Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Remembering

I saw this picture online today and it made me think of Nana - my maternal great-grandmother.  She used to make these with crochet cotton.  I actually remember seeing her working on some.  She was a real crocheter - doilies on tables and arms of chairs, and backs of chairs, and about anywhere with a flat surface.
I miss them.  I never really liked them, but when I had them I was too young to understand the value of good hangers.  Now I know.  Wire hangers are horrible (insert your favorite "Mommy Dearest" reference here) and the fuzzy covered ones are weak and break easily and even plastic aren't that great.  I have some plastic hangers with little rubber grippies on the shoulders, but even then, they aren't like Nana's hangers.

This Thanksgiving I find myself thinking of family members that have passed away.  I seem to come from a long line of crafty and artistic people.  I hope wherever Nana is she is proud of my knitting, and understands why I don't crochet.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Pattern Available: Sine Wave Men's Hat



Textural, with subtle scientific slant, the sine wave men’s hat offers even the most stubborn to knit for an attractive, yet intellectually stimulating, source of warmth.  This reversible hat even offers styling options.  Right-side offers high-texture look, the reverse a low-texture alternative.  Fold it, roll it, wear it slouched, this hat is for every man.  High elasticity ensures comfort; no more avoiding hats that squeeze and give headaches.


Sizes: Men’s - Will fit head 22-25”
Yarn Requirements: Approximately 155 yards of worsted weight yarn. Shown in Malabrigo Rios (color: 121-Marte) Superwash Wool, 210 yds/100grams . 
Supplies: 5 Stitch markers, tapestry needle.  Row counter is helpful.
Needles: Size 5 (3.75mm) 16” circular needles and a set of double pointed needles (DPNs) in the same size. 
Gauge: 24 sts and 32 rows = 4” (10 cm) in stockinette stitch in the round. Change needle size as needed to obtain gauge.




Available via Ravelry just in time for Christmas gift knitting - $3.00

Online Learning

Have you tried Craftsy yet...?
I'm taking this class and LOVING it! (No, they aren't paying me or providing any considerations for saying so - I just tell you about things I love hoping you'll love them too!)

Online Knitting Class

Actually, I'm enrolled in nine different Craftsy classes.  I'll be doing an in-depth review of my latest enrollment very soon - so keep your eyes peeled!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giveaway Winner!

I'm sending two skeins of di.Ve Autunno 100% Fine Merino (50g/98yds each) in Naturals-33410 - Valued at $15.00 to "ahappyaccident" who shared Judy's Magic Cast-On from Cat Bordhi's video tutorial.  Congratulations to ahappyaccident and be sure to check out this great video!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Pattern Available: Ms. Billey's Owl Beret


She’s smart, stylish and a fierce advocate for those without a voice. Bold, brave and definitely someone you want on your side, Ms. Billey is a friend to the end.  This beret makes its statement with Fair Isle and cables.  For extra punch, sew on beads and give your owls true vision.

Sizes: Women’s - Will stretch to fit head sizes up to 22”.
Yarn Requirements: Approximately 160 yards of Color A (Dark) and 90 yards of Color B (Light) worsted.
Shown in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tweed - 50g/110yds Colors: (a) Farmhouse Heather and (b)Down Heather
Needles: Size 4 (3.5mm) 20” circular needles and a set of double pointed needles (dpn(s)) in the same size. 
Supplies: Stitch marker, cable needle, tapestry needle.  Row counter is helpful.
Gauge: 24 sts = 4” (10 cm) in stockinette stitch
Change needle size as needed to obtain gauge.

Available via Ravelry just in time for Christmas knitting - $3.00.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

YouTube Tutorials ROCK! Share & WIN!

I learned something today!
Don't you just LOVE YouTube?!?
No?  Not using YouTube?  You should, and here's why:

I'm a visual hands-on learner and sometimes reading the steps of a technique in a book just doesn't pull it together for me.  That's where YouTube comes in.
I'm working on a design right now that I felt could benefit from a provisional  cast on, but would you believe, although I understand the theory and usefulness, I've never actually done it.
Nope, never.
I read about many different provisional cast-ons in several different books but just wasn't getting it, so I looked it up on YouTube and found the following wonderful video.
Thank you Knit Purl Hunter - you ROCK!


 

YouTube is wonderful because it's free, you can watch it a million times, you can pause and replay to your heart's content, and in many cases you can even contact the person that made the video.  How great is that?!?

Now, to be fair... some videos aren't great.  There are natural teachers and there are natural con-founders.  But there are also often many many videos to choose from on any given topic and technique.

So here it is:  I'm looking for the best of the best, your favorites, videos that you actually learned something from.  Share and WIN!

To Enter: Post a comment with the YouTube Share Link (looks something like this: http://youtu.be/Nnu1kk8dUj0) of your favorite knitting technique video.  Briefly tell me what the technique is, why the video is awesome, and how to find you (Rav ID or Email).

One extra/bonus entry for each of the following:

You WIN Two of These!
Please include your extra entries in a comment with links or information for validation.

