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Endings and Beginnings

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Scenery on a run at my parents’ house on Lake Murray in SC

I love this time of year. When one year comes to an end and another begins. It’s like getting a clean slate. My energy level increases. My “to-do” list gets longer (and I get excited about it!). I always wish that I could bottle this feeling of excitement, hope and motivation and partake of it whenever I’m feeling uninspired.

This is always my time to make lists. Resolutions. Goals. And I take time to reflect on the lists of last year.

My two main goals for 2012 were to become a runner and run a 5K. I’m happy to say that I did both! I really fell in love with running and I love being able to compete with myself and see improvements every day. And the new friends I’ve made through running have been invaluable!

Another goal I had was to release another pattern. I didn’t do that! I have a few things that I’m working on but never got any of them out there. I guess 2013 will be their year!

My goals for 2013:

  • Run 1,000 miles. This one may be tricky since I’m averaging about 3 miles per week right now due to the lingering effects of bronchitis. But hopefully I can quickly make up for lost miles.
  • Get completely organized. This is a lofty goal! Some aspects of my life are organized and some are not! It’s only made more difficult by the fact that we are still finishing renovations on our house. Hopefully we will finish those soon and everything will have a place once again.
  • Have more time for crafty things. I feel like my craft time was sorely lacking in 2012 and I want that to change. I need that to change!
  • Learn something new. I think I’ve already taken about a million Craftsy courses but I’m already scoping out more. Perhaps the Artisan Cheese Making Class or the Jam and Marmalade Class? I want to learn it all! (by the way, if you haven’t signed up for Craftsy, you should! The classes are really amazing and you can take them on your own schedule and your access to them never expires! And you have access to the instructor to ask questions along the way. Want to learn to knit? Maybe learn to crochet? They have everything from quilting to cake decorating to jewelry making and more! Can you tell I love them?)
  • Eat healthier. More fruits and vegetables! I’m going to do my best to have a successful garden this summer. I don’t think of myself as having much of a green thumb but I’m hoping that will change. I’m currently taking the Garden Fresh Class and I’m learning a lot. (The instructor’s garden is AMAZING. Very inspiring!)
  • Release another pattern. Or two… Or three… I seriously need to get my butt in gear on this one. Perhaps my goal of more craft time will result in more patterns. I sure do hope so!
  • Give more handmade gifts at Christmas. I always want to make people gifts for Christmas but my problem is that I think about it in November when there is NO TIME to get it all done. So someone please remind me of this in July so that I can actually make it happen!
  • Spiffy up this blog. I’ve been wanting to transfer this thing to a self-hosted WordPress blog so that I can have more “creative control” of the look and feel of things. And I’m hoping that this will be the year I take the plunge and do it. Has anyone out there done this before? Gone from WordPress.com to WordPress.org? Recommendations on hosting? I’ll take any and all advice!

I hope I’m able to meet every one of those goals this year! What are your goals for 2013? I’d love to hear them! I hope that 2013 is your best year yet!

Six Years of Entrelac

Entrelac Scarf

I realized the other day that today marks six years since I posted the pattern for my Entrelac Scarf on this blog. It was a pre-Ravelry era, and I posted it here because I thought maybe one or two of you would be interested in it. (And you were! Actually more than one or two of you!) I never imagined I’d ever write knitting patterns, and this one came out of pure frustration at the lack of decent, well-written, easy-to-understand instructions for a simple entrelac scarf. So I did my best to create just that and put it out there for anyone who wanted it.

Then Ravelry happened.

The pattern was added to Ravelry on May 9, 2007, when Ravelry was just shy of one month old, and from there things just soared. I added it to Craftsy in January of this year, and between those two sites, it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times! Since it was added to Ravelry, it has consistently ranked in the Top 50 Scarf Patterns (it’s #36 as I write this) out of over 22,500 scarf patterns (and that number grows every day!). The same is true over at Craftsy where it has consistently stayed in their Top 20 list for ALL Free Knitting Patterns (it’s ranked #1 as I write this!).

It was published in Spool magazine’s Winter 2011 issue and has been used in dozens of yarn shops around the world to teach knitters the art of entrelac knitting (including a few classes taught by yours truly!). It was even used by Staci Perry for her online Entrelac tutorial.

I never imagined in a million years how successful this pattern would be, and I must say that it really planted the design seed in my head. Of course, it took me five years to come out with my next pattern (my Flower Market Shawl), but I promise new patterns are in the pipeline!

