A Burgeoning Obsession: Fingerless Mitts

I used to think that fingerless mitts and gloves were, well to be honest, weird.  I just didn’t get them.  I mean, why make, buy or wear something that only did half a job??

Oh, naïve Me.

I knitted my first pair of fingerless mitts despite these ill-formed beliefs primarily because I didn’t feel quite ready/skilled enough to knit a full pair of gloves and wanted to practice a bit first.  Needless to say, once I knitted them, I realized how deluded I had been.  Fingerless mitts are fantastic!  I just finished making my third pair (my favorite so far) and I can’t get enough.

mitts 4

Not only are they just plain fun as a fashion accessory, but they actually do a complete and wonderful job – it’s just a DIFFERENT job than the one full gloves or mittens do.  I’ve mentioned before that I have Raynaud’s Phenomenon.  It’s an awful thing and even when I’m indoors at work, my fingers, while not in full-on Raynaud’s dysfunctional immobility mode, are still quite cold.  I tried wearing gloves in my office, but typing became a bit problematic.  After fumbling with my keyboard and typing words with so many errors that they didn’t even resemble English, I knew gloves and work were not going to co-exist harmoniously.

Enter fingerless mitts.

Now, obviously, they don’t cover all parts of my fingers, so I still have some cold and discomfort, but the additional warmth on the majority of my hand really does make some difference.

Plus, they’re fun to knit.  Many knitters have favorite things to knit.  Some knitters always have a pair of socks on the needles, others live for hats.  At least for right now, these are my becoming my go-to project.

These newest ones are made from the Pine Court Mitts pattern by Shannon Squire.  It’s a fantastic pattern and, even better, written by the owner of my very own local yarn store, Twisted, which is an amazing LYS.  They’re not too chunky, which I like, and the cabled detailing is enough to make them interesting and fun, without being too busy on the eyes (hence not detracting from or clashing with whatever I might be wearing on any given day).  I used a beautiful random yarn that I picked up in a clearance bin.  The bit of cashmere in it makes it unbelievably soft and cozy on my hands and the variegated grey colorway is endlessly versatile.  Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with these.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m not eager to cast on the next pair!

Holiday Gift-Giving is What Drives Knitters Completely Mad, Right??

I was one of those knitters this year that decided to gift handmade goods to everyone on my holiday giving list.  While I can honestly say that I am glad that I did so and I enjoyed all the making of items for others, I can also honestly say that it was a wee bit stressful.

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Sure, it starts out all giddy excitement – picking patterns and yarn and imagining spotless, perfectly knitted pieces of lovingly created craft wrapped up beautifully, waiting to be opened by their recipients with delight and care.

But it comes to an end with needles frantically clicking together, items stretched out, blocking all over the apartment (leaving little room to walk), you taking clandestine trips to coffee shops where you knit speedily in secret away from those in your home who are receivers of said gifts, and wrapping up items quickly, pushing cats off the wrapping paper and frowning with stress over all the errors you notice (a purl instead of a knit here, a slight snag in the yarn there, that one stupid row where you forgot to slip the first stitch and knitted it instead!), until you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve put together sad excuses for gifts that would be fine if they were coming from a third-grader who goes to a Waldorf school and learned to knit that term, rather than a 32-year old woman who has been at the craft for a couple of years now and spent weeks working on them.


But, really, I AM glad I did it.

Irregardless of the imperfections and unsure of which items will be put to good use and which may be tossed into the dark recesses of a closet, I AM glad I did it for a Knitting vintage girlcouple of reasons.  Each handmade item was crafted with thought for the intended recipient.  Instead of heading to the mall and buying whatever gifty things were marketed to the masses, I did take the time to consider each recipient and personalize something specifically for each of them.  I also supported local, small businesses with my crafted gifts.  Supplies used either came from my stash of yarn (which had been previously purchased locally) or was bought fresh from local yarn and craft stores.  And I am proud to share something that I love to do with others in my life.  Like me, the items may not be perfectly crafted, but they are full of good intentions and the spirit of generosity.

Also, of course, now that it’s all over, selfish knitting can take over!  Now begins a few months, at least, of sorting through my Ravelry library and queue and cozying up to items that I can toss around my own neck, slip onto my own hands, and sprinkle throughout my apartment.  Exciting stuff is in the works, indeed!

