Skylark Stole

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Introducing my latest finished project: Skylark Stole from the book, Custom Knits Accessaries, by Wendy Bernard. It was knit with four skeins of Frog Tree Meriboo MW yarn in purple (7511).

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My friend T visited me from Portland a few months ago, and brought with her four skeins of lovely, 70% merino wool / 30% bamboo blend from her neighborhood yarn shop called Dublin Bay Knitting Shop for my birthday. The awesomeness was two-fold: I’ve never worked with these soft blends before and I was dying to try; and this wonderful gift came from a non-knitter! How cool is this? Someone who’s never knit got me one of the softest and lovelies yarns I’ve ever owned!

She told me that staff at the shop who recommended this yarn was confident that I would love it. They were absolutely correct about that!

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Blocking an intricate lace is such a treat. I love watching the design come to life simply with a pull of the blocking wires. This is when you realize your time and energy spent knitting this garment was totally worth it. (It can also be a major heartbreak, however, when you discover a mistake or two you didn’t notice until now … eek!)  By the way, I folded the stole in half to block because I didn’t have enough room to stretch out the entire thing flat.

As for the knitting, I have to confess that I got confused by the pattern at first. Looking back, I’m a bit embarrassed to even admit this since Wendy’s patterns are always, always impeccable, and this one was no exception. I just didn’t read the direction carefully enough. Mea culpa.

My confusion was from the eyelet pattern repeats. I needed to add this 4-sitch eyelet repeat before each, 21-stitch chevron pattern plus one at the end  (for a total of four times) and not just at the beginning and the end of each RS row I incorrectly interpreted. Because of this, I had eight wandering stitches that I just could not find a home for!  Once I figured it out, knitting this stole was a breeeeeeeze.

The pattern is simple but interesting enough that kept me engaged throughout the entire project. I think placing markers after each pattern is key. I recommend that you utilize those little rings as much as possible. I even put one after two garter stitches at the beginning and end of rows for good measure!

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I had to think of an interesting way to photograph the finished stole. I thought about just laying it flat on the floor to showcase the design but I was afraid that my two year old will get to it and rip it out before my eyes (and she will)! So I decided to just hold it against the white wall.  I hope you can see the lovely lace pattern from these photos.

Here are other ways that I’ll be enjoying this stole.  It’s so versatile, I can wear it as a stole or a scarf.  I have a feeling that I’ll get a good use out of this garment all year long!

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Slouchy Problems

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I love these slouchy beanies – so much so that I knit three last week – but there are two things I just can’t seem to get right.

First, the slouch. I can’t seem to achieve the perfect droop, without them looking like a Rasta hat. I think my problem here is that I don’t know when to stop and begin the decrease! I’m so determined to knit up the entire skein of yarn that I just keep on going and going, even though I know deep inside that I’ve gone too far. I just hate to have a little bit of yarn left that it either become a waste, or sit in my yarn stash that I’m trying so hard to pare down. This is when my inner cheapo gets the best of me.

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Second issue is the decrease. I can’t seem to get the perfect tip, without looking, uum, messy. I’m doing the k2tog (knit 2 together, for the right slant) and ssk (slip, slip, stitch, for the left slant) really carefully and I don’t know what I can do differently to make it look cleaner.

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If I don’t improve, I’m going to have to start hiding them with a cutesy pom pom or something, and I don’t want that since I look at these slouchy beanies as something Samuel L. Jackson would sport. They need to look like a bad ass mother f-er.

Anyway, I’ve got more work to do on this one.

Knots of Love: Groovy Slouch

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No, no. It’s not a Rasta hat that’s on Ms. Penguin’s head. It’s a Groovy Slouch from Knots of Love!

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I found an organization called Knots of Love while looking for a charity to donate my money and time to this holiday season. This time of year always reminds me how blessed I am, and I feel the need to extend help to those in need. According to the Website, the donated caps are given, at no cost, to “men and women undergoing Chemotherapy, burn victims, brain surgery patients, head trauma patients, and individuals with Alopecia.” It also accepts blankets for babies in NICU.  In addition to the monetary contribution, I thought this will be a great opportunity to put my knitting skills to a good use.

