This is a catch-all post, wherein I will (finally!) tie up all the Liebster Award loose ends and share some good news.

So it took a couple of weeks, but I finally have my Liebster nominees! They are just a sampling of the small blogs I read, but all three of them are bloggers I appreciate and enjoy immensely. Go check them out!

In no particular order, I nominate

1. Jasmin of Better Than Yarn
2. Meg of Knit+Frills+Food=Love
3. Caitlin of All She Wants to Do Is Knit

Each blogger must post 11 random facts about themselves, nominate three to five other non-mainstream blogs that they appreciate, and they must respond to the following eleven questions (I use must here loosely. They must if they want to play and keep the recognition chain going):

1. What is your absolute favorite thing you’ve ever created?
2. Chocolate or vanilla?
3. Describe your ideal day.
4. What inspires you most?
5. How do you de-stress?
6. If you could give advice to yourself ten years ago, what would you say?
7. Which weight of yarn is your favorite?
8. What do you wish you could do that you currently can’t do?
9. What are your top five favorite movies?
10. What is your favorite kind of cake?
11. If you had to commit to one knitwear designer and could only knit his or her patterns for the rest of your life (no patterns designed by anyone else, EVER), which one would you pick?

And now, to finish up my Liebster experience, here are eleven random facts about me:

1. I love the ocean. If given my choice, I will never live more than an hour away from the ocean.
2. I always thought I hated running until I learned how to breathe properly. I learned to use my singer training to breathe when I run, and I’m a little ashamed that it took me nearly thirty years of life to figure it out.
3. Speaking of thirty, I am alternately kind of freaking out about and completely apathetic about my upcoming thirtieth birthday.
4. I really, really, really miss being in school. I particularly miss literature classes; I love reading books and discussing them.
5. I don’t wear jewelry or makeup, except my teeny nose stud. (I do wear makeup on stage).
6. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
7. I want to dye my hair pink or black and cherry red. Alas, my job precludes me having cool hair.
8. When I was eleven, I first read the book Contact and it had an inordinate influence on me. I still dream about going back to school to study astronomy. I have a biochemistry degree, so it’s not like it’s a huge career change. I had a subscription to Odyssey Magazine and an itty bitty telescope, that’s how much I loved space back then.
9. Sometimes I really miss the 90’s. I relive them by wearing skirts with Doc Martens.
10. I make awesome polenta. (Also, apparently Firefox spell check does not recognize “polenta” as a word).
11. I love good world building in a video game or science fiction/fantasy series. I will forgive a lot of issues with gameplay, plotting, or characterization if things are taking place in a world that I find fascinating. (I’m a geek and I won’t apologize.)

And finally, a quick tidbit of good news. My Celestarium was chosen to be featured in the Twist Collective March 2013 Newsletter. (Mine is number one in the collage of pictures). It makes me feel really good to be appreciated.

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You know when you go on vacation and you come back to work and you have so much work to do that you almost regret going on vacation? That’s kind of been my week, which is why I’m only just getting to this update now. Except that, no matter how hard it was to play catch up at work, I don’t regret going to Stitches West one bit. It was amazing.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a long entry.

I woke up at early o’clock on Wednesday morning and drove up to my parents’ house. They live about roughly two hours away from Santa Clara, so I thought it would be nice to see them (and my adorable little nephew) for a day. The drive up got a little scary, as I encountered snow. It was dark and windy and I drove over a mountain in a snowstorm, in a car that does not have snow tires. They actually closed the pass about a half hour after I got on it, so I was lucky to make it over. It was a long, slow crawl up the mountain, and we were frequently stopped completely. (That’s how I got this picture).

This is not a common sight where I live.

After that, it was smooth driving, and I had a lovely, quiet day at home with my parents and some of my brothers and sisters and my adorable little nephew.

