Welcome to 2018!

Happy New Year, everyone! Whether your past year was wonderful or challenging, I hope you have an spectacular 2018 in your future. I spent the start of the new year getting organized, planning ahead, and preparing to start the year off on the right foot.

Year In Review

A quick look through past posts reveals that 2017 was an incredibly eventful year! Some of the highlights of the year include:

  • Exploring the Crayola Experience with a friend
  • Participating in the 2017 Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop with my mom
  • An early Memorial Day road trip with my parents to visit my brother
  • Seeing both Wicked and Rent this summer with friends
  • Cheering on my cousin at a rain-soaked Lake Waconia Band Festival with my aunts and uncle
  • Seeing the Drum Corps International show with my aunts, uncle, and cousin
  • Checking out the Science Behind Pixar exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota with a friend
  • Displaying projects both at the county fair and an employee art show
  • Seeing a spectacular total solar eclipse in Milford, NE with family and friends – we are already looking forward to the next one 2024
  • Taking part in Finish-It-Summer and enjoying the amazing after-party at Twisted Loop Yarn Shop
  • Enjoying the book tour for Turtles All The Way Down – I highly recommend this book for everyone’s reading lists
  • Joining a wonderful knitting group – we meet almost weekly at our favorite coffeeshop
  • Successfully reaching 50,000+ words for NaNoWriMo
  • Directing handbell ringers with the kids’ choir for our church’s Christmas Eve program

This year was also a great year for crafting – 18 completed projects! That includes 4 shawls, 1 scarf, 2 hats, 3 baby gifts, 1 plushie, 2 pairs of fingerless mittens, 1 cowl, 1 shrug, 2 cross-stitched necklaces, and 1 polymer clay sculpture.

My Goals And Resolutions

Someone mentioned this week that new year’s resolutions were really more like a to-do list for January. That may be true, but I still like the idea of setting goals and making positive changes at any time of year. There’s no better time than January 1st to get started.

My goals for 2018 are:

  • Finishing my remaining 8 WIP Mountain projects by New Year’s Eve 2018
  • Learning at least one new recipe per month
  • Take an Intro to Photography class
  • Read at least 50 books
  • Listen to more audiobooks and podcasts

What are your plans, goals, and resolutions for 2018? Wishing you a fantastic new year full of creativity!

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The Last Project Update Of 2017

Hello, and happy January! November and December have been quite eventful, filled with crafting, writing, and holiday fun.

Current WIP Mountain Stats

Total WIPs: 14
Travel WIPs: 2
At-home WIPs: 6
Special WIPs: 6

redrosestoo1
Creating the fringe!

As I mentioned in my last update, I have been working diligently on Red Roses Too, a scarf for a friend’s cosplay, and two surprises. Most of these projects need to be finished and blocked, so I won’t be able to share them until next month.

Red Roses Too is officially finished! It’s a perfect scarf for winter that I wear almost daily. I haven’t taken pictures of the finished scarf yet, but I’ll be updating my project page on Ravelry shortly. The thought of cutting my knitting and unraveling it to create the fringe was a little nerve-wracking, but there were no ends to weave in. I would absolutely make this scarf again!

NaNoWriMo

November was a busy, busy month for writing. As I do every November, I took part in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. My story is about a group of college friends who try to complete a media-free day assignment for poetry class. That means no TV, internet, radio, smartphones, etc. They decide to take on this assignment while spending a day in a nearby city. The problem is that a big snowstorm arrives while they’re out of town. They must figure out how to make it back home safely while still attempting to complete their assignment.

I learned a lot from this year’s NaNoWriMo experience:

  1. The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Your goal is just to get the idea on the page.
  2. Don’t give up if you fall behind on your word count for a couple days.
  3. Understand what conditions are most favorable for writing time. I prefer to write first thing in the morning in a mostly quiet space.
  4. Microsoft Word’s navigation pane is a wonderful tool for lengthy rough drafts. Assign the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles to your chapter titles to make navigation even easier.
  5. Your novel isn’t finished just because November is over.

There are a lot of scenes I want to write that I didn’t get back to writing during the initial event, but that will all come with the second draft. I’m excited to see what this story will eventually become.

What’s Next?

After Thanksgiving, I went a little bit cowl crazy. I was anxious to try something new, so I cast on Tom On Bass using Dream In Color Jilly with Cashmere in the Lost In Plum/Pandora set I got during the shop hop.

