Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gifts Galore

As usual, I didn't make all of the gifts I'd wanted to give before the holidays were over, but I did get a few things done. Above are the felted slippers I made way ahead of time for Meital. It was nice to have those ready early. She loves them, too - didn't even want to take them off to go to bed the first night!

I made a hat for a wonderful friend out of some Spud & Chloe Sweater (wonderful yarn, soft and a pleasure to knit with, by the way) that was given to me in a swap on Ravelry.

And I also made a few ornaments for friends. A fun, quick (and free) pattern that I found on Ravelry. I'm thinking next year I'll make miniature stocking ornaments. Better get an earlier start, though!

Then there are the belated gifts...A pair of hats is on the way to Turkey for a very special couple. Another hat on my needles is almost done, and I'm thinking I'll make one last gift hat, to send with that one. And what about Liat? Well, her hoodie is nearly done (but I've been distracted by hats!) and I hope to be able to show it to you soon. I know she is eager to wear it, so I really need to get a move on.

I also have some plans for community service knitting, which I am anxious to get back to. Amazing how much I have missed it, much though I love making things for people I know.

Wishing everyone a joyous and healthy 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chill Factor

After you've lived in Israel awhile, anything below about 50 degrees Farenheit starts to seem downright chilly. And if you live in Israel but travel frequently to Europe during the winter months, it's a good idea to bring along some woolies.

Or possibly an alpaca/merino wool blend.

I made the scarf shown above out of a yarn called Alpaca Sox, by the Classic Elite Yarns company. It worked up into a warm, soft fabric with a soft halo from the alpaca fiber. It was a birthday gift for a friend who, well, travels frequently to Europe during the winter months.

May he wear it in good health!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For the Littlest Ones

This is the preemie blanket I made for the NICU at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California. I won't be able to color in a new state on my map, but I will be able to warm up one of the very littlest humans. The blanket makes me think of a doll blanket, though I tried to make it to the specifications suggested. Hoping to get it in the mail tomorrow.

If this purple yarn looks familiar, that's because I bought a whole, huge bunch of it thinking I would use it for an afghan for Liat. In the end, she and I decided not to use this yarn for that project. So far the skeins I purchased have become a sweater for her, a hat for a friend of hers, this blanket, and I don't remember what else! And I still have plenty left. Sigh. I am doing the best I can to use it up, so expect to see more purple knits in the next year.

A goal I've set for myself over the next year is to knit up all of the 100% acrylic yarn I've got in my stash. Yes, the colors and great, yes it's easy care, yes it's affordable, and yes it's soft. But whenever I knit with 100% wool (either superwash or not) I realize how much more enjoyment I get out of the knitting process. So I've decided to use up my acrylic and try very hard not to replace it with more of the same. I really like some of the acrylic/wool blends out there, like Plymouth Encore, and will continue to buy them. But no more 100% acrylic. I'm just not feeling the love anymore.

I want to send a big thank you!!! to my friend Joansie who wrote such a nice post about me on her blog (not going to link it because that would be pretty egotistical, I think). She is a sweet and lovely friend and I am very lucky to have her in my life. Some other time (once she's added another post or two to her blog) I will link so you can see what a great blog - and what lovely projects - she has.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Catching Up

Gibbs: "What's put you in such a fine mood?"
Jack: "We're catching up."
~ ~ ~ Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl

I don't know how the time always manages to get away from me. But I'll try to catch you up with the things I've been doing for the last few weeks. Above is a photo of some toys I made over the weekend. They're called Squishies, and they're from a book I bought this past summer called Itty Bitty Toys, by Susan B. Anderson. What a fabulous book, full of adorable and easy-to-make toys. I have heard (and saw for myself last night) that these simple, squishy balls are fun for kids of all ages. I used worsted weight cotton yarn to make them. I gave two away last night but have two left in my toy stash for the next time I have visitors.

The picture here shows the second hat I made to go with the hat I showed you in my last post. This is also a free pattern from Susan B. Anderson and is available on the same blog I linked to last time. This is called the Watermelon Hat, but since I didn't have enough pink, I reversed the colors and called it a Not-er-melon Hat. Both hats have long since arrived in New Jersey and will be delivered to the children's hospital there.