Eligibility: Open to US & Canada ONLY - entries accepted until 12:00PM MST, Thursday, November 15, 2012.


Drawing: A random drawing of qualified entries will be done using an online number generator on Friday, November 16th.

Prize: 2 Skeins of di.Ve Autunno 100% Fine Merino (50g/98yds each) in Naturals-33410 - Valued at $15.00

Winner will be contacted via email after drawing for shipping information.

(NO, I wasn't paid by either YouTube or Knit Purl Hunter for this endorsement - I'm merely sharing things I love so that you can love them too!)

Angering the Yarn Gods and Just Under a 1/4 Mile to Go!

This has been an interesting month.
I've done something, although I'm not quite sure what, which seems to have angered the yarn Gods.
Seriously.
It started with my favorite black & grey swing cardigan.  To be fair, it was store bought, but it was wool and I LOVED it.  It was a stock item in my wardrobe, and honestly, people were probably tiring of seeing me in it, but it was warm and fashionable and wonderful and went with everything.  LOVED it.
It needed to be washed.  I read the label.  The very next day I tossed it in a gentle cycle... pulled it out and cried a little.  I re-read the label.  Those damned yarn Gods had since lifted the spell that made me see the damaging instructions.  I don't know why I didn't check it again before tossing it in.  Probably because I was so sure it said "Wash Gentle Cycle with Like Colors, Lay Flat to Dry" vs. "Hand Wash, Lay Flat to Dry".
It is dead.  I've kept it.  I have some false hope I can use the felted material to make a pillow or bag or some such comforting/useful upcycle item.  I've been at a loss every morning since.  I suddenly have NOTHING to wear.
And then... it happened AGAIN!!
The weather here has started to turn.  We actually had a cold snap this weekend that brought us down below freezing one night.  Time to pull out the bed socks.  I had a really cool pair - super squishy and colorful and warm and wonderful.  I hand knit them from Malabrigo worsted Merino.  LOVED them.  I've washed them countless times, by hand... until this time.
Damned yarn Gods!
Somehow they ended up in my load of darks and marched themselves through not only the washer, but dryer as well.
Felted.
Shrunk.
Destroyed.
Tears.
Yes, I tried to pull them on in desperate hopes they'd stretch over my big feet.
Yes, I understand, that is funny and foolish.
I haven't decided yet.  Part of me wants to donate them - some small child could use them as slippers.  Part of me wants to stuff them with a dog toy squeaker and toss them off to my furry friends - only so I have to watch them delight in my hand knitting and constantly remind me to be vigilant in my laundry sorting.
I'm not sure what I did to make the Gods so angry.
I'm not even sure what sacrifice to make to appease them again.
Interestingly enough, this does bode well for my 2012 knitting goals as I now feel obligated to replace these items.
I tallied up my most recently completed projects and am proud to report 6.32 miles to date.  I have less than a 1/4 mile to knit to meet my goal.  Wooo Hooo!  A new pair of bed socks alone might be enough.
Maybe, just maybe the Gods weren't angry at all.  Maybe in their own mysterious ways they were looking to encourage me toward my goals.
Maybe, just maybe... I'm delusional.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

On the Path to New Patterns

Just a quick sneak peek and what's on the needles for upcoming pattern releases... I'm very, very excited about these!
Dance Lessons with McGonagal

Fire Whiskey

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall Shawl Madness - New Patterns Available!

The Villager Shawl
I'm very excited to announce the release of two new patterns -
The Villager Shawl and Balsam Shawl!

Each pattern was designed with the beginner shawl knitter in mind and feature basic and easy to learn stitches.

Although either pattern could be worked with any yarn you wish, I've written the patterns to use worsted weight wool and US Size 8 needles to afford beginner knitters a manageable experience and a thicker, warmer end product.
Balsam Shawl

Both patterns are available on Ravelry or can be purchased below.




Balsam Shawl - $3.00
The Villager Shawl - $3.00

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Where Brilliance and Madness Converge

By now I'm sure you've figured out I'm not quite right in the head.  I'm still coming to terms with it.

Sitting in my studio this morning I got an email from a student having issues reconciling a stitch count against one of my charts and so, I replied that I'd knit up to where she was in the chart to figure out what was going wrong and get back to her ASAP.  I set aside the hours old, newly designed test sample I was knitting for my next class and grabbed the class knit-along sample so as to answer her question, then I glanced around at my work station and realized just how far gone I really was.  I decided I really ought to conquer some of the storm that is my studio first. And so, I took this picture.  Sometimes I need to be reminded.  I'd love to say this photo was staged, but it wasn't.

On my desk I have class materials for three different classes, test swatches and samples for three designs - six actual on-the-needles items, a class sample, yarn that needs to be wound, charts that need to be digitized and notes and tools and books and tools and notes and and and... Holy crap!  I know where and what everything is, but it occurs to me that if I were to die right now an investigator might calculate this mess as part of the cause of death.