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #2: It Makes You Smarter

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

Exercising the creative part of your brain is a great IQ booster.  I mean, I don’t actually have any research or statistics to present to you today to support my claim, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.  I’m CERTAIN that I could find some if you really wanted me to.

But for now, I will make this claim based on my own personal experience.  Because that’s valid in its own right . . . right?

As I see it, being creative provides me with a huge mental boost.  Making connections, thinking of things in new ways, learning new skills – all of these activities get my little neurological synapses firing away.  As someone who loves to learn and get education in various formats, I’ll also attest to the fact that exercising creativity is one of the best free (or at least low-cost) forms of education we can get. Learning in traditional environments is great, but as we get older, it’s often difficult to continue to get that sort of education.  It’s costly, we have other obligations on our time and, quite frankly, at some point, you may just learn the same things over and over again.

But, being creative – picking up a cook book, following along with an online tutorial, taking a community class, getting a book from the library on DIY – these avenues for learning are generally accessible and provide endless possibilities.  And I have no doubt that accessing these resources has increased my own mental capacity.

You want examples, eh?  No problem.  Here are a few:


You all know that I’m a knitter.  I bet non-knitters don’t realize how much math can be involved in the craft – I know I sure didn’t!  What happens when I see a pattern that makes a 22-inch circumference hat using size 8 needles and worsted weight yarn, with a cast-on of 96 stitches and I want to use DK weight yarn that I already own and make the hat for someone with a 19-inch head????  Math happens – that’s what!

Being able to make conversions such as these (and this is pretty basic one) is a great exercise in brainpower.  I have oodles of respect for knitwear designers who create complex patterns using an amazing amount of numerical-based talent.  It’s serious business.  I’m quite certain this extends to other crafts beyond knitting, as well.  Sewing, painting, drawing, sculpting, et cetera all can be improved by learning about other disciplines, such as mathematics and natural sciences.


Cooking has taught me so much about the world.  When I’m looking at recipes and whipping up new meals, I often come across ingredients and dishes that are unfamiliar to me.  My curiosity naturally kicks in and off I go to learn about these items.  The tidbits and pieces of information that I have picked up about cultures, history (the history of certain foods – spices, salt, olive oil, etc is fascinating) and societies has enriched my general knowledge base time and time again.  And, you’d be surprised how many trivia questions you’ll be able to answer with what you learn!

Practicing Any New Creative Skill

I’ve accessed various methods for taking courses that have taught me new skills.  I’ve taken community ‘Learn to Sew’  and ‘Learn to Knit’ classes, used the Internet for online craft-related courses, and taken a local pasta making class all in the name of pursuing creative endeavors.  I haven’t become an expert at all of these things and likely never will, but I HAVE put my brain to work during each event.  Practicing a new creative skill, something that is generally unfamiliar to me, makes my brain work in different ways and builds new mental connections.  I may not be someone who enjoys making pasta dough from scratch on a regular basis, but learning about how the ingredients in dough react to one another, to temperature, to manipulation, this increases my knowledge of science.  Chemistry, my friends, was one of my least favorite subjects as a student – but teach me chemistry through food and cooking and I’ll learn more then I ever did in a high school laboratory.

These are a few examples in a whole world of creative activities that have enriched my mental capacity.  A personal goal of mine is to remember that there is always more to know.  There is always more that I can understand about the world and all of us in it.  My creative pursuits constantly help me to both feel smarter and more knowledgeable, but also remind me that I always have more to learn.


Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Hooray for A Finished Project! : Color Affection Shawl

Well I can now count myself amongst the thousands of knitters who have completed a color affection shawl.  I actually finished this project about a week ago and I am happy to say that I feel quite pleased with it.  Plus, it just feels REALLY good to have a finished object to report and show!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I was working on this project as part of the KAL hosted by iMake over on Ravelry.  I feel like this pattern can bring out some strong opinions in people.  I’ve heard many lamenting about how tedious the long rows of garter stitch can become and I’ve heard others raving about what a perfect item it is to knit up while engaged in other activities (chatting, watching television, traveling on a bus).