And just today I finished up a preemie blanket that will be going to a hospital in California. Yes, I have already sent items to California, but since it is my home state I feel a special attachment. I'll show you the blanket the next time I post (don't want to show you everything I have all at once, that wouldn't do at all!).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cuteness Alert

Here is the hat I told you about in my last post. Isn't the pattern adorable?! I can't wait to start on another hat, and I already know it will be another pattern by Susan B. Anderson...the hard part will be deciding which pattern! The toddler-sized hats will be on their way to the Bristol Meyers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (say that three times fast!).

Meital just got back from mailing off those two gray hats to the Humble Stitch Project. She really is such a big help to me with all the mailing of packages. I like how she and I feel like partners in this project.

You may remember that a while back I sent off five pairs of baby and toddler socks to Hannah's Socks in Ohio. Today I got the most wonderful, personal note from Hannah's father, Vic Turner (follow the link to read about Hannah, her family, and her wonderful efforts on behalf of others). It made my day to know the socks had reached them and that they like them!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mad Hatter

Yep, finished up two more hats this month and started another, an adorable toddler-sized Camp Hoodie Swatch Hat (that's a Ravelry link; if you're not on Ravelry, go directly to designer Susan B. Anderson's Spud & Chloe blog) that I might just finish before the end of the month, too! I made both of the hats shown above from one 100 gram skein of yarn, and even had a little left over (but not much). They will soon be on their way to the Humble Stitch Project, which, as it says on their website, is "a community effort to show kindness to our homeless neighbors" in South Florida.

After those two dark gray hats, it's a lot of fun to work up the little Camp Hoodie Swatch Hat in pastel colors. I hope to make at least one additional baby/toddler/child's hat before the end of the month, and send those off to a children's hospital in New Jersey. Ravelry has been such a great place for learning of organizations and communities that need and want knitted items!

Other news includes the fact that after more than a week off, both girls have returned to their regular routines of army and junior high, and that of course means I am back to waking up at about 6, knitting for a bit and chatting with Liat before she leaves, waking up Meital and getting her lunch ready, then taking a walk around the neighborhood with Avi after Meital has set off for school. We all really enjoyed our time off, with plenty of baking, shopping, basketball, reading, and just hanging out. I hope you're having a good month, too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Cap, Hold the Bill

Yesterday I told you about the Cabled Chapeau I was making for Meital. As I mentioned, the hat works up very quickly, and I finished it yesterday evening. But Meital decided she'd rather have a regular watch cap, and didn't want the bill added to the hat after all. It's a cute, easy pattern knit in the round (those cables are a lot easier than they look). Now, of course, Liat wants the same hat but definitely with the bill. Not a problem, but I think I'll get a few other things done first.

Really, hats are the perfect project: fast, useful, they can be knit in the round with no sewing up, so many options and variations are possible, and you only need to make one!

In other news, we spent much of the day working. Lots of little projects on our desk right now; I really appreciate the variety. We have civil engineering, finances, a soccer stadium, and history - isn't that great? I would hate to do the same thing all the time. And, of course, every couple of days at least there will be - my favorite - basketball! Good stuff.

Other good stuff: Meital is learning some new jazz songs for the piano, and it's such a pleasure to listen to her practice. And Liat is baking some heavenly chocolate and halvah cookies that have the whole house smelling divine.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Special Olympics

Today has been a good day. The scarf you see above was sent off (thanks to Meital) to the offices of Special Olympics Alabama. Have you heard about the Special Olympics USA Scarf Project? It's a fairly new idea, now in its fourth year. You can learn a lot more about this wonderful project by clicking the link.

With so many states (though not all) participating in the project, why did I choose Alabama? I have been very fortunate to meet some wonderful people from Alabama in the past year. Two of those people are not only lovely human beings, they are professional athletes. I wanted to send my scarf to a Special Olympian in honor of those two young men.

My list of future projects keeps growing. Several of the organizations I want to support are in need of hats, so that's what I'll be making next. But first, I'm making a cap for Meital, a cute design called the Cabled Chapeau. Hats work up so quickly; I started it last night and now it's afternoon and I am nearly done with the main part of the hat. I've never made a hat with a bill before, so it should be interesting! I took the bill out of an Ohio State Buckeyes baseball cap someone once gave us that none of us particularly wanted to wear (no offense to any Ohioans out there), and once the covering is knitted I'll sew it up inside so it matches the hat.

And Liat's been grumbling about a sweater, so I also need to get started on that. Are you busy, too?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

That's Corporal Bunnydoodles to You!