I just wanted to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to the little pattern that launched a new path for me. And to the thousands of knitters out there who have downloaded and knit it, I say THANK YOU. ♥

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergent last year when I came across a recipe online. It seemed simple enough and was very inexpensive so I thought I’d give it a try! Well, I’m hooked. After making a few tiny tweaks, I’ve come up with a process that works for me. When I tell people that I make my own detergent they always ask me how. So here we are! A little laundry detergent tutorial!

Here’s what you’ll need:

One 55 oz box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

One 4 lb box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

One 76 oz box of Borax

Two 400g bars of Zote Soap

2.5 – 3 lbs of OxiClean (or any generic oxygen cleaner)
{I’ve used two 1.3 lb containers of OxiClean here but I think they make a 3 lb container as well and you can use that if you wish}

You’ll also need a container to put the detergent in! This recipe makes 2 gallons of powder detergent so I would recommend a nice 2 gallon glass jar. I got this one from Walmart for only $9.97!

And don’t forget a little scoop for your detergent!

Both of these scoops were found at Walmart. The one on the left is the smallest scoop of a set of three. I can’t remember the exact price of the set but it wasn’t more than a few bucks (I use the other scoops from the set for my flours). That scoop holds a little over 2 Tbsp (non-heaping). The scoop on the right is sold as a “Coffee Scoop” and holds exactly 2 Tbsp. The Coffee Scoop was only $1.67. You only need to use 1-2 Tbsp of this detergent per load so either of these scoops would be perfect! {also, the OxiClean comes with a small plastic scoop that can certainly be used as well!}

For mixing up the detergent I recommend picking up a 5 gallon bucket at your local home improvement store along with a screw top lid for it.

I got this bucket at Home Depot for $2.60. The screw top lid was slightly more expensive at $6.97 but it creates a leakproof seal and the screw top lid is much easier to get on and off than the snap-on ones. Designate this your “Detergent Making Bucket” and keep it clean! Don’t go mixing any grout or paint in it!

You’ll also need a food processor (or box grater) and a large bowl to hold some of the ingredients.

Directions

1. Set aside the Zote Soap and the baking soda

2. Pour the remaining ingredients (Super Washing Soda, Borax, and OxiClean) into the bucket

3. Cut the Zote Soap in half lengthwise so that it will fit through the feed tube of your food processor. {If you are using a box grater you may skip this step}

4. Using the shredding disc on your food processor, grate the Zote Soap and transfer the grated soap to a large bowl. {If you are using a box grater, use the smallest possible grate. You’ll want to get the Zote Soap as small as you can since you won’t be using a food processor to take it to a powder consistency.}

5. Change out the shredding blade in your food processor and put in the regular blade. Working in batches, place about two handfuls of the shredded soap into the processor along with about 1.5 cups of the baking soda (just eyeball it).

6. Pulse the soap and baking soda until it forms a powder. The purpose of incorporating the baking soda in this step is to help prevent the Zote Soap from clumping. The baking soda should coat the soap so that it doesn’t stick to itself. If the mixture still looks a bit clumpy just add more baking soda until it looks like a powder. {If you are using a box grater, I would just add the baking soda to the soap in the large mixing bowl and stir it up so that the shredded soap gets coated with the baking soda. I would start with about 3 cups and add more as you need it}

7. As you process the Zote Soap and baking soda just add each batch to the bucket with the rest of the ingredients. And don’t forget to add any baking soda left in the box!

8. Screw the lid on tight and shake, rattle and roll until everything is mixed well! This is a bit of a workout so you can skip the gym on detergent making days. Also, husbands are good detergent shakers.

9. Once the ingredients are all mixed, you are ready to transfer it to your pretty container! To avoid making a big mess, I recommend scooping it out with a large cup until there isn’t much left in the bucket. Then you can safely dump the rest of it into your container.

10. Enjoy!

You just need 1-2 Tbsp of detergent per load. Many people say to add it directly to the washing drum but I put mine in the dry detergent dispenser. If you used a box grater for the Zote Soap, you may want to add the detergent directly to the drum so that the larger pieces don’t get caught in your dispenser. I wash most of my loads with cold water and have no problems with this detergent dissolving. I also have an HE washer and have no problems using this detergent.