I also cast on the Shining Star Cowl for the First Snow KAL, which is run by Jennifer of the Driftless Knitting podcast. Her KAL runs until mid-January, and everyone is working on something winter/snow/Christmas/holiday-related. I’m making my cowl with teal beads and Mountain Colors Crazyfoot in the Wind colorway. The combination of yarn and beads makes me think of icicles and snow-covered mountains. The colorway name also reminds me of cold winter winds and wind chills.

The third and final cowl I started is Steel Town Girl, using a Frabjous Fibers Mad Hatter mini skein pack in a Just A Steel Town Girl colorway. I’ve been tempted to wind these mini skeins for months now, but I kept holding back to prevent myself from casting on yet another project. I finally let myself start this cowl as a reward for reaching my NaNoWriMo goal.

We’ve had bitter cold temperatures and -20-degree wind chills this past week. That makes it the perfect time to work on my long-overdue Around The Bases. I’m currently working on the first row of Week 6. It will be fun to see just how much yarn will be left over.

aroundthebasesweek6

I’m also assembling both my cross-stitched Christmas ornaments and my appliqued Partridge In A Pear Tree project slowly but surely. While they are still not ready to display on the Christmas tree, I’ve made great progress toward finishing them in time for next Christmas.

I’d love to hear about your holiday celebrations and crafting accomplishments. Feel free to leave a comment or send a message. Happy holidays, and stay warm!

Christmas 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! One of my family’s Christmas traditions is exchanging silly gifts meant to make each other laugh. One year, we got coal in our stockings. But this wasn’t any ordinary coal. They had been given a clear coating of Modge Podge and had snowmen painted on them.

My brother can be especially difficult to shop for, so I decided to get creative. He likes videos like Dog of Wisdom, and I thought it would be fun to make this video a reality. I got some Sculpey in the right colors and got to work making the dog in the little red airplane. Polymer clay is not my usual medium, but I was determined to succeed. After about a week of sculpting, the dog in the little red airplane looked a lot like the original character. He was ready to be baked in the oven the night before my brother was supposed to come back home.

I wish I had taken a before picture. When the sculpture came out of the oven, the dog’s teeth had turned the color of a lightly toasted marshmallow. He was going to need a bit of dental work.

The little red airplane sustained the most damage. The right-side wings and the tip of the airplane’s tail were dark brown. The once-silver propeller had become a marbled brown. The cockpit had two deep cracks running down the right side toward the wing. Panic set in.

I did a bit of research the next morning during breakfast. I learned that plumber’s putty could be used to seal the cracks, and the sculpture could be painted with a few coats of acrylic paint. Paint isn’t my usual medium either, but I had to find a way to fix the problem. I stopped at a local art supplies store and the hardware store on the way home from work to get the paints and the plumber’s putty.

dogofwisdomMy brother was already home when I got back from work. After dinner, I started a load of laundry and hid downstairs while I filled the cracks with plumber’s putty and applied the first coat of paint. Using the smallest paintbrush I could find, I very carefully whitened the dog’s teeth. The airplane and propeller needed three coats of paint in total.

His reaction made it all worth it: “They make these??”

Mission accomplished! I’d like to do some more sculpting and try my hand at miniatures, but first I need to make some practice pieces and learn how to avoid the mistakes I made when baking the dog in the airplane. Stay tuned for further adventures!

Finish-It-Summer Becomes Finish-It-Fall

When the Finish-It-Summer challenge started last May, I wrote my six projects on one side of an index card to help me keep track of them and stay focused. I listed the remaining projects on the WIP Mountain list on the other side of the index card. Finish-It-Summer was a great example of how a little focus goes a long way. The trouble is that I’m still longing to pick up a different project for a while. I haven’t given in yet. In fact, I can happily say that two of the three remaining Finish-It-Summer projects are now finished and ready to enjoy.

Current WIP Mountain Stats

Total WIPs: 12
Travel WIPs: 2
At-home WIPs: 6
Special WIPs: 4

I have two shawls that I’m extremely excited to share. The first is A Walk In Monet’s Garden, which was my road trip knitting when we went to Nebraska for the total solar eclipse in August. Once I started knitting it, I just couldn’t put it down. It was off the needles just a few weeks later.

There are so many amazing colors in this yarn, and I was mesmerized by each stitch and how the colors interacted with each other. I still have a decent partial skein of the Garden colorway that is sure to become something special.