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The Website has lots of lovely knit and crochet cap patterns we can use. I went ahead and knit up Groovy Slouch from the catalogue of patterns and I love it! It’s a real quick knit and I love its simplicity. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to donate this particular cap because I used a yarn that is not on the approved list, but once I obtain the right yarns, I’ll be knitting this up again.

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This is what the finished cap looks like. I had to get some help from the Penguin to get a good shot of the cap from the side. I used Cascade 220 yarn and it’s super warm and cozy, perfect for those chilly nights.

Happy Blending: Original Perfume Oil

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Of all the five (or six) senses, I’m most fascinated with the sense of smell at the moment. It used to be taste, of course, but now, olfaction brings me lots of satisfaction!

My first encounter with real perfume was in Paris back in 2004.  Prior to this, it was all about more age- and budget-appropriate body splashes and scented lotions from The Body Shop and Bath and Body Works.  My friend who accompanied me on the trip went on a mission to find the perfect pair of shoes at the City of Light, while I went on a hunt for the perfect bottle of perfume.  (Paris just does that to girls.)  She ended up finding quite a few “sole” mates (would have been more if she had a bigger suite case) and I found the one in Stella, which I ended up wearing for the next 10 years.

The other day, while my husband, our bebe and I went window shopping at South Coast Plaza, I went into a perfume specialty store on a whim. I wasn’t planning on purchasing anything but walked away with a large bottle of this floral-scented fragrance that I fell head over heels the moment I strayed it on a sample strip. I don’t think we were in a store for more than five minutes before I decided that this would be my new signature scent for the next decade.

I think my serendipitous meeting with my new signature scent, coupled with this wonderful post from Sweet Tea Apothecary, opened up my eyes to the world of perfumery, and became interested in learning how to create a one-of-a-kind fragrance that cannot be purchased at a department store. There’s something very special about knowing that I’m wearing something that’s truly, truly original, where there’s no other concoction in the world exactly like it.

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I recently made two blends using the Essential Oils that I already had from my soap-making inventory, and a few that I picked up from a local Whole Foods. And may I say – I’m in love.

Something amazing happens when you mix your favorite Essential Oils and let them sit for a month total in a bottle quietly in the dark (yes, it takes that long, but the wait is worth it). The scent changes literally every day. I already loved the way everything smelled when I initially blended the oil but it smells 100 times better now that the time has worked its magic. Imagine Audrey Hepburn. She was already beautiful in her younger days but she was even more stunning later in her life, like a finely aged wine.

It’s very ladylike to keep her signature scent a secret but I will share the Essential Oils that I used on the one that I shall call “The Original Blend.”  (I’ll come up with a more fitting name later).  It’s very floral with a subtle hint of citrus and mint.  I will keep the other one a secret because it’s a gift for my friend and I want her to keep her air of mystery.
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The Original Blend

Base Note (lasts the longest): Grapefruit, Chamomile Roman

Heart Note: Rosewood, Ylang Ylang II, Bergamot, Frankincense, Palmarosa, Citronella Java

Head Note (explosive at fist then evaporates quickly): Peppermint

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If you’re interested in making your own perfume oil, here’s what you’ll need to get started:

    • Read this article, “How to Make Your Own Perfume Oil” by Sweet Tea Apothecary.  It’s well written and it has verything you need to know to begin.
    • Purchase several bottles of roll-on reusable perfume bottle for 1/3 oz.  I purchased mine at Amazon.com.
    • If you don’t already have Essential Oil(s), go to your local Whole Foods, Sprout Farmer’s Market or any health food stores that sell good Essential Oils.  I don’t recommend purchasing them online unless you know what each oil smells like.  For instance, if you want a lavender EO and you already know what it smells like, do purchase it at an online store like Bramble Berry, Rose Mountain Herbs, From Nature with Love (just a few of my favorite online venders), etc.
    • I used a cotton pad to blend the scent first before committing in a bottle.  I put a few drops of EOs on a cotton ball and smelled it as I layered.  It’s amazing how the amount and order in which you put the oil changes the personality of the entire blend.
    • You’ll need a bottle of Jojoba Oil to use as a carrier oil.

Happy blending! 🙂

What Can I say … I’m Addicted

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I knit up a bunch of seed-stitch cowls using Blue Sky Worsted Cotton yarns while binge-watching “Scandal” last two weeks. The show makes me want to dress up in smart pant suites and carry Prada bags around town like Olivia Pope, although the only scandal these days around the house is figuring out who drank the last Whole Foods ginger ale in the fridge, or who didn’t fill up Brita. (I’m guilty of both, but please don’t tell my husband.)