I have no real reason to organize any of this.  It's all out where I can see it and I know the status of each item, but it occurs to me that I might have just a little more mental peace if it wasn't all in riot.  So I took 5 minutes.  I wound, stacked, put away and behold... more space for more projects!!!  Okay, so that wasn't the goal, but I wasn't aiming for clinical sanity, just a reduction of insanity.

When was the last time you took 5 minutes to organize your forest so as to see the trees?

Monday, August 13, 2012

2012 Mileage Goals - Update!

As many of you may remember, I set a goal at the beginning of the year to knit 6.5 miles worth of yarn in 2012.  That's 11,440 yards.  If I were to knit my entire goal in Cascade 220, let's just say, that would be 52 skeins or a skein a week.  When you start breaking it down it seems, well, crazy.

Today I noticed I hadn't been keeping up with my mileage record keeping, so I dropped into KnitMeter.com and added my most recent projects.  Low and behold, my mileage to date is 4.44.  I have just 2.06 miles left to go, or approximately 3625.6 yards.  I'm about 650 yards AHEAD of schedule!  This would probably be more exciting if I were an Olympic athlete and I was 650 yards ahead of my competition, but seeing as I'm only competing against myself with yarn... it's probably not so impressive.

So what is the plan?  I'm working on a shawl right now for the class I'm teaching that will end up being about 306 yards, I have another shawl planned that should be about 750 yards, I'm planning a project that will consist of 4 pairs of socks - there's another 1600 yards, plus there is a project on the needles that is a test knit for a new pattern that I think will run about 500 yards.  Once that test is done I'll have to knit the final version, another 500 yards.  I've got a hat I need to knit - guessing another 200 yards, plus one pair of socks already on the needles - about 400 yards.  All that brings me to... 4256 yards planned.  AND I have 2 hats and a shawl to knit this fall for other classes I'll be teaching.

I think I can see the goal line!  Actually, it looks like I might end up knitting about a mile past it.  Sweet!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Accidents & Dyeing

Not all projects come out as planned.  Sometimes there are disasters and sometimes happy accidents.  Today I visited the whole spectrum.

Today I set out to dye yarn for my upcoming "My first Shawl" class.  I wanted something unique and special to work with while I knit along with the students.  Generally I request that students select a light colored yarn to work with as it makes it much easier to see the stitches, and thus, I aimed to comply with my own request.

I chose to play with vermilion, purple and periwinkle (all roughly next to each other on the color wheel) in pale shades.  My goal was to hand paint these colors onto the white base, then hot bath dye the whole load in  pale olive (opposite from the previous colors on the color wheel) to add a warming effect.

I tested all my colors.  I was pleased with what I was seeing.  I hand painted.  I knew immediately that these colors were not "my colors" - colors that would look good on my complexion - but knew that over-dyeing in the olive would warm the colors back into my personal palette, or would make a lovely combination that, although not perfect for me, might be perfect as a gift for someone else.

Into the pot went the hand painted skeins.  Into the pot went the olive dye.  On went the lid, and back I stood waiting for magic to happen.

It happened alright.

I would have taken pictures if I hadn't been in a panic.

Olive dye didn't make olive yarn.  Not at all.  Instead I had ORANGE yarn with vermilion, purple and periwinkle undertones.  NOT good.  NOT attractive on anyone. And most certainly NOT something I wanted to show off to my students.  A qualified FAIL.

Panic took over.  $20 worth of YUCK yarn.  There had to be a save.

I threw in the rest of my olive dye, threw on the lid and pretended this would solve the problem.

No.  When I checked again, it was just more orange.  I'm not in any way sure why.  My test is definitively olive, not orange.  Perhaps the dye was "breaking" into its base components and only the orange was being absorbed by the wool.

The panic got worse.

How do you fix orange?

My mind whorled.  Add red - I guessed I'd get kind of a cotton-candy vomit.  Add green - NO guess as the those results.  Add blue... well, I've been told blue and orange make brown.  Brown is good. Otherwise I could get anything from green to purple depending on how the dye reacted with the red/yellow of the current orange.  If not perhaps the blue would just override and I'd get blue.  Blue is good too.  Heck, at this point I'd take anything over the vermilion, purple, periwinkle and orange mess I had at that point.  Yuck.

"Comfortable Old Jeans"
I dumped in a healthy dose of dark sapphire blue.  I put on the lid.  I prayed to the magical dye gods.  I knew the yarn would come out far darker than I intended, but at that point it wasn't about fulfilling the original purpose, it was only about saving it from disaster.  I didn't want to have to dye it black to make it usable.