The second shawl is the Serenity shawl, which I can wear proudly after a little over a year of knitting, struggling, un-knitting, and re-knitting. This was my first attempt at knitting lace. This project taught me the hard way that lifelines and stitch markers are absolute lifesavers. It also taught me the importance of putting down the knitting when you’re tired, preventing costly mistakes. The two yarns work really well together and I was able to use just about all of both skeins! I’m so happy with how the shawl turned out. It will be perfect for the chilly winter ahead.

puppy1

The Serenity shawl is one of the two Finish-It-Summer projects I mentioned earlier. The second project is this golden retriever puppy I’ve been making for a co-worker. I modified the pattern for the head, ears, and neck when my first attempts didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped. I’m very happy with the results, and my co-worker loves him!

What’s Next?

I’m currently focusing on four main projects. The first is Red Roses Too, which is the last of my Finish-It-Summer projects. The second is a scarf for a friend’s cosplay. The last two are surprises that I’ll share on a later date.

The colder weather means it’s blanket season. I’ll be working on my long-overdue Around The Bases CAL occasionally all winter. It was designed for fingering-weight yarn, but I’m using worsted-weight instead. It’s already huge, so it will keep me warm as I work on it.

With Christmas approaching, I also need to finish assembling those cross-stitched ornaments that have been sitting in the to-be-assembled stack for what feels like forever at this point. It would be so nice to enjoy them on the tree this year.

I’m also preparing to attempt NaNoWriMo starting on November 1st. Normally, I start with no outline and make it up as I go. This time, I have the start of an outline to guide me. I’ve got a vague idea of the characters, an idea of the outline, and a bundle of writing prompts related to different lines in the story to keep me going. We’ll find out what happens soon!

(Un)successfully Stashbusting

What knitter doesn’t feel accomplished when they get the chance to do some stashbusting. I like to go one step farther. One of my favorite crafting traditions is running out of yarn before a project is finished. I especially enjoy running out of yarn that has long since been discontinued. This weekend, I celebrated this tradition once more.

One of the four projects I’ve been focusing on this month is still a secret project for the moment, but I can give you a couple hints. It’s a plushie that I’m making it with Bernat Pipsqueak.

I love working with this yarn for plushies and cuddly things. I first used it to make the Fading Waves blanket for a co-worker who welcomed a baby girl into the world in March 2016. That same spring, I decided to make Henrietta because the Vanilla Pipsqueak reminded me of chicken feathers. My cousin Lorri liked the design and asked me to make two more little chickens for some little ones in her life. Most recently, a co-worker asked me to make a ferret for a friend of hers this past winter.

The one downside to crocheting with this yarn is that its fluffiness makes it hard to see the stitches without help. My solution is to keep a paperclip around each stitch. Makes for slower stitching but far fewer opportunities for mistakes.

When I picked out the pattern for my current secret project, I estimated the amount of yarn I’d need because I couldn’t find a specific yardage. I thought the mostly full skein of Pipsqueak in my stash would be just enough for the project. Perfect opportunity for stashbusting, right? Then again, maybe not. I ran out of yarn with just nine rounds to go. Oh well!

Since this is such a great yarn for making plushies, I bought a few some extra skeins for the next time around. As luck would have it, I was even able to find the same dye lot despite buying the previous skein of Pipsqueak several months ago. Maybe I won’t be celebrating my favorite crafting tradition for quite some time.

Stay tuned for another WIP Mountain update in a week or two. I’m hoping to share several finished projects very soon!

So Many Books, So Little Time

This was a fantastic weekend! The Apple Days street market and used book sale were yesterday. This morning, the Faithful Ringers played special music for both services, and I took time to check out the ministry fair between services. All in all, a great weekend!

Except… I’m reminded that I have a serious problem.

That problem is that whenever there’s a book sale, or I’m at a convention that’s even remotely book-related that has an expo hall, or something similar, I will find books to buy and add them to my ever-growing to-read pile. I may read some of them, but it won’t be long until I get distracted while at the library and find another several books that I’d rather read first.

Of course, used book sales are fantastic for so many reasons, including:

  1. Finding great books that you might not have found at a regular bookstore.
  2. Giving used books a new home.
  3. Supporting the Friends of your local library, who volunteer, support library programming, and do all kinds of amazing things.
  4. Waiting in line with other awesome book lovers before the doors to the sale ever open!