Well, one can knit up a whole lot when she’s spending four hours a night after the baby and the husband are asleep watching television. But now that my Scandal fever has subsided (it got pretty stupid after the whole B613 plot line), I regret for being so unproductive and shaving off precious sleep time while indulging in guilty pleasure, but I’m glad I at least have a rainbow of cozy cowls to show for!

I think I become equally obsessed with knitting these cozy neck warmers as I got with watching the show. I just couldn’t put down the knitting needles.  They knit incredibly quick just like the show’s plot, and the pattern is timeless like all the chic wardrobe worn by stunning Live, Abby, Quinn and Mellie, my absolute fave.  I think Blue Sky Worsted cotton is my favorite yarn at the moment.  And I love the fact that you can toss them in a washer because it’s 100% cotton.

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Because I didn’t know what to do with all these cowls, I decided to extend them to my friends. I was going to sell them on Etsy but wanted to reach out them first to see if any of them was willing to support my knitting addiction. I’m so happy to report that many contacted me immediately after posting the photo on Facebook and these cowls are almost sold out! (Updated on 12/4/14:  All the cowls have been sold! Insert happy dance here!)  Yipee!  That totally made my day!  I get so excited when things I make find a new, loving home.  I hope they enjoy the cowls as much as I enjoyed knitting them.

For more information about the cowls, including the pattern, please see here and here.

More Seed Stitch Cowls

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These are the Blue Sky Worsted Cotton yarns I purchased, with an intention to knit a baby blanket for a friend. The combination looked so lovely at first but it didn’t work for me when I actually knit them together. I think it’s because some of the colors are so similar (too similar, in fact) and the dark green skein stood out like a sore thumb. Whatever the reason, this combination just wasn’t meant to be.

Individually, however, they are stunning! It’s worsted cotton so it’s nice and slippery which makes knitting – especially with Turbo Addi needles – such ease. I’m so glad I decided to turn some of them into simple seed stitch cowl (others were knit into a pair of fingerless gloves). Of the three I knit so far (here’s the first one I knit and the pattern), the lavender one is probably my favorite.

I purchased a few more skeins of the same Blue Sky Worsted Cotton yarn to turn them into more cowls.  There goes my plan to reduce the yarn stash but it’s just too much fun to knit with them!  Maybe I’ll sell a few to justify the impulse purchase!

Let the holiday knitting commence!

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Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Lavender (644)

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Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Azul (628)

PATTERN: Seed Stitch Cowl

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Cats might have nine lives but this skein of yarn lived just about 10. I initially purchased this cozy Blue Sky Worsted Cotton (in Bone) yarn from Purl Soho, along with several other pastel colors, to knit a baby blanket for a friend who’s expecting her first baby in December. I actually finished the blanket but I didn’t like how it turned out (it was too narrow) so I frogged it and tried again with some necessary tweaks. But even after knitting six skeins of yarn twice (and blocking the blanket twice — eek), I still didn’t like it. I took that as a sign that these yarns were meant to become something else.

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I got the idea to knit a cowl after reading this post from Knit and Bake. It’s a very straightforward seed-stitch but its simplicity is so lovely it made me swoon. I love a seed stitch – it creates such wonderful texture and warmth. I can’t wait for the temperature to drop so I can adorn my neck with this cozy cowl. And a great part is that this knits up in no time.  I finished mine in about 4 hours, while watching the old Sex and the City episodes when the baby was a sleep at night.

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Seed Stitch Cowl
(This pattern was inspired by a cowl by Knit and Bake. I changed the needle size and the number of cast ons.)

Supplies:

Circular needle (20 inches or shorter) or four double-pointed needles in US size 10.5 mm
1 Skein of yarn (100 g).  I used Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Bone (80).

Instruction:

Cast on 77 stitches. Knit in the round, while trying not to twist. K1, P1 all the way across the row, until you have just enough yarn to bind off. Bind off loosely.

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The finished cowl measured 24 in (circumference) x 8 in (length).

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Just a quick note: I like my cowl really loose. If you like yours a bit more snug around the neck, reduce the number of cast on stitches. As long as the cast on ends in an odd number, you’re good to go!

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Is it fall yet?