Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christmas in July?

I've never really understood the concept of Christmas in July. It seems like a flimsy excuse to have a party, and gives big business another reason to have a sale. I think summer should be enjoyed for that it is, and leave Christmas in December.

However, any serious knitter will tell you that doing some Christmas knitting in July is a very good idea. If you intend to give knitted gifts, start them now, or else fall back on really small knitting, like headbands, washcloths, and cell phone cozies. And then worry when your best friend gives you a really stunning piece of jewelry and your gift to them is a set of knitted mug coasters. If only you had more time...

This year my Christmas in July knitting is focused on Christmas stockings. I love to make Christmas stockings! They can be so festive. They can be any size, which is great for using up leftovers or precious yarns. There's only one, so no "second sock syndrome" unless you really want to make two that match.

Some of the first items I ever listed in my Etsy shop were Christmas stockings. They followed a design that I made for all my gifts that year - ragg wool stockings in color variations or red, green, and cream. I loved making them.

I also like to make small stockings, in many little sizes, that can be used as ornaments on the tree, or hung anywhere around the house. For these, in addition to the traditional Christmas colors, I like to use other colors, and other textures. I like to hang small stockings on as many doorknobs as I can, as well as on the tree!
My challenge, in knitting Christmas stockings, is in the patternwork. I love the patterned stockings, but in multicolor knitting, this can often mean long floats of yarn on the wrong side of the work. This is not ideal for a stocking that's actually going to be filled with gifts. Corners and edges can catch on the floats and snag, or get stuck. What fun is that?

I could make fabric linings and sew them inside the stockings. But the idea of that just doesn't thrill me, even though I do like to sew. Maybe someday I will try it. Until then, my answer is to find color patterns tah only have a maximum three-stitch carry. That eliminates longer floats.
This pattern met the need. It reminds me of an overshot weaving pattern. The other thing I like about it is that it doesn't jog as the rounds change, which can be very noticeable in some stitch patters. This stocking turned out a little long, and I could have shortened the leg and the foot just a bit, but I was stubborn and knit to the end of a pattern repeat. Plenty of room for an extra gift or two!
These stockings will be going in the Etsy shop soon, even though it's not anywhere near Christmas. In addition, I'll be adding some fluffy berets, and some woolen headbands. Maybe looking at cold weather knits will help alleviate the heat!

I've already found my next simple stitch pattern for a stocking, and may get started on it this weekend. Can't wait!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh, We're Having a Heat Wave!

I am not a hot weather person. Give me a wool sweater any day! Winter is my favorite season, following by autumn, then spring, and summer comes in last, mostly because of days like this. Hot, humid, in the 90’s or higher, with a heat index that’s well over the century mark.

This morning, walking outside at 7 am was like stepping into a bowl of hot soup. I expected to see fish in the air instead of birds. The trek from the car to the office door, carrying my three bags plus an armload of heavy mail left me feeling crushed and out of breath. Maybe I needed gills…

A week or so ago, we had two of those halcyon summer days, where you could stand in the sun and feel warm, and sit in the shade and feel cool. You could work up a sweat by doing heavy manual labor, but not by just standing outside. A light breeze was enough relief, and the open windows let in the cool night air, so you could actually sleep comfortably with a blanket on. Those two days would be my ideal summer season. If only every summer day was that perfect.

During this heat wave, I’ve been spending most of my time indoors. I would love to go out and pull weeds and tend the flower beds, but they will just have to manage on their own until the humidity drops. Until then, I’ll be trying to clean up inside, and get my sunroom ready for painting. Bookcases need to be emptied and the books moved somewhere else temporarily, while I sand, and prime and paint. And maybe by the time I get to the painting, the windows will be able to be open again, which would be very good indeed.

The flowers don't mind the heat...

But the camera does...this ethereal bloom is the result of a fogged over lens

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Fruits of My Labor

I love to garden, but it's been quite a while since I've had a big enough garden to raise enough to have surplus to "put by".

Without planning ahead, I decided this year that I would go berry picking. There are a number of patches of wild black raspberries at my workplace, and there were a fair number in the back yard this year as well. The yard berries would have been enough to have on ice cream every night, but I spent a few afternoons adding to that by picking berries after work. My canning book told me I would need 3 quarts of berries to make enough juice for one batch.

Last weekend I cleaned and cooked the berries, and added some blueberries from the store as well. I strained the slurry through a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl, and ended up with enough juice to make two batches of jelly.
It took a little work to hunt for the right jars and lids in the basement, and clean out the big boiling water canner and utensils. But as I worked I remembered just how much I enjoy it. I canned the first batch of jelly last weekend, and finished the second batch today. These will make nice Christmas gifts, if I can bear to part with them! This jelly is sweet, but has that tart bite that wild berries are know for. My favorite combination!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Daisy, Daisy....

Remember that lone daisy from last fall? Well, this is how that "field" looked not too long ago.
The daisy fields are blooming. This is the part of the yard by the driveway, and it was in full bloom over Memorial Day weekend. I've since had to mow it down, but now the daisies in front of the house and over on the west side are doing the same thing. They bloom a little later, for some reason.

I've always said that I'd like to replace all the grass with flowers, so I wouldn't have to mow. I guess these blooms heard that! They are doing their best to take over the yard. It's a little difficult though, because in some places, they are very patchy, and the grass is still putting up a good fight. I'd like to make some new beds, and try and corral them, along with some of the other prolific perennials, but I haven't gotten very far. Little by little, I guess. In the meanwhile, I like the wild, overwhelming spirit these daisies possess!