Convention expo halls are equally wonderful because you get to support your favorite authors and a local bookstore. So this is really a good problem to have, except that I rarely manage to read the new set of books before I find myself at the next book sale. The to-read pile grows and feels more like clutter with each new book.

I’ve tried to force myself to reduce the to-read pile using the annual Goodreads reading challenge as motivation. This year, I challenged myself to read 100 books because that would have covered everything on my to-read pile as of January and accounted for any major distractions I knew I would have. I might have to scale back my goal next year. The fact is that the pace of reading an entire book every 3-4 days is not always practical, and the reminder that I’m several books behind schedule is just a little discouraging.

I started limiting myself at book sales a couple years ago because the to-read pile was already plenty tall. My goal is not to fill a grocery bag with books for the sake of a bargain. I want to pick out books that I’ll enjoy, or that I think a friend will enjoy. Quality over quantity.

This time around, I found:

Most of these books won’t stay on my shelves forever. I keep the ones that I’ll want to read again. I share everything else with friends or donate them back to the library for the next sale so someone else can enjoy them. The to-read pile will eventually shrink, but not very quickly.

To make up for adding to the clutter that is my to-read pile today, I spent a few hours this afternoon de-cluttering another part of my space. Makes me feel a little bit better about the situation and it needed to be done anyway.

The next used book sale isn’t until March. In theory, I have ample opportunity to read some of the books on the to-read pile and donate them in time for the spring sale. We’ll see what happens.

I’d love to hear what’s next on your to-read list. Please feel free to share!

Celebrating Finish-It-Summer

This summer, I participated in Twisted Loop Yarn Shop‘s Finish-It-Summer event. Participants could enter projects to finish or frog between May 15th and August 25th. We got to celebrate at an after-hours event at the store on the 25th. It was a ton of fun seeing and hearing about the projects everyone made.

I entered a total of 6 projects that I was hoping to finish. They are:

  1. Labyrinth Owl Hat
  2. It’s A Wonderful World
  3. The Pattern Your Way
  4. Golden Retriever Puppy
  5. Serenity
  6. Jingle Bells Baby Hat

I may have signed up for too many projects, but I’m incredibly happy with the progress I made on all six. The Labyrinth Owl Hat, The Pattern Your Way, and the Jingle Bells Baby Hat are all finished. I was also working on a second baby hat using the same pattern but different colors. I couldn’t count it because I cast it on after Finish-It-Summer had started. Still, I’m excited to say that both hats are now completed.

My remaining Finish-It-Summer projects are well on their way to being finished. They are still the main focus, along with a few more projects I’m making for friends. The Golden Retriever Puppy is halfway assembled. I have completed three increase repeats on It’s A Wonderful World. The Serenity shawl is even off the needles and waiting to be blocked.

The party wasn’t just about celebrating our crafting successes. We enjoyed a delicious fruit pizza, cookies, crackers and dip, and several types of tea provided by Kimberly of Steeped Tea. My favorite tea was the apple cider gingerbread matcha tea.

Jenni and the Twisted Loop team picked out some amazingly generous door prizes, including stunning yarns, lovely shawl pins, and a grand prize of a Twisted Loop gift card of undisclosed amount. We were all treated to Stitches In The City drawstring project bags by Della Q that feature the Minneapolis skyline. Inside the bags were mini-skein sets of Mountain Colors Perspectives Crazyfoot. The Paradise colorway in my bag is a beautiful range of sunset colors. The other wonderful door prizes I received include Anzula Meridian in the Rust colorway, Rowan Fine Art in the Tawny colorway, the Brunswick pattern by Mindy Wilkes, the Robin Scarf pattern by Lisa Richardson, and a lovely Foofaraw shawl stick by Lindsay Gates.

We also had the chance to check out some of the new yarns that had just arrived at the Twisted Loop. I found a beautiful skein of Gypsy Girl Creations Transitions in the Pharaoh colorway. It looks so similar to what the sky looked like during the recent total solar eclipse.

Huge thanks to Jenni and Twisted Loop Yarn Shop for hosting this fantastic event and celebration! Events like Finish-It-Summer are perfect for those of us who face long WIP lists. I’ve been daydreaming about what we might make with our amazing new yarns ever since. The only thing I know for sure is that the Anzula Meridian will make a lovely shawl that the shawl stick will complement perfectly. Can’t wait to see what we all make next!