Thursday morning, I again woke up early, had breakfast with my parents and drove to Stitches West. I was really excited. I checked in and took my first class, which was about creating bust darts with short rows, with Lily Chin. My mind was completely blown. She gave us really accessible math to figure out when to do darts and how much of a dart to do. It was amazing, and I am so excited to make a sweater that will fit like a dream. Also, Lily Chin is a kick and a half. She’s funny, gives a ton of information, but makes everything so understandable. I definitely recommend taking a class with her.

The other great thing about that class was I got to meet Jasmin and Gigi of the Knitmore Girls Podcast and Miss Kalendar of the Brass Needles Podcast. I am a huge fan of both of these podcasts, and it was really lovely to get to meet all of them. And Jasmin’s little girl is just as adorable in person as in her photos.

After class on Thursday was the Market preview. As this was my first time at Stitches West, I had heard about the Market, but never seen it. Everything everyone said was true–it’s amazing and huge and overwhelming. I had serious sensory overload. But boy did I find some lovely, lovely things. I could have easily spent five times what I spent, but I’m proud that I stayed on budget all weekend. (Of course I wrote down all sorts of other places to check out later, even if I hadn’t bought their stuff. Which just means I’ll spend more money on yarn later.) Then I went home and collapsed, exhausted.

Friday morning I had a class on Techniques for Beautifully Finished Sweaters. It was an all right class, but a lot of it was things I already knew how to do. I think I misunderstood what the class was when I registered. I would definitely recommend it to someone who did not know how to do tubular cast on and cast off or duplicate stitch, but I really didn’t learn much new. I really should have read the catalog more carefully. The teacher was good and the information was solid, it was just not new to me. I hung around the marketplace a bit after that, but then I went back to my hotel room to decompress for the rest of the day. I was getting some serious sensory overload happening and I just needed to settle.

Friday night I headed out for the pajama party. It was a lot of fun, with games and food and prizes. I hung out with Laura of Dizzy Blonde Yarns, and she and I may have cooked up some great mischief. More on that later. I also won two prizes–a skein of some lovely soft Cascade Pacific Yarn and a hat pattern for participating in hangman, and a skein of gorgeous lace yarn from Shaky K Fibers in a stunning bright blue. I won that one for getting up and singing a knitting parody song, which I made up on the fly. (This was a weekend of forcing myself out of my comfort zone–between that and actually talking to people I met, I think I did a good job).

The spoils of the night!

Saturday I had two classes. In the morning I learned how to line knit items with silk lining fabric. The class was not with Jean Frost of lined knit jacket fame, but was instead with someone who had test knit for her book, Gwen Bortner. We learned the lining techniques that Jean Frost uses, and made a lined glasses case. So theoretically, I now know how to line a jacket. But it would take about a million years, because my hand-sewing leaves much be desired. I’m still really excited about the whole thing, and definitely ready to play around with the technique to get better.

The inside of my glasses case. Proof that I need to work on my hand sewing.

In the afternoon, I learned how to play with traveling stitches with Cookie A. I love Cookie A’s patterns so much and I’ve knit several of her socks. It was really great to have her break down the math and charting behind designing ribs and cables that travel (as opposed to just being a vertical column). It also helps because I have a design I’ve been kicking around in my brain and her techniques might just make it work.

That evening, I decided to take myself out to dinner, instead of just eating the fruits and veggies I had in my hotel room. I wore my Celestarium shawl (I’d been wearing my knitwear all week because that’s what you do at Stitches), and went out to a restaurant. As I was leaving, some women ran after me to ask about my shawl. It turned out that one of them was the designer, Audry Nicklin. She took a picture of me and posted it in her blog. We had a really nice chat about designing and photography, and it was so great to meet her.

Sunday morning, I bid Stitches West a bittersweet goodbye. First I had a class on sweater finishing with Leslye Solomon (the link is to her store), which was fantastic. I feel a lot more confident in my seaming, which is part of knitting I’ve never enjoyed or felt particularly good at. Then I hung around the marketplace and waited for them to do the grand prize drawing. I didn’t win, which was too bad, because I really could have had some fun with $750 cash in the marketplace. Oh well. Then it was a long and exhausting drive home. I got home exhausted, overwhelmed, my brain crammed full of knitting knowledge, and ready to do it again next year!