As for me, I loved it.  I’m not about to say that the garter stitch doesn’t become a bit tedious (sure it does), but it also is a fantastic item for building up a little knitting confidence.  I had taken a bit of a break from knitting due to various reasons (frustration over a difficult project, wrist pain – I have chronic tendonitis -, and just so much pulling me in various directions), so I really did need something to feel like an accomplished knitter again.  This did the trick.

It wasn’t too time-consuming and, despite the long rows, I could visually see progress and momentum in front of me as the stripes built and the stitches bunched up wider and wider on my needles.  I’m pleased with the yarn I used, too.  After blocking, it feels warm and cozy, but still fluid and soft.  I wore it around my always a bit chilly office this week and loved it!


P.S.  This post will go live on Sunday, right about the time that I will be running my first half-marathon.  Eek!  Hopefully the next post you will see from me will be filled with tales of my triumph!!

KAL Updates

I’ve been knitting and I am very pleased to say that I believe my KALs have gotten me out of my knitting funk that I mentioned I was in a while back.

I told you all before that I had joined my first KAL – the Holla’ Back Tank by Holla’ Knits.  After a nerve-racking start because my yarn arrived late (and if there’s one thing I hate – it’s being late), I have managed to catch up to the rest of the group!  This week’s goal is to finish the front half of the tank and things are going along quite well so far.  It has been loads of stockinette stitch – so nothing terribly exciting, but shaping has kept it interesting enough and being that this is my first garment (i.e. not accessory), that in and of itself is pretty exciting.  Here’s my progress so far:

So . . . then there’s this thing where I actually joined another KAL, too!  Apparently the one wasn’t enough.  You see, I absolutely adore Martine and her blog and podcast (iMake) and when I learned that she was going to be leading a KAL for the ever-popular Color Affection wrap, I had to get in on it.  I mean, this wrap has been absolutely on everyone’s needles this summer but mine.  So I jumped on the chance to knit it up with a group of other Color Affection late-comers.  I couldn’t find the right yarn in my budget from my LYS, unfortunately, so I ordered my yarn from WEBS and it arrived quite quickly.  After casting on at the start of the weekend, I am through the first block of the main color and will be adding in my first contrasting color the next time I pick up my needles.

I know that some people get bored with all the garter stitch – but this is the perfect project for me right now.  I have chronic, severe tendonitis in my wrist, hand, and arm and knitting can really aggravate it sometimes – especially, for whatever reason, purling.  So having a garter stitch only project with striping for interest is really ideal.  My wrist is pleased.  (It still hurts, of course, but it is pleased, nonetheless.)

Anyone else knitting furiously right now?  What’s on your needles?

My First KAL (Knit-A-Long)!

I haven’t been mentioning knitting because I’ve been in a knitting funk.  After have some difficult weeks involving repeated trouble starting a new project, my darling cat attacking my current project, and general life busyness that got a bit overwhelming, I needed some time off.  I’ve been looking at yarn longingly and sighing when I see beautiful patterns, but I just needed the right thing to get back my knitting mojo.

Enter: my first KAL. 

While KALs are quite popular, I’ve never participated in one.  There’s always been an issue.  The yarn was too expensive, the pattern too intimidating, the timing was bad, and so on.  But, I have finally found the one.

I’ll be starting the Holla’ Knits first KAL today.  Well, hopefully.  My yarn hasn’t arrived yet, so I may get off to a delayed start, which makes me more than a bit nervous.  I tried to be responsible and waited until I had the money to order the yarn, rather than just order it immediately, and now look where that’s gotten me!  I do expect, though, that my yarn should arrive today or tomorrow – so hopefully I can catch up and my KAL mates won’t be too disappointed in my tardiness.

The pattern is the Holla Back Tank.  It will be my first attempt at knitting a sweater of any kind and I think it will be a great place to start – no sleeves!  Plus, having the support and guidance from other knitters in the KAL will surely be helpful.

There were two recommended yarns for the KAL.  I opted for the more affordable option, as budget is a concern right now.  Besides, I’ve always had good luck with Knit Picks yarn, so I think it will work nicely.  I’ve ordered the Stroll Sock Yarn in Midnight Heather, which I think will be quite fetching.

Pictures and updates to come as the KAL progresses.  I really hope this helps get me back in the knitting groove!

And, please cross your fingers that my yarn is waiting for me when I get home today.  I haven’t even swatched yet!  Eek!

Photos From Holla Knits.

