Friday, July 29, 2016

Taking a break

This month, I got really frustrated with this gray lace sweater I'm working on, which I had to frog for the SECOND TIME, so I decided to pick up a really simple project - a Sophie's Toes sock yarn kit I bought from Yarn Con 2016.

The yarn cake is more than 10 sock yarns tied end to end, producing a pleasing stripe pattern in a theme of color. I am using a pattern for a cowl that is 90% knit in the round for stockinette - just the easy, mindless pattern I needed right now.

I got to work on this project at the Allstate Arena the other day, where my jail knitting charity got free tickets to a Chicago Sky game. I had a lot of fun watching the game, and my charity's leader, Jo Anne Smith, won an award for her volunteer leadership. Go Committed Knitters!!

P.S. I was hoping to get on the jumbotron with my knitting, but no dice. Maybe next time.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tri time!

I finished my first triathlon today! I want to record my splits for posterity.

Time overall: 2:07:54


115 out of 140 women; 327 out of 374 people overall

This is not what I'm used to in a 5k - where I end up dead in the middle - but these were some pretty darn fit people, so I'll go easy on myself.


Swim time (700 m): 16:36 (pace: 2:05 per mile)
Transition 1: 5:13
Bike time (14 mi.): 56:16 (pace: 14.9 mph)
Transition 2: 1:30
Run time (4.5 mi.): 48:20 (pace: 10:45 per mile) 

Obviously I could shave some time off of my transitions - for example, the fastest finishers did their first transition (from swim to bike) in about a minute. I took five; I know I can do better. But the other thing is that I am just slow on my bike. I'm slow on all of them, but the bike has the most potential to improve.

To practice, and to next year!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Flowery spring projects

Flower Pot

My supervisor is retiring, so I made her a fun little parting gift: some flowers that'll never need watering! I think they turned out pretty darn cute.

I used this vintage yarn for the purple violets, and I got a lot of oohs and ahhs at the event where I made it. It's some kind of Kmart Sayelle, I think. Something I got from a garage sale pile.

I also remembered how much I hate French knots. I don't know why, but I can't do them! So frustrating.

Flower Shawl

I've wanted to do this flower wrap for years. In fact, I bought the magazine just for the pattern.

I thought you had to sew the motifs together, so I have been dreading to make it even though I bought the yarn about 2-3 years ago. I finally bit the bullet, and I discovered that it's join as you go! So the laugh's on me, I guess.

I made use of my fun new blocking squares, and I love the way it finally looks:

Definitely a shawl that demands boring shirt and pants / skirt, because it's got enough going on besides. But I like it a lot.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring projects - including cleaning!

I've been knocking out some big projects in the last couple of weeks, so I thought I'd update on progress. I'll start with the headliner...

I finished Sophie!! I did not add any of the "extra" border rows, but I did add the optional light pink flowers. I'm very glad I did.

I gave her to my friend, who was very excited indeed. I must say, I'm sort of missing working on her and having her around, so I guess I did the right thing in buying a kit to make myself one next year. I'll be using a smaller hook to crochet the first few parts, though, because this thing bulges in the center something awful.

In the midst of knitting some other projects that are somewhat frustrating (neither of which is finished yet), I knocked out a quick little pattern of some bulky weight crochet baskets. I had some extra bulky yarn lying around, and I'm trying to clean house a bit.

I think they are the cutest!! I have them at work right now because I don't know what I want to do with them. But I can tell there are more of these in my future. 

And speaking of cleaning house, I took a total inventory of my yarn today, organizing by color and donating a few skeins. 

Obviously I have quite a bit of yarn. But my closets look very nice now, and I have a better idea of what's in there now. And I found some bulky yarn to make some more baskets!

And I saved the funnest one for last - I completed an amigurumi airplane!

My friends had a kid, and I haven't crocheted anything for him since the blanket for the shower. The father of this particular child is really really into airplanes, and I found a cute pattern online.

Here are all the pieces:

Sewing it together was a bit slow-going, because each of the wing pieces and propellers had to be made twice and then sewn together so that they stood up sturdily. In fact, the wings also contain some plastic canvas cut to size, which helps them hang straight out.