Notes

  • You should be able to find Zote Soap at Home Depot (Update: I’ve seen it at Walmart now, too! For cheaper!). If you can’t find Zote Soap, you may use Fels Naptha instead (use 3 bars instead of 2!). Fels Naptha can be found at Walmart and many other stores. I’ve used both and both work great. I prefer the Zote Soap because it’s got a softer consistency for easier grating. I also prefer the smell of it to the Fels Naptha. Oh, and it’s PINK! But, seriously, the Fels Naptha is good stuff, too (it’s yellow, in case that matters to you).
  • My last batch of detergent lasted 10 months! Now I know that we don’t have kids so we probably aren’t doing as many loads as the average family but I do wash our running clothes after every run (that’s four loads a week right there) and with our regular loads added I would say we probably do 6-7 loads per week. And I use 2 Tbsp for most loads.
  • For my running friends: This detergent works wonders on our stinky running clothes (maybe it’s all the baking soda?). Any of you who exercise regularly and wear workout clothing made of special moisture-wicking material know how smelly those items can get! And they would still smell awful even after washing them! I’ve discovered a system that keeps our running clothes smelling fresh all the time and this detergent really helps! First of all, I wash all of our running clothes right after our runs (ok, maybe I shower first). I wash all of the items in COLD water with 2 Tbsp of my homemade detergent. I have an LG steam washer that gives me the option of choosing the soil level of the clothing so I set the soil level on high (I think that lengthens the wash cycle). When the cycle is finished I remove the clothes immediately and hang them to dry. I think this makes the most difference. The longer they sit in the washer, the more stink they develop. I’d read that you should wash your running clothes in cold water because heat can set in the stinky smells. This is also one of the reasons to hang dry your running clothes. That material dries so quickly that even if I need something for a run again the next morning, they’ll be dry and good to go.

Let’s talk cost…

One-time purchases:

  • Glass container: $9.97 at Walmart
  • 5 gallon bucket: $2.60 at Home Depot
  • Screw top lid for bucket: $6.97 at Home Depot
  • Coffee Scoop: $1.67 at Walmart

Total cost for one-time purchases: $21.21

Detergent ingredients:

  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda: $3.24 at Walmart
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: $2.12 at Walmart
  • Borax: $3.38 at Walmart
  • OxiClean: $3.86 each at Walmart
  • Zote Soap: $1.67 each at Home Depot (you may find it cheaper at Walmart!)

Total cost for the ingredients: $19.80 (not bad for almost a year’s worth of detergent!)

End of Summer

The summer ends and we wonder who we are… ~Dar Williams

So, yesterday was Labor Day and I guess that marks the end of summer (although the weather here in south Mississippi did not get the memo).

I would say that out of all of the seasons, summer may be my least favorite. I love the longer days but I hate the heat! (Like seriously, I have NO LOVE for the heat of a southern summer.) I feel like I go into hibernation during the summer (I’d never make it as a bear). I slow way down (probably because movement will just make it feel hotter). My creative juices dry up. And my motivation takes its own summer vacation. But once I start to notice tiny glimpses of Fall, I start to stretch and slowly wake from my slumber.

So what have I been up to this summer? Well, let’s see… I’m still running! You may remember I hired a running coach in January and he’s been a fixture in my life ever since (whether I like it or not!). No really, it’s been a great experience and I’m actually feeling like a “real” runner. I still haven’t actually run a race yet (I’m waiting for the cooler weather to arrive) but I’m definitely logging some miles. This week I’ve got 18 miles of running on the schedule! In the high heat and humidity! Good times! Again, if any of you are on dailymile please add me as a friend so we can cheer each other on! I swear it’s the words of encouragement from my dailymile friends that keep me going some days!

Have I been knitting? Crocheting? Yes. A little. If it weren’t for Knit Nite every week at my local cafe/record store, I definitely would have gotten a LOT less done. (Again, I blame the summer heat!) Have I actually finished anything? Yes. I did finish my Aidez sweater just in time for the hot weather so I don’t have a finished pic of it yet. And I’m this close to finishing my Ruffle Rose Pillow. I just need to do a few more rows and find a pillow form. And of course, with Fall coming, I’ve got a bad case of startitis. I want to make ALL THE THINGS. I can’t look through a knit/crochet magazine without at least five projects jumping into my queue. I also have a couple of new design ideas floating around in my big head that need to be put down on paper.