When I finally dared to peek into the dye pot again, I was pleasantly surprised. The blue had in fact prevailed over all and combined with all the previous layers to create a glorious range of tones... including, oddly enough... an olive.  I don't understand.  I don't even care that I don't understand.  I'm just relieved and grateful the dye gods heard my desperate prayers.  It occurs to me that I either need to take a class or need to spend a day doing nothing but color experiments on yarn NOT designated for a project.  Then I realized, no, I simply need to let go.  I need to approach dyeing with an openness, not a rigid plan.  Every single dye project I've done ended up delightful.  Very, very few of them came out exactly as planned.  All required trust in the magic of the dye.  Dyeing today? Loosen up and let it happen.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Yarn Porn: KnitPicks.com

KnitPicks.com - have you been there?  It is a wonderful wonderful place.  This is my most recent order.  I didn't "need" more yarn, but this sale was simply too good to pass up.  ALL this for $100.35!!! plus FREE Shipping.

Clockwise from top left: 24 skeins of Maple Syrup Wool of the Andes (sweater), 1 each of Shadow Tonal in Deep Waters, Springtime and Blue Yonder (shawls),  3 Natural Bare Superwash (hand dyeing and socks), and the Earth Sock Sampler including 2 Felici in Botany, 2 Stroll in Cocoa, 2 Gloss in Doe and 1 Stroll Tonal in Foliage (and more socks).

Sale is still in effect - Save up to 50% on last chance yarns - deep discounts on discontinued colors and overstocks.

And as always, no, I wasn't paid to endorse this.  I'm telling you about it because it ROCKS and you could LOVE IT TOO!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Have a Sense of Humor? Hope So!

More Online Learning

Craftsy is always adding more classes to their online learning experience and I've enrolled in yet another: Lace Shawl Design with Miriam Felton.

Miriam Felton goes into great detail explaining lace structure, swatching for design, math, charting, gauge and fiber, tools and so much more.  I've only gotten about 1/3 of the way through the course but have already learned so more much about lace pattern design.  I've been fascinated to learn more about the things I do in my designs automatically - now I know more about why they work.

I highly recommend this class.  If you have always wanted to design your own lace patterns or learn more about how shawl patterns work so you can make modifications to patterns - this is THE class. It's on introductory special right now for just $29.99 (regularly $39.99) and at that price, it is a HOT STEAL!

No, I wasn't asked to review this product, service, class or instructor - I just like to tell you about things I believe in.  Comment about this and other resources so we can all benefit!

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Tools - HiyaHiya Double Pointed Needles

Today I'm playing with new tools.  I just bought my first set of HiyaHiya 6" stainless steel double pointed needles in US2/2.75mm which were highly recommended.  

All of my past experiences with dpns have been inexpensive wood or aluminum needles I'd bought at chain craft stores, and they have all worked wonderfully, however the set I use for socks are showing their wear (color worn off tips, couple of rough spots from being dropped, one slightly bent... you know - loved) so I chose to take the opportunity to try a "high end"set.  

So far, I love them.  They are lighter weight and sharper tipped than my usual set.  I really love a good sharp point and wish there was some kind of standardized taper and sharpness sizing so that I could order needles online and know exactly what I was getting in advance. Until that day, my LYS will remain my primary supplier.

I like the feel of these needles - just enough tooth to the surface that my stitches stay on the needle without tempting me to tighten my tension to keep them there.  Another (silly) bonus - the size is labeled on the needle shaft.  I'm not sure how well that labeling holds up over time - I'll try to let you know a few pairs of socks from now - but I love that I don't have to check them in my needle sizer (which I can NEVER find when I need it) or try to remember the size based on their color.

Really, the only "negative" thing I'd say about them isn't even about them, it's about me.  I'm used to working with slightly longer needles (7" dpns) and am finding that the tips of the shorter needles rub the heel of my palm.  When I first begin working it's kind of a tickle, but after a while it becomes sensitive and uncomfortable.  I'm trying to adjust.  I'm wondering if others have had this issue and if this problem might be resolved by going with the even shorter "sock" dpns.  Any insights?  What needles do you love?
No, HiyaHiya did not request or pay for me to endorse their product - I just write about what I like.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Stretching Your Boundaries and Building Your Skill Set

I belong to a fantastic knit group on Ravelry that emulates the Hogwart's House Cup from the beloved Harry Potter series in which we have "classes" and "homework" that earns our "houses" points in an imaginary world.  Often our homework assignments prompt us to push our boundaries and try techniques we've never attempted or have been reluctant to try.  This, and my willing participation, have been an incredible learning opportunity for me.  I've been energized to stretch my boundaries and build my skill set.  Not only does this give me more techniques to draw from when I design, but broadens my fundamental understanding of the craft, making me a better teacher.  I HIGHLY recommend participation in this or like groups.  Learning new skills in this manner isn't a chore... it's creative fun.  I never expected to gain so much from a game.

So, what skills have I learned because of my participation?

Yarn dyeing.  LOVE IT! Probably one of my all time favorite activities.  Am I opening my own shop of hand dyed fibers?  Not yet, but I dream of offering a line someday.  I still have a lot to learn and lots of experimenting to do yet and I'm excited.  Please, go out, buy a inexpensive skein of wool and a couple packets of koolaid or food coloring and some vinegar.  Do a craft project with your kids or take some private time for yourself and revel in the magic!