The pattern was pretty cool and turned out exactly like the photo, but I did find some errors. I don't think anyone else on Ravelry has made the pattern, so I might be the first to notice, so here are the errors I found in case anyone following me needs this information:

Side Wings Rows 48-53 should say TWICE, not once
As written, the propeller body has two more rows of single crochets on one side (1-10) than the other (11-18)
Propeller Tops Round 2 should be “sc in 2nd ch and across” (as written it only tells you to sc in the 2nd ch.
Well, that's it for Val's World of Crochet today. I'm also working on a couple of sweaters, but I'm dreading one of them and bored with the other. Must soldier on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Shufflin' my shammy

I just ran my first Shamrock Shuffle! This is kind of a big deal for me because it's one of the most popular and fun races in Chicago, it kicks off the Chicago running season, AND - most importantly - my husband and friends have been running it for years, and I never thought I could do it, and I DID IT.

My goal was at least under 55 minutes, and dream goal was 50 minutes. I got to 52:24, which is pretty much dead in the center of those two goals. So I'll take it. 

Here's a photo of Grant Park as all the runners began arriving. I had a pretty good vantage point from my 12th floor room at the Congress Hotel!

And here's my view in G corral!

It was a chilly morning, but aside from my cold hands, I wasn't too affected by the temperature during the run. Afterward, I even drank most of my beer! (I'm sure a beer will taste nicer after a summer run.)

Inspired by what a fun race the Shuffle was, I signed up for a triathlon in June. A few of my law school friends did it last summer, so I figure I'm in good enough shape to do it, too. The training schedule got fairly complex, because I'm also training for the Soldier Field 10-miler, but I figure that the triathlon training counts as cross-training for that run!

By the way, for those of you more interested in crochet than running, I finished the Sophie's Universe blanket and will post photos soon!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Four-word self help books

I was having a funny discussion with a coworker today about condensing a self-help book into four words. Here are the ones we came up with:

  • Take action; be grateful.
  • Get your shit together.
  • Live like you're 80.
Other submissions:
  • Stop sitting, start moving.
  • Just get a dog.
  • Lower your crazy expectations.
  • You're gonna die anyway.
  • Take yourself less seriously.
  • Who said life's fair?
I love them all.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Flowers, flowers, flowers

I visited the hubby in DC recently, which is a good thing for the blog because I have some pictures of stuff that doesn't just involve yarn.

We definitely packed activities into the trip; we got to see a few sights in DC that I have never seen, like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, as well as the Hillwood Estate, which is a mansion filled with ornate Russian Imperial items collected by a very wealthy lady.

We also visited some breweries, including Right Proper and Blue Jacket, both of which were rather good. I've been to Right Proper before, and I don't think I was that impressed at the time because they have a lot of Belgian-style beers (which are not my thing). But this time they must have had more stuff up Val's alley.

They also have some fun artwork...

The other thing that was going on at the time is that the cherry blossom trees in the Tidal Basin were about to bloom. This is how they look when they're really full and pretty, but this is how they looked while I was there:

Of course, I did get some crochet done. (You know I did.) I started on a project for which I bought the yarn THREE YEARS AGO. Sigh. 

The project is Kathy Merrick's beautiful Motif Wrap. I saw this in a Vogue Knitting crochet issue a few years ago, and I bought the entire magazine for this pattern alone. (I ended up also making a sweater, as well.) 

But after I bought the yarn, I had some hesitation about making the pattern. I thought it would take forever, I thought you had to sew all the motifs together at the end, I thought the colors wouldn't be as vivid as I'd hoped...

Whatever my hesitation was, I got over it recently and decided to finally make this wrap. It has been more fun than I expected, and it's going more quickly than I expected, as well. I'll post a photo when it's done (which might be this weekend).

AND, as if there haven't been enough flowers in this post yet, I wanted to show a photo of my lovely unreliable orchid. I bought him from the Daley Center farmers market in 2010 or 2011, and he has not bloomed since that time. I got back from DC and saw that the spike had finally opened up into two beautiful blooms: 

My other two orchids didn't sprout a thing this winter, so I guess we'll see what happens next year.

One other thing - this is my 900th blog post. Wow. I have been doing this for 10 years. Thanks to all who have read my ramblings, or more likely who have come here for crochet and knitting patterns. It has been a useful outlet for me over the years and I plan to continue to post.