Isn't that always the way? When I wasn't looking, Liat went from this, to:

Yes, my sweet little firstborn is now a corporal in the I.D.F. She got her stripes last week in a small ceremony at her unit (yet another army ceremony we weren't allowed to attend, sigh). If you stay in the army long enough and don't mess up, you'll become a corporal eventually. Liat tells me she'll be getting new stripes in just under a year, right before she finishes her service.

I hope by then I will have recovered from the trauma of sewing on those blasted stripes on four sets of sleeves!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Alpaca Yarn, Made in Israel

Last Tuesday Avi and I drove south into the Negev Desert, bound for the town of Mitzpe Ramon. Since we were there anyway, and planning to stay for a couple of hours, I suggested we might finally visit the Alpaca Farm. And so we did.

I had heard of the place before (obviously) but our previous stops in Mitzpe Ramon had all been brief ones; we had just used it as a place to grab a bite to eat, refuel the car, and head on to the popular vacation spot in the southernmost tip of Israel, the city of Eilat.

In the photo above you can see the road leading to the gate of the farm. It was so quiet and peaceful out there, and the people were lovely.

We didn't take a tour, but I did get to visit the rather informal shop there, and this little bundle of yarn came home with me. The young woman who helped us didn't have much information about the yarn (though she did have a card with some facts on it). What I can tell you is that this yarn came from the alpacas on this farm (they were imported from South America a number of years ago) and was processed and spun on the farm. It is the natural color of the animal(s) from which it came. It's very soft, and I'm looking forward to knitting it up. It weighs 67 grams (I believe that's about 2.4 ounces) and I think I may try making a hat with it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Caps for Colorado

These two small hats were knitted in James C. Brett Marble Chunky yarn, which is 100% acrylic (i.e. machine washable and dryable) and is the softest yarn in my stash. I used up most of what was leftover from the two skeins I bought in California two years ago. I'm actually pretty amazed at how much I was able to create from those two skeins: a pair of legwarmers, a scarf, and now these two hats.

I worked on the second hat most of the day Saturday, including during the visit of some friends for lunch and the afternoon. One of my friends seemed to think that sending only two hats was hardly a worthwhile contribution. I'll admit, her words shook my confidence a bit and made what I was doing seem a bit, well... paltry.

But I soon remembered that each contribution helps and is valued and appreciated. If, through my efforts, two small heads are kept warm, that is something of which I can be proud. These hats are on their way to Kaps for Kendall in Colorado.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not a Hat

Although the organization's name is Warm Hats, Warm Hearts, they accept donations of all kinds, so this child's sweater (the pattern is from Knitting Pure & Simple) is now on its way to the beautiful state of Vermont. I love the KP&S patterns because they are really a blank canvas, and half the fun is deciding how to make this sweater different from the last one. I hope this one will keep someone warm and cozy this winter. The tag at the neck has size information and washing instructions.

I have to admit, though...I still love to make toys for kids more than any other item.

Meanwhile, I finished up something for another worthwhile cause yesterday and will tell you about that next time. I've also started a scarf for Special Olympics Alabama. That is an interesting project because not only do you need to make a scarf to their size specifications, you must also use the yarn they specify. It's rather freeing, in a way, because sometimes having too many choices just slows me down.

I also started a pair of socks for Liat today. I should have had them ready for her birthday (which is in August) but at least they're in progress now.

So there's lots going on here at Bag of Chocolates, which is just the way I like it.

Friday, September 30, 2011


We received two of these tins this past week at an event Avi and I attended. Unfortunately, and contrary to appearances, there were in fact no cookies inside. Instead, there were coffee cups that matched the tins and plain yellow saucers. Except, of course, the cups said "Coffee" on them.

Even though the cups were empty.

Anyway, while I am sure DHL is a wonderful company, I really didn't want a cookie tin emblazoned with their logo adorning my kitchen. Alcohol inks to the rescue! Sadly, covering up the portion of the tin I wanted to remain in its original state did not prevent the inks from bleeding into what should have been forbidden territory. My family (have I mentioned how much I love them?) thinks it looks "cool" this way.

I'm still considering the option of trying to remove the inks that bled down below the tape and seeing if I can get a clean, sharp line between the inked area and the yellow. Of course, there are so many other things to do, most likely I won't bother.

I wonder what I'll do with the second tin.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Designing Daughter

There's not much to show you as far as current projects go (working on some stealth knitting that can't be shared), though I hope to have something by the end of the week. So in the meantime, and since I was so bad about keeping the blog up to date over the last year and more, I will fill in with things that may not be new but are at least new blog fodder.