How To Make Homemade Vegetable Stock (and A Few Thoughts On Sustainability)

It’s difficult to put into words what it is exactly about making vegetable stock that makes me feel so satisfied.  But of all the things I have cooked, baked, assembled, or concocted, the process and product of homemade vegetable stock illicit in me a feeling of contentment that is uniquely its own.

Go veggies, go!

I think ultimately it comes down to frugality and sustainability.  I am always looking for ways to save money where I can, especially in the kitchen.  Saving money in one aspect of food costs allows me to splurge occasionally on indulgent, but amazing ingredients at other times (vanilla beans come to mind, for instance).  So making my own vegetable stock is a very budget friendly endeavor.

But even more than financial savings, making my own vegetable stock feels like such a simple way to practice sustainability – a concept which is very important to me.  We use a lot of vegetables in my home and instead of tossing out stems and stumps, all of the veggie odds and ends get tossed into a Ziplock freezer bag.  Every few weeks, I pull out that bag and put those forlorn vegetable scraps to good use.  It is an immensely satisfying process to take something otherwise destined to be unused and discarded and rather to make something wonderful out of it.  And, homemade vegetable stock is a wonderful thing!  It has so many uses.  You can use it in the obvious places – soups, stews, and sauces.  But you can also use it in place of water as the cooking liquid for rice, quinoa, beans, and other grains and legumes.  It adds a nice subtle flavor and richness to these items.  You can even use it as a substitute for some of the oil in dips and spreads, such as hummus (don’t replace all the oil, but about half can be substituted with great results).

So, if you’re a tosser-outer of vegetable scraps, consider brewing up your own stock from time to time.  Your budget, your ‘green’ nature, and your meals will love it!


Homemade Vegetable Stock Tips & Method

Common Ingredients:

You can use just about any vegetable – just know that their natural flavor profiles will subtly flavor the stock.  So, if you want a sweeter stock use items such as bell peppers, carrots, and other root vegetables.  If you want a spicier stock, think of items like radishes.  I generally go for a balanced flavor profile and my most commonly used vegetable scraps include carrot tops and leaves, bell pepper caps, broccoli stems, onion wedges and celery bits.

Fresh versus Frozen:

As I mentioned, I freeze my vegetable bits so that they don’t rot before use.   You can also use fresh vegetables, too, and I do this when I have them to spare.  When I make a batch, I often go through my vegetables on hand.  If I know that there is a lone carrot or a random stump of cauliflower that isn’t going to get used before it turns bad, I’ll surely throw it in the pot with my frozen pieces.  Just remember to never use vegetables that have turned bad or spoiled – they will harm the flavor or your stock.

To Season or Not to Season?

There are differing opinions about whether to salt and season a stock or not.  My general modus operandi is to salt the stock sparingly, just to help bring out some of the flavors of the vegetables, but not so much that it will later overwhelm whatever dish I use it in.  I have in the past added sprigs of parsley and thyme to my stock and that has been a very nice addition as well.  Ultimately, you get to be creative with your flavor development here.  Make the stock’s flavor as subtle or as bold as you wish!

Cooking Time/Method

It’s very simple.  Begin by tossing your vegetables into a large stockpot.   I usually add quite a bit, covering the bottom of my pot in a layer or two of vegetables.  Then fill pot with water to about an inch or two below the top.  If you are adding salt or other seasonings, do so now. Bring water to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a low simmer, covered.  Let simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours.  Don’t cook longer than this, as the vegetables can leach out all their flavor and may turn bitter if overcooked.

Straining & Storage

When the stock is done cooking, scoop out the large chunks of vegetables and discard.  Then, pour stock through a strainer and cheese cloth to get out all small bits that may have broken down into the liquid.  I think a cheese cloth in addition to a strainer is essential to this process – it will really catch all the small particles floating around in there.  Finally, scoop your desired amount of stock into storage containers and freeze or refrigerate.  I use inexpensive food storage containers (i.e. Gladware) and store my stock in 1 cup servings.  They stack nicely in the back of my freezer.  When ready to use, simply defrost as many cups as you need.  Of course there is no need to freeze if you use the stock within 2-3 days of making – just refrigerate it.  The frozen stock can be stored for several months before using, though it is unlikely it will last that long if you cook regularly!