our house for one full week.

We went back today - kinda hoping that someone we know might have power.   Maybe, just maybe the trees tangled in the power line on our road would be fixed.  Nope.  Not fixed.

One of my neighbors was speaking to a tree guy in the neighborhood and he told her that our road was one of the worst ones in town.  Ha!  In your face, other streets!  Our street is #1 in devastation.  Woooo!

But the mayor said that 46 electric crews would be in town today.   Maybe more tomorrow.  Maybe the same.  Maybe we'll have power Sunday night.  Maybe not.

Halloween was officially cancelled.  Is that not the saddest thing?  Well, maybe if Christmas was cancelled - that would be worse.  Still.   Halloween, man.

Anyway I'm much less angry.  I'm sorta in a state of disbelief.  Disbelief that this is still going on.  Disbelief that it will ever improve.  Everything is just surreal ... and cold.

But we plug on.  I made three stuffed ninjas for the art show yesterday.  We took Magoo to see Real Steel today - it was good.  Did you know that Hugh Jackman's real last name was Jassman, but they had him change it because of the way it sounded when you said his full name out loud?  ;)

Hopefully the next time I post I will be at home in my well lit house enjoying heat.  Hope you all are well and toasty!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Still Powerless

It is Day 7 of no power.

Magoo and I have been back and forth between a cold, dark home and Gramma's house where we can sleep in comfort and cook.

We are super grateful that we have someplace to go, have hot food, warm showers, comfy beds, do laundry, check emails, watch TV, etc.  But it's good to go home and clean up the fort, see Mike, and let Magoo visit with friends.  There aren't any kids for him to play with at Gramma's house. (And if there were, they'd all be in school.)

I was feeling accepting of the situation yesterday.  The power company had promised to get everyone up and running by midnight Sunday.
Then, yesterday, the went back on that statement saing that it was "too optimisitc."  They haven't given a new time frame yet.

Now I'm angry.

I'm still grateful that we have a place to go - but the power company really screwed the pooch on this one.  They are responsible for keeping trees trimmed by power lines and they let that go.  They didn't pay their bills to the many out-of-state companies that came in and helped out during Tropical Storm Irene.  So those companies decided to go help out in Pennsylvania instead.

Slowly, slowly the businesses in West Hartford are coming back to life.  Traffic lights are working.  You see a truck pass by with branches in the back.

The National Guard has been called in to help.

But when will we be able to return home for good?  When will Magoo get to go back to school?  When will we be able to sleep in our own beds without winter hats?

Who knows.

And we have to turn the clocks back this weekend.  Sunset will be at 4:40pm.  That's a long, dark, cold evening when you don't have power.

This is a downer post.  Sorry about that.  As I said, I'm a wee bit angry.

But we are all well, we're just tired of having out lives on hold.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No Power

Around 1pm on Saturday, October 29th, it started to snow.  We knew the storm was coming and we knew we'd probably lose some power but we had NO IDEA the level of devestation that was on it's way.

We lost power at 5pm.  I happened to be looking out the front window when I saw a branch from the neighbor's tree fall on the power lines.  There was an explosion - a blast of fire the size of a barrel - and then the house shut down.

Fortunately, power was still on around the block so we fed the cat, packed a bag, and headed over to our friends's house for heat, TV and comfort of eletricity.

Their power went out at 11:30pm.

Sunday morning, Mike and I walked home.  Oh, the pictures that I took!  Oh, the power lines that were down!  Oh, the branches that were everywhere. 

And our poor trees.  We had a lovely Maple tree out front that was just a wee baby tree when Magoo was born nine years ago.  It grew big and tall and gave us lovely shade -  no more.  It was a mess.  Imagine a healthy tree with roughly 10 branches in the air.  Now imagine 8 branches broken and bending down and only 2 scrawny ones poking out.  It was like that. 

The mighty oak in the back is all over the place.  It looks like a tornado ripped through the back yard.  We are VERY LUCKY that nothing caused major damage to the house.  But the clean-up and expense is going to be massive. 

Sooooo, that was a little depressing.

Long story short.  It is Tuesday morning.  There is no school today.  No school tomorrow.  West Hartford is at 96% power outage so I imagine there won't be school all week.

Everyone is fine and we're all getting through it. 

When I can get back on my own computer, I'll show some pics.  Until then, I hope you are all safe and warm.