Steeking - the SCARIEST knitting technique ever wasn't really anything to be scared of at all.  Granted, I don't do a lot of it, but I'm not afraid of it anymore and encourage everyone to give it a try.  It can be the most amazing time saver and opens up millions of possibilities.

Illusion knitting.  Cute and fun, I like this technique for fun little home projects.  I've only made a couple of simple washcloths, but I've seen gorgeous scarfs and shawls done with this technique and I think an afghan done with a monogram would be an amazing gift.

I've learned to felt, both by machine and hand.  Am I proficient?  No, not in my book, but each project makes me more confident.  Learning to felt by hand was a huge eye-opener.  I used to be really afraid of accidentally felting yarn whilst dyeing or washing a project.  Not anymore.  Accidental felting takes an amazing mistake like unknowingly throwing a garment in the washing machine or not paying attention to your actions.  It actually takes a LOT to felt yarn.  Seriously.  Knit a swatch and hand felt it in your sink and tell me if I lie.

And, most recently, I've learned Shibori - a Japanese dimensional felting technique.  Oh the possibilities.  Suddenly I have thousands of ideas for fun children's and high-fashion accessories, and the technique is so easy and fun, I'm even considering teaching this!

And how have I grown?

Oh so many ways!  My yarn tension has improved.  My gauge is more accurate and consistent throughout my projects.  I'm less fearful and more willing to try new patterns and techniques.  I'm more capable of bringing my design ideas to fruition.  I have more hands on experience with mistakes to relate to my students - which sounds stupid, but you can only teach what you know and being able to say "Oh yeah, I've done that.  I fixed it by..." goes a LONG way.

Have you stretched your boundaries or built your knitting skills through an unexpected outlet?  Tell me about  it.  Share your experience here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Energy Knitting

Sometimes we knit just for the love of the yarn, pattern, or color.  Sometimes we knit for the love of others and create wonderful gifts.  Sometimes we knit to get us through hard times.  I recently completed one of those projects.

I went through a really hard time not too long ago, and without going into details, I can tell you it filled me with tons of toxic emotions and thoughts.

When I'm toxic, I don't work on gifts for others or creative projects.  I believe strongly that doing so imparts that negative energy into the item I'm working on.  I work when I'm feeling positive and emotionally connected to the gift recipient or the project.  In fact,  I'd never done a "knit through difficult times" project before.

But this time, I just couldn't clear my mind.  I was really truly poisoned and I needed a way to cleanse my soul and work through my problems.  Knitting can be amazingly healing.  I pushed all my other projects aside and started a pair of socks.  I specifically chose a yarn from the bottom of my stash that I wasn't particularly fond of... okay, I straight up didn't like it.  The colors did nothing for me.  The texture was abrasive.  About the only thing going for it was I had enough for a pair of socks and it was superwash.  The plan: Knit ugly socks from yuck yarn while searching for serenity and trapping all my negativity and gift them away.

I worked on those socks every time my anger, hate, paranoia and bad emotions boiled to the surface.  I concentrated on my hate and frustration with each stitch.  I gave myself permission to hate the socks themselves and let others around me know that their existence served to detoxify me.  I stabbed needles through them and called them bad names.

And it worked.  I found myself cleansed and free of negativity just after the second heel.

And so they began their hibernation.  I suddenly had no need to work on them.  I had happier projects to focus on.

And then I found another problem.  I had to finish them.  They have to be finished in order to gift them away.  I briefly considered simply throwing the whole thing away, but what a waste.  I'd knit most of a perfectly good socks (I believe washing them could dispel my toxins), I had to finish them.  What I found was interesting... in hibernation the negativity had softened.  Even the yarn had softened.  In fact, my perspective had changed almost completely.  I still have some hurt kicking around, and I remember the stress, but I've found new ways to cope.

Who knows... maybe I'll keep the socks just to remind myself that good things can come from bad.

New Roof, Knitting, Dental Work, Gardens, Celestial Bodies and a Holiday Weekend - PHEW!

After two days of crazy noise and stress, we officially have a new roof that (hopefully!) doesn't leak.  (There is actually a guarantee.) Like any good home improvement project, this was a can of worms. Internet/Phone/Cable had to be disconnected for the majority of the work, which left me unable to work, and few options but to knit whist pushing panicking animals off my lap. The roofer had to purchase a new flange for our swamp cooler system, and basically told us NOT to ever use the existing one again... aka buy a new one, which really isn't in the budget right now... so... tolerance is in order.  I'm hoping for a mild summer.  Further, our skylights no longer fit the way they should and the roofer told me I'd need new ones when we start the rest of the construction.  When I inquired as to what "rest of construction" he smiled and said, "You need new stucco and new windows and new doors... and new skylights like I told you... and new air conditioning, you understand, rest of construction.  But now you are ready - roof is done." Can't wait for John to get home so I can lay that one on him.