This summer Meital asked me to knit her a pair of fingerless gloves featuring the rap group D12. She is a big fan of rap and especially of Eminem. She gave me very specific instructions for the design of the gloves, particularly the placement of the names of the group members, and even charted out the logo herself. I worked on them over the summer and got them done, as requested, in time for the first day of school (September 1).

Why anyone would want to wear wool on their hands in 90 degree weather is beyond me, but then it's been a while since I was 14...

It was a fun, challenging, frustrating, character-building kind of a project, and I am eternally grateful that they are finished (and that Meital is delighted with them).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Knitting for Charity?

I just "Liked" a group on Facebook called Knitting for Charity. For some reason, I am uncomfortable with that word (no, not knitting, the other one!). The word "charity" brings to my mind an association with the term Lady Bountiful (a character from an 18th century play by George Farquhar). According to The Free Dictionary, though, a Lady Bountiful is "a woman who enjoys showing people how rich and kind she is by giving things to poor people." Now, I haven't seen or read the play so I don't know if that is the way the character behaved, but the definition I just quoted reflects my understanding of the title, Lady Bountiful.

I don't wanna be a Lady Bountiful.

Now, it could be (probably is) that I'm way off base here. After all, defines charity as "generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless" which sounds about right. I guess. I still have a problem with it.

I am much more comfortable with Malaak Compton-Rock's term, "service". In her book, If It Takes a Village, Build One (which I highly recommend, if you're interested in that kind of thing) the terms "humanitarianism" and "volunteer opportunity" are used. And the motto mentioned again and again is a quote by children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman: "Service is the rent we pay for living."

Now, those terms resonate with me. I have done some form of community service for most of my life, whether by going in person to spend time helping out in homes for the aged or working with school children, or by making things and sending them where they are needed. The Hebrew word most often used to mean "charity" is "tzedakah" but the original, biblical meaning of the word is "righteousness" or "justice".

Doing or giving because it is the right thing to do. Yes, that really reflects how I feel. And I think it reflects the motivation behind the actions of many people I know and admire, who also do the right thing, from their hearts, because they believe it is both an obligation and a privilege.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Project Night Night

Project Night Night is a very special organization that operates in several states, distributing tote bags containing a book, a small blanket and a soft toy to homeless children. I originally intended to send my offering to the chapter in San Francisco, since I am originally from the S.F. Bay Area. But in the end I decided to send this bunny (pattern from the wonderful book Itty Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anderson) and blanket to the Michigan location. I meant to mail it yesterday but got sidetracked by a translation project (remember one of my favorite sayings? "I like work, but it sure breaks up the day." True, so true). Meital came to the rescue and schlepped the box to the post office for me. Yay, Meital! And now the map is up to 7 states.

The blanket has a story behind it. Many (many) months ago, a friend of mine here in Israel asked me to knit a blanket for an expected grandchild, due in January. I did, and duly called her when the blanket was ready to tell her to come and pick it up. She never did (and never called, either!). I figured eight months was long enough to wait, and now the blanket is on its way to someone who will use it. That's a good feeling.

Now I'm working on something that will go to Warm Hats, Warm Hearts - a group that collects and distributes scarves, mittens and of course hats to folks who need them in Vermont and upstate New York. I've added a few more ideas to the list that sits on my computer table, for future projects. Ravelry and Facebook have both been great resources for finding service organizations in need of knitted items.

Lest you think I've given up my multi-tasking ways, I'm also working on a birthday present which can't be shown here at Bag of Chocolates. Yet. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We Love Weddings, Too

One of the things we did this summer was attend a wedding. Well, not just any wedding - my firstborn niece's wedding! She and her Joe got married at a beautiful waterfront hotel in Seattle, and we had a blast spending time with family. As you might have guessed from the photo above, Liat (left) and Meital (middle) were bridesmaids. Their cousin Hannah (right) was the flower girl. During the reception after the wedding, the girls got a little chilled and each asked one of the guests for his suit jacket! It was too cute not to take a photo. I also got a picture of the girls with the guys who lent their jackets. Fun stuff.