Stay tuned for the obligatory this-is-the-amazing-yarn-I-bought post and my much delayed Liebster Award nominations (finally!).

On Sunday, I went on a huge finishing binge. I finished four works in progress. Granted, all three of them needed was ends woven in and blocking, but still, I actually finished four things! I present to you the list of all the things I finished.

I finished my Roosimine socks (finally!). All they required was weaving in ends, so it’s a little sad that I didn’t finish them earlier. In case you haven’t gathered, weaving in ends is not my favorite thing. But they are done and so very cute. I knit them out of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in the colors Cherry Fizz and Chocolatier.

Roosimine Socks

My favorite way to do colorwork

I finished my Echeveria Socks, which I knit out of Knitpicks Stroll Tonal in the color Springtime and in the undyed yarn. This was a mystery knitalong, which meant that I didn’t know what the finished socks would look like. But I really like them. And they were a really fun knit–there was cabling and colorwork, so I definitely did not get bored.

Echeveria Socks

These socks make me think of spring. I love this green.

I finished my Vertebrae Cardigan, which is an adorable frontless sweater. I made it for my adorable nephew. I get to see him when I go up to Stitches West, so I really wanted to finish it so I could give it to him. It’s knit out of Classic Elite Liberty Wool, in the Majestic Mountains colorway. I really like how it looks; it reminds me of those Southwest style mountain paintings.

Vertebrae Cardigen

The front

Vertebrae Cardigan

The back. I love how the colors turned out

And last, but not least, I finished my Celestarium. I know I said that I would finish it on Thursday night, but I miscalculated a little bit. The edging row was actually an applied, five-stitch wide garter stitch border. Meaning that for each stitch around the shawl (576 stitches for those of you keeping count), I had to knit 10 stitches (five on the right side and five on the wrong sides). Meaning that last row was 5760 stitches, the equivalent of ten rows of knitting.

I didn’t finish until very early Saturday morning.

But it’s done and so, so, so pretty. It’s made of Tosh Merino Light in the colorway Volga. The color variations knit up in such a way that it looks like when they take time-lapse photos of the sky and the stars all kind of smear (kind of like this.) I am so happy with it.

Celestarium

The whole shawl

Celestarium

Closeup

So now, the only thing I have on the needles is my ‘Olina socks, which is an odd situation for me. But that’s okay, because I have done literally NONE of my homework for Stitches West. So guess what I’m doing tonight and tomorrow.

Cookie A Sock Club Bag and Indigodragonfly MCN Sock Yarn

My pretties!

I came home on Monday to a very exciting package. My first shipment of yarn from the Cookie A Sock Club had arrived! The yarn is Indigodragonfly MCN Sock, a lovely Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend in the colorway E Pluribus Nom Nom Nom (Out of Many Jars, One Cookie). That name makes me giggle every time I read it. I just love the green color and how squishy it is. And I totally adore the adorable little project bag that came with it.

One of the reasons I signed up for the sock club is that I really want to try new yarns. But I’m sort of picky about the colors I wear, which is one of the reasons I love socks. I can wear socks in any color, even if it’s a color I wouldn’t wear in shirt. This is why sock clubs are great. Since you never know what color yarn you will get with a yarn club, getting sock yarn is less of a gamble. Of course, this first shipment is right in my comfort zone. But next month, when it’s some bright, crazy orange, I’ll be happy it’s sock yarn and not laceweight or something where I’d be more likely to make something I wear up by my face.

Cookie also gives two patterns and two cookie recipes with each shipment (okay, those come as a PDF download through Ravelry, but same thing). The recipes were basically for grownup versions of Fig Newtons and Pecan Sandies. Both of them look really delicious and I can’t wait to try them.

I’m utterly torn about which sock to make. Both Ernie and Newton are fantastic patterns and I legitimately can’t decide between them. This is almost making me wish I’d sprung for the extra yarn option. I guess I’ll have to get some other pretty yarn to make the other pattern.