He offered to show me the roof after his final inspection.  I explained he would need to call the fire department.  A serious language misinterpretation happened there briefly - he thought I was telling him I would be angry at his work when really I was telling him I could get onto the roof, but I'd need rescue to get back down.  Once he understood he laughed.  Almost as hard as our bank laughed when it overheard him say "rest of construction".

Chica and Haley are very grateful the construction is over.  Chica panted non-stop and barked every time the doorbell rang.  Haley hid behind furniture and when you did see her, returned your gaze with a tea-cup saucer stare.  Stinky didn't mind so much.  The initial scrapping was the loudest and he didn't like that, but he snored through everything else that wasn't an opportunity to be pet by strangers.

Arizona is experiencing wild fires again already, and sadly, we are experiencing their smoke.  Everything for a reason... when it's smoky you don't want to run a swamp cooler because is sucks the smoke into your house and chokes you out.  The smoke makes me sad.  We are literally hundreds of miles from the fires and yet the smoke is so thick, we can't see the mountain less than 5 miles away.  I feel bad for the people living much closer or worse, in it.  The mere smell of it here makes us nervous... I'm sure for some the smell means terror.

I'm still busy knitting.  I'm working on a gift, a pattern test, a shawl for myself for work, and a new technique sample right now.  I'm taking most of the summer off from teaching - it's just too busy with roof repairs, motorcycling, Sam's visit, and a new schedule at work.  My next class is "My First Shawl" in August.  It's a new offering and I'm excited to teach it.  It is one of my own designs and I'll be covering a lot of material over 4 weeks with students.  Cross your fingers it sells well.  I have lots of ideas for new pattern designs and seemingly never enough time to knit it all.

John and I are each taking our turns at the dentist... yuck.  We've each had our cleanings.  He has two wisdom teeth that still need to be extracted and I've got a couple fillings coming up.  My root canal from last October is still giving issue and we suspect the tooth is actually cracked.  I'm supposed to go see a surgeon, who I'm told will most likely want to redo the root canal (NO!) or cut off the apex of the root (NO!) or suggest the unknown.  Credit to my dentist (who I'm still convinced is under 25 years old), he felt really bad. In my last conversation with him I emphasized my dislike of these options and we discussed simply pulling it and installing a permanent bridge which, oddly I prefer over pulling and installing an implant.  Everyday at the doctors office I witness how much your dental health and procedures impact your overall health.  I'm aiming for the healthiest options possible.

Garden is doing great!  We actually ate cherries off our cherry tree this year - we got about 9, the birds got the rest.  Lesson learned - net lots, net early.  Our pear tree has three or four fruits growing.  In the regular beds we've planted red & white onions, garlic, carrots of multiple varieties, bell peppers, snap peas, 2 varieties of cucumbers, turnips, rabe broccoli, zucchini, 4 varieties of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and sunflowers.  I'm sure I'm forgetting something.... there is soooo much!  Just about everything is peaking up.

So far we have only had one break-in.  We suspect the driving force was a bird stuck under netting, and we don't think the usual suspect worked alone.  I'm very careful not to say too much about the incident for two reasons.  1) John gets pissed every time he thinks about it - the usual suspect is lucky to be alive, and  2) the Universe has a sense of humor and likes to remind me that "never again" really only relates to very short periods of time.

John and I did get to go out and observe the eclipse.  We rode out on his dual sport into the middle of the desert and observed through welder's glass.  It was a really amazing/cool/weird thing to see.  I find it sort of funny that my memory of it is green - but that's how I saw it through the glass.  Because Albuquerque was right on the center viewing line we were able to see it full and perfectly.  We are hoping to go out and observe the passing of Venus in front of the sun as well.  Talk about putting your troubles into perspective - seeing these celestial bodies just make the dust bunnies under the coffee table seem so insignificant.

Memorial Day is upon us.  John is hoping to go riding with his friend Martin as some point over the weekend.  We've been invited to a pool party (not really John's thing!) Sunday.  We haven't made any hard fast plans yet.  I'm sure time will be spent with friends and food will be consumed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Fantastic LYS: Village Wools

I want to take a second to share some photos of my local yarn store (LYS) Village Wools in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  This place is my second home, teaching facility and "candy store".

I get unbelievable creative support, encouragement, and inspiration from the staff every time I visit.  There is always someone willing to discuss pattern designs or problems, color theory, spinning, weaving, techniques or dogs with you.  Even the shop dogs offer a friendly smile when you arrive.

Village Wools is the largest yarn shop I've every had the pleasure of visiting.  I've become completely spoiled by the range of fiber types (wool, alpaca, camel, cotton, bamboo, hemp, silk, mohair.... etc. etc.) and colors (they seem to have every color imaginable!) and my personal stash continues to grow with each incoming shipment they receive.  I've also made a rather significant dent in their book shelf, buying up stitchionarys and technique books.  They have buttons and washes and needles and bags and dyes and and and well everything!

I'm very proud to be among the instructors that offer classes at Village Wools.  They offer a wonderful teaching environment with one giant dividable lecture room and two dedicated classrooms for weaving and dyeing.  All the rooms are equipped with giant whiteboards, tables, chairs and excellent lighting.