The wedding was the cherry on top of the cake that was our summer vacation in the U.S. The day after we were on the plane home. How was your summer?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Judy Sumner

I lost a friend today. I first met Judy on-line, in one of my knitting groups. We got to know one another through e-mails. Judy was the person who encouraged, and then taught me, how to knit socks. So if you are one of the people I have knit socks for, you have Judy to thank. She explained the process, answered my newbie questions, and applauded my efforts. She sent me a gift of sock yarn to make sure I was well and truly hooked! Not only that, I learned to knit socks from the basic pattern Judy offered for free on her website. I purchased some of her patterns, but she gave me at least as many, just because she was that kind of person. Thoughtful, kind, and warm. I was so happy when a dream came true for her in 2009, when a book of her sock patterns was published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang (it's called Knitted Socks East and West, if you're interested). I was able to travel to Knoxville with my family several years ago, and we met Judy for lunch at the Panera near the yarn shop where she worked, teaching others to knit.

She touched so many lives, and all of us will always have a place in our hearts saved just for her. Rest in peace, Judy. You will be greatly missed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We Love Babies!

One of Meital's good friends, Alina, has a brand new baby sister and naturally we needed to make and give something to little Bar (don't ask me to explain Hebrew names, some of them make absolutely no sense...).

The little knitted bunny took very little time to make, and fortunately for me I had a baby card already made and waiting to be used. The words say Mazel Tov, which is a really good all-purpose sentiment to use on cards here. Too bad no one makes any really pretty stamps that say Mazel Tov in Hebrew. I used a stencil here.

I'm finishing up another toy for donation...hope to have that done this weekend. Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

For Hennie

I have been lucky enough to meet many wonderful people on the knitting community website, Ravelry. Hennie, or Deb, is one of them. Deb makes and sells handknit items to raise money for epilepsy research. Her shop/website is called Blue Sunflower. When I saw she had put a call out on her blog asking for cards, I knew that was something I could do - and relatively quickly - to help. Of course, once having made that decision I went through several of the circles of hell before completing a few cards I could be happy with. Those of you who are stampers can probably tell at a glance that I used three different coloring methods on that little bear image. On the blue card, he is sponged (that'll teach me to leave a blue thumbprint where I don't want one! Had to go on and make a mortise mask and ink in the whole image after that oops).

On the card above the blue one, I used my new set of Bic markers. And on the card on the right, I used colored pencils. Which do you like best?

The little lamb is yet another interesting story that reveals what kind of crazy mother I am. Meital came to me one day and asked if I could knit up a toy as a birthday gift for a friend. Of course, sure, no problem. Wait...when do you need it?! TONIGHT!?!

I sat and worked on that lamb nonstop for a few hours. It came together nicely (a Fuzzy Mitten pattern, for those who want to know). I was pleased. Meital loved it. But at the last minute, she decided not to go to the party, she didn't feel well. Has this kind of thing happened to you? Of course it has. I know you understand.

So the lamb has been lying in the gift drawer for quite a while now. I decided he needed to go to Deb along with the cards, and off he went. Meital was very pleased with my decision.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Promise to Myself

First of all, I'd like to beg your pardon for being AWOL for the last year and a half! I never expected that to happen, but sometimes life is like that.

I am not going to promise that I will keep blogging regularly, but I do hope that I will. I've missed it. I enjoy sharing my projects and thoughts with you, and I love getting your responses and reactions. So, here we are again.

Yesterday I had one of my brainstorms, an idea that I am very excited about. Over the years, as many of you know, I have created things and donated them to various community service organizations. I can't even remember every single one, but I know I've donated my handmade greeting cards to organizations like Keiki Cards in Hawaii, and more recently to Operation Write Home. I've made cross stitched squares that were sent to SOLAK (Stitches of Love and Kindness) to be made into quilts for chronically or terminally ill children and adults. I've knitted countless items for the Cheyenne River Youth Project and Pine Ridge Reservation, both in South Dakota. I've made scarves for my friend Shelly's organization, Scarves from the Heart. I sent a blanket to the SANDS organization in England last year. And so on. Yesterday, with two more packages nearly ready to be mailed, this time to Philly Care Caps in Pennsylvania and Hannah's Socks in Ohio, it hit me.

Over the years, I have sent things to many different places (we won't get into the many things I've made for the children at the community center near my house, or the hats for IDF soldiers). Wouldn't it be cool - really cool - to see if I could send handmade things to organizations in every state in the U.S.? I think so. I'm going to see if I can do it. I don't know how long it will take, and I have a feeling there are some places I will send things to more than once. But I'm very excited about this project, and hopefully it will keep me motivated to keep blogging, too! Tricky, aren't I?