Otherwise, the only update I have at present is that I am on row 53 (out of 56) of the final chart of my Celestarium. I will finish that sucker tonight if it kills me. (Which it shouldn’t. I have very few beads left to place, so I’m currently just mainly doing stockinette in the round. I should be fine. As long as saying “I should be fine” does not tempt the knitting fates into trying to prove me wrong.)

It’s funny to me how knitters turn up in all manner of places. Yesterday I went to a talk/book signing for a new Lee Marvin biography and low and behold, there was another knitter. I was in line at the coffee shop attached to the bookstore, getting a cup of tea. She noticed my shawl (which is how I knew she was a knitter, because by and large non-knitters do not comment on knitwear). We exchanged a few words about knitting and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she were here for the same thing I was.” Then I went upstairs and, there she was. She was working on something pretty with beads. It’s not really where I would expect one to turn up, but then again, I was there too (I was knitting socks). By the way, if you have any interest at all in Lee Marvin, buy Dwayne’s book. Seriously. Buy it. Do not pass go.

Echeveria Socks

Moving on, I’ve been working on my Echeveria socks. I finished one sock, and cast on for the second one. Progress has been slow. I was almost done with the first cuff chart on Friday when I realized I had made a grievous and unfixable error. So I had to rip back, which was annoying. Then I made more mistakes and had to tink back a few rows again. Honestly, since I’ve already knit one with no mistakes, you would think I could knit a second one. But apparently not. I worked on them a bit at the Lee Marvin book signing, and I’m about to the part where I was when I had to rip them out.

The reason that progress has been so slow on the socks is mostly because I’m not working on them nearly as much as I’m working on my Celestarium. I’m determined to have it done to take to Stitches West. I’m on row 28 of the final chart, which has 55 rows total. There is also an edging row, so we can call it 56 rows. That leaves me 28 rows to complete. That may not sound like a lot, but each row is 576 stitches long at this point. I would like to have it completed by Saturday, so that I can block it on Sunday and have it ready to go. I’m leaving early Wednesday morning, so Monday is the absolute latest day I can block it to guarantee that it will be dry by Wednesday, so aiming for a Sunday blocking is giving me a one-day grace period. I need to find approximately 15 hours of knitting time between now and Saturday while also working full time, taking care of more stuff around the house than normal because Ron is sick, and having a couple of evening commitments this week. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

'Olina Socks

My miniscule progress on the ‘Olina Socks

I also cast on some toe-up socks for the Sockdown February Challenge. The pattern is ‘Olina by Emily Johnson from the book My Grandmother’s Knitting out of Handmaiden Casbah. I cast them on February 1st, and that is exactly how much knitting I have done on them. I somehow still believe that I will finish the Celestarium, finish the Echeveria, weave in the ends on the Roosimine, weave in the ends and block the Vertebrae cardigan by the time I leave for Stitches (which is in NINE days) and have these at a point where it’s feasible for me to finish them by the end of February. This is totally do-able, right?

I’m sorry I didn’t write for a whole week. Work just absolutely fried my brain last week. Every time I sat down to write, I just couldn’t get myself to form anything that was coherent or worth reading. Plus, I felt like my knitting updates were really boring. I was just working on the same shawl and the same sock.

Luckily, when my brain is fried, even though I may not be able to write, I can knit!

I finished the Roosimine socks, save weaving in the ends. Even more exciting, I finished all of the knitting on the Frost Flowers stole. All I have to do is graft it together in the middle (and, you know, weave in ends and block). I’m waiting until I have a little more brainpower, because it’s a lot of Kitchener stitch. A lot. I’m still not quite in a place where Kitchenering or weaving in ends feels good, even though this week looks to be a little easier work-wise. You’ll get pictures of those later. Honestly, they don’t look terribly different than all of the other unfinished pictures I showed you before.

Never fear! There is new knitting to write about! With pictures!