We’re also starting to make strides in finishing the addition to the back of our house (that’s been going on now for THREE YEARS, people). One of the pieces to that puzzle has been put into place. The landscaping! Our poor backyard had been forgotten during this whole construction process and it turned into a bit of a jungle. But now it is a beautiful oasis!

You can click here to see an entire album of before, during, and after photos. We are so happy to have a great outdoor space in which to relax and entertain! And the pieces are falling into place for the completion of the addition itself so that will be a welcome project for the Fall. (This blog may turn into a home renovation blog for a little while.) Will I finally be able to unpack all of our moving boxes? Stay tuned!

Well, wherever you are (in the northern hemisphere) I hope that your summer was wonderful and that you’re getting ready for Fall. I know I am!

Entrelac Scarf Tutorial

I Tweeted and Facebooked about this back in December but realized I never gave it the proper blog post it deserved!

I was honored to be contacted by Staci Perry of verypink.com asking if she could film an entrelac tutorial based on my Entrelac Scarf Pattern. Those of you familiar with Staci’s tutorials know how wonderful they are!

If you are new to entrelac knitting (or intimidated by it!) this video will make you an entrelac pro! You can download my pattern and follow along as Staci walks you through every step!

And please visit Staci’s website for more wonderful tutorials!

 

Would you believe that one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to blog more often? Heh.

So what’s been happening the past several months? My Flower Market Shawl pattern is now available on Ravelry, Patternfish and Craftsy and has been a great success! I am thrilled with the feedback I’ve gotten on it. I even got an email from Patternfish congratulating me on its success and telling me to “DESIGN MORE!” OK, OK, OK! I’m workin’ on it!

Of course, I’ve been knitting and crocheting (and not finishing) about a gazillion projects. Well, I did finish one sweater but I haven’t a) sewn it together or b) found buttons for it. Maybe I’m a “process knitter.” Someone who enjoys the actual knitting and not the actual finishing. Ahem…

Three of my current (constant) works in progress are:

Aidez Cardigan

The popular Aidez cardigan! I was watching everyone (and their brother) knitting this sweater and I had to get in on the fun. I’m a sucker for anything with cables. I have a cabled cardigan that I bought at Target years ago that I wear all the time and people always ask me if I made it and I sheepishly (ha!) answer “no.” So I wanted to find a pattern that had that “comfy cabled cardi” feel to it so I could retire the store-bought sweater and proudly answer “YES!” to that question. Aidez fit the bill perfectly. I am just two sleeves away from finishing it! Just in time for warm weather! My timing is truly impeccable.

Marigold Socks
My second go-to project (and the one that serves as my small, portable project) is Marigold Socks. Some of you may recognize this stripey goodness from a Chevron Scarf I was making for myself. Well, my heart was definitely not in it and it never seemed to get any longer! The Scarf That Never Grows became a big joke in my knitting group so I rrrrrripped it out and decided on a fun stripey pair of socks instead! I do not consider myself a sock knitter but I do have a pair of Pomatomus socks that I made years ago. I wore them a few weeks ago and was reminded of how incredibly comfortable handknit socks are. They’re like a hug for your feet! So I may become a sock knitter after all!

Ruffle Rose Pillow

The Ruffle Rose Pillow is one of my current crochet projects. I never thought I needed a ruffly crocheted pillow until Allyson over at The Sweatshop of Love convinced me that indeed I do. My bed needs one (or more?) of these! This is my current “mindless” project that I usually pull out at knit night when gossiping intellectual conversation starts to take up most of my attention.

Another project I’ve been working on is ME! I’ve been trying to get into running for years. I would start running, injure myself, stop running, rinse, repeat. Since 2012 is my 35th year on this planet I decided THIS IS THE YEAR I BECOME A RUNNER. So I put my money where my mouth is and hired a running coach. He has me running three days a week and cross training three days a week. So I’m now doing an hour of some form of exercise six days a week. Sometimes I feel like exercising is all I do. Whew! It is exhausting but so rewarding! If any of you are on dailymile please add me as a friend! Lord knows I could use all the encouragement I can get.

This post is becoming super-sized so I’m going to end it here. I do have more things to share but I’ll save them for another post! I promise I’m going to start blogging more! Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I’ll call it a Leap Year’s Resolution! Yeah!

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

See you in 2012!

The ornaments above are Raveled here and here

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