When my husband and I travel, I always stop at yarn shops and try to purchase local products.  As a result, I've been in many yarn stores, especially on the east coast and in the southwest.  I'm always eager to find another yarn store. Consider adding Village Wools to your itinerary the next time you are in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Village Wools has a large collection of local yarns as well as spinning fibers.  Where is your favorite LYS?

No, they didn't pay me to advertise them, I simply show you things I love.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hot and Cold Pour Dyeing

Jacquard Acid Dyes
Today I had a wonderful time experimenting with different dye techniques and colors.  I've finally graduated to using Jacquard acid dyes, rather than food coloring and Kool-aid.  The acid dyes provide me with a far greater spectrum of color and blending possibilities.

I tried two different techniques: Hot and Cold Pour Dyeing.

With Cold Pour (sorry, I should have taken more pictures) you can quite literally paint the yarn, as it is all laid out before you on plastic.  I had "autumn" in mind as a colorway and used chartreuse, russet, pumpkin orange, sun yellow and teal.  I panicked briefly once I got the colors all applied that it looked more like an exploded Rastafarian than autumn leaves, but have learned from past dyeing experiments that colors blend more in the final stages and panic is not a worthy expenditure of energy.

Once the yarn was all painted, I wrapped it up in its plastic and steamed it in my dye kettle.  Briefly I found myself wondering what the temperature tolerance of plastic wrap is and had visions of pulling out shrink wrapped yuck.  Amazingly, plastic held its form and the colors did blend more.  I got an amazing spectrum of tones from browns to purples mixed in with varying hues of my dominate choice colors.  I have 245 yards of gorgeous worsted weight in "Autumn" just waiting to become a... not sure yet, but I'd venture to guess a hat.
Total Yarn Porn!  Tell me that doesn't make you want to break out the face mask and rubber gloves and dye your own!


In Kettle - I took this photo just after adding the dyes.
Isn't it beautiful!
Hot Pour is a totally different beast.  With this method you add dye to the kettle that your soaked yarn is "hot tubbing" in, then simmer.  How you've twisted the yarn into the kettle, where you place and how much of any color you use, and dye bleeding all affect the outcome.  Being not a huge fan of stripping yarns, I find I prefer kettle dyed yarns; colors are more mottled and less likely to flash or pool.

For this batch I used chartreuse, periwinkle, sapphire blue and teal - sea glass tones.  I got a little nervous while the yarn/dye mixture simmered, idly wondering if yarn could burn onto the pan.  Low and behold, it didn't, the dye exhausted just as it would have in my microwave and out came a glorious 930 yards of fingering weight in "Sea Glass".  Now I just need to find the PERFECT shawl pattern to highlight the colors of this yarn. Suggestions welcome.
Sorry this picture isn't better.  Honestly, the colors are far more vibrant like the "In Kettle" photo above... the sun is just too bright here.
 So bright in fact, I can't read the camera manual and learn to take better photos ;)



Friday, April 13, 2012

Dyer Moments: Jonathan Perks

When I design knit patterns, my inspiration usually begins with a color.  I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with.  If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape.  But where do those beautifully colored yarns originate?  I'm particularly fond of the work of indie-dyers, and so I've created this interview process - Dyer Moments - to expose the people that make the colorways that inspire new design. 

Join me today in getting to know Jonathan Perks!
 

Describe the first time you dyed.
~Alchemy. Pure alchemy. It’s a surprise and a delight every time. I had some old Rowan yarn and a half finished jumper and a small guilt complex about it. Can’t remember why I decided to start dyeing and how I even got the dyes but the Rowan was transformed into something wholely new and a light bulb went on in my head….

How did you begin your business?
~I’ve always wanted to do something to pursue my own creativity and create a business from it. So I discovered some yarn and dye powder suppliers, approached some retail business and off it went. Ironically, most people don’t do it this way around. They sell at events and online and then move to retail shops..I have some very supportive businesses (Spins and Neddles in Lincoln) who are enthusiastic about my product and are prepared to negotiate on price.

What inspired the name of your company?
~Colour - of course. I work creatively with colour and don’t do repeatables. That’s the focus - colour. I’ve come to realise how important it is and how it can influence the way you feel. I often pull out a bright and vibrant skein on a dull day and you can’t help smiling.

What inspires your colorways and how do you name them?
~Weird and wacky. That’s what I go for. Some names come fully born. Others are quite random. Sometimes my partner names them. Sometimes names might be related to something I’ve seen on TV - my Nigella’s Plums was very popular - deep berry reds and purples.

Do you also knit? Crochet?
~I knit and crochet throughout the year. I don’t tend to use patterns and have taught myself top down and seamless percentage methods. The maths appeals to my scientific part of my brain. I tend to crochet in summer and the knitting mojo returns in Autumn. I attend about three knitting groups on and off and this keeps the enthusiaism going. Knitters are a great bunch of people - friendly and ready to share. I set up a knitting group at the National Centre of Craft and Design in Lincolnshire and have run workshops there on toe up sock knitting and yarn dyeing.