Baby Vertebrae Cardigan

Baby Vertebrae Cardigan

I spent Saturday at the NAMM show, and I knew I would need some easy knitting to take with me, so Friday night I cast on the Vertebrae Cardigan in Classic Elite Liberty Wool in the Majestic Mountains Colorway. I’m done with the body (I got in a lot of knitting time Saturday in between coveting instruments that are way out of my price range). I’m knitting it for my adorable nephew. I’m a big fan of the way this yarn knits up. I tend to be wary of variegated yarns, because sometimes I just don’t like how the colors go when they’re knit up, but this is turning out well. It really looks to me like an abstract depiction of mountains and the sky, like the way they look in Arizona or New Mexico. It’s really pretty and inspiring.

The NAMM show was crazy. It was really crowded. I got a little camnesia and consequently took no pictures. I hear from a lot of people that the show is kind of terrible. I can see that. There are a lot of people there with big egos, who want to be famous musicians and feel really entitled. If you were working the show and actually had to deal with those people, I can see how you would hate it. Since I was just there to see stuff, I could ignore those people, so I kind of had fun. I got to play a lot of beautiful instruments, including some Gibson guitars that I will never be able to afford in a million years. I also discovered 8-string ukuleles. I really want one. Basically, if you let me walk around and play ukuleles and guitars, hear good musicians, and ignore jerky people, I’ll have a pretty good time.

Celestarium Shawl

A tiny section of the Celestarium Shawl

Since I was tired from the NAMM show (we did a lot of walking), I decided that I would do nothing on Sunday, except laundry and a few chores. So after a nice breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants and a quick trip to the farmers market, I cuddled up in my jammies, watched a bunch of episodes of Supernatural, and just knit. I started working on my Celestarium again. I’m about a third of the way through the second to last section of charting. It’s a pi shawl though, so each round is 288 stitches right now, but in the last section, each round will be 576 stitches, so I’m not really even close to done. I’m loving working with this yarn though, I’m loving the beading, and I’m totally geeking out over knitting a star chart, so I don’t mind having more to knit on.

What are you working on? What’s inspiring you?

I’ve worked on three projects tonight, two knitting related and one Christmas related. One of them is making me frustrated and sad, but two of them are making me so very happy. I guess that balances out. I guess that more than balances out.

Ugh.

When I got home today, I finally bit the bullet and seamed up the sleeves on my Wispy Cardi. I really, really want to get past this step so I can move on and get a sweater. But I’m not terribly happy with the seaming. This is the second time I’ve done it. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I’m taking a class in finishing techniques at Stitches West, which I’m hoping will help my finishing skills. I’m okay doing mattress stitch on straight seams. Where I have trouble is when I have increases and decreases so the edges are angled. I don’t know if I’m just not going into the stitches the right way.

I’m debating ripping it out and redoing it again. Or maybe ripping out the whole thing and re-knitting them in the round so I don’t have to deal with seaming at all. I can’t decide if I can live with the job I did or not. I want to love this sweater, because the Malabrigo is so nice and soft and it will feel amazing to wear. I don’t want to be ashamed of it.

So pretty.

After I put that aside in indecisive disgust, we decorated the tree. I’m so happy with it. It’s really, really, really beautiful. Ron found the little houses at a hardware store, so we have a little Christmas village underneath, which makes me even happier. They’re really, really cute. You can see little people inside them, having tea and baking cookies. And with that, it finally feels like Christmas.

Celestarium Shawl

Also so pretty.

Tonight (even though I should be working on the secret project, since the tree is undeniable proof that Christmas is indeed in a week) all I want to do is sit, look at my tree, and work on my Celestarium. This pattern makes me so happy. It’s beautiful. And the Madelinetosh merino light I’m knitting it in knits up like butter. I love the random placement of the beads (which isn’t really random, since it’s making constellations). The lack of repetition means I don’t get bored. And the fact that I’m starting to recognize the constellations formed, because it truly feeds my inner geek. I’m loving this shawl more than I can say.

I swear, I’ll be good and work on the secret project tomorrow. Tonight I want stars.