What is your favorite color and do you have a favorite pattern for showing off your yarn?
~I love blues and I like mixing turquoise and royal blue in my yarn dyeing to give a bright vibrant blue. My favourite pattern is the one I’m knitting or crochetting at the moment - a bit like if you ask me who my favourite singer is - Alana Del Rey is playing in my car every day and I can feel some ginger and red combinations happening in my yarn dyeing.

What is your favorite fiber/yarn to dye?
~Don’t have a favourite really. The colour is first and foremost important althought I have acquired some angora merino mix that produces the most saintly colour haze just like Scandinavian Lett Lopi’s.
Is there anything especially cool about your yarns we should know?
~I’m a mad scientist. If I want to achieve an effect I play around and build equipment to help me achieve what I want.

Describe your background / education. Does it have any influence on your company?
~I went to University and did a Degree in Geography in the late eighties/early nineties. I suppose it doesn’t directly influence what I do, but you learn skills and gain life experience too.

What advise would you give others looking to dye?
~Dive in and play.

Tell us about your biggest dye fail.
~No such thing. Something is always salvageable. Even if the hank is the most ugliest thing in the world you can overdye it all black and suddenly its the most beautiful thing in the world to Goths and witches.

Most importantly, whats the best way to purchase your yarns? Are you in retail stores or do you have a shop online? Do you offer a yarn club?
~I have started a shop on Big Cartel: http://chromayarns.bigcartel.com and am learning about improving yarn photos. I’m not there yet. I am launching some long colour run yarns. I want to launch a season-based yarn club in the next few months with patterns to take advantage of this new product.

To get a better idea of the people behind the product... I ask our dying interviewees these insight questions developed by Bernard Pivot.

What is your favorite word?
~Gusset.

What is your least favorite word?
~It’s unprintable.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
~Music, film and computer games - games are getting so sophisticated that they can really draw you in emotionally into storylines and play.

What turns you off?
~Snobbery and cliques and jealous bad mouthers.

What is your favorite curse word?
~I’m a gentleman and shouldn’t really say and you couldn’t possibly print it either.

What sound or noise do you love?
~Benjamin Britten’s Second String Quartet. Anything by Debussy but especially L’isle Joyeuse.

What sound or noise do you hate?
~Anything by Mozart - sorry Mozartians.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
~Professional musician. Maybe a Pianist. I am tempted to take up the alto sax but have to watch the pennies at the moment.

What profession would you not like to do?
~Sales in a call centre - unless it was selling my own yarn of course.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
~Well, you were wrong but it doesn’t matter. Come on in.

Be sure to visit Jonathan's online store at http://chromayarns.bigcartel.com

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Congratulations Harbor House Baskets!

Harbor House Baskets is celebrating their GRAND OPENING!

You can purchase these beautiful fabric baskets on her Etsy site HERE - and right now during the Grand Opening you can save 10% using the coupon code "grandopening"!

We have three of her bowls.  I use one in the kitchen and two in my design studio.  I simply LOVE them for my knitting projects.

Be sure to visit the their Blog and  Facebook page too!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Busy! Busy! Getting things done.

Still the needles have been clicking non-stop, and I have a couple of projects to share. Of course, there are more projects in progress, but the completed ones are the most fun to show off!

I've finished the Aeolian Shawl by Elizabeth Freeman and LOVE it!  It is simply beautiful.  This pattern called for nupps (rhymes with soups) which are essentially bobble in lace.  I'd never done this technique before and in the end learned a couple of different ways to accomplish them.  I found I preferred to used a crochet hook to build them and reduce them all at once.  I'm not fond of the two row method.  The nupps made me nervous until the very end.  Having never done them, I wasn't really sure what to expect.  They seemed to pull to the wrong side and hide.  Blocking made all the difference.  I look forward to an occasion where I can show this off!

I also completed Ebbtide by Elizabeth Doherty.  I did this one as part of a KAL (knit along) for two reasons really. First, I thought the design was quite pretty with its waves and sand dollar motif, and secondly because I hadn't seen any completed versions of it that did its theme justice.  In fact, it was the second reason that really spurred me.  I've seen it knit up in a lot of dark solids, single color.  NO ONE played up the seaside/shoreline theme.  I purchased some lovely yarn in ocean and sandy tones with slightly different textures and couldn't be happier with the results.

Finally, I've just completed a new hat design.  I need to finish writing the pattern and test knitting it again before I'll be able to release it, but I'll still give you a sneak peak and tell you its story.  I have a dear friend who is in the midst of fighting some serious local corruption to save a park from being paved under for a brew pub parking lot.  It's a hard fight which I fear can't be won.  As part of her fight, she's going door to door, building an online presence and educating the public about the types of animals (other than human) this is going to impact - among which are owls, her token animal.  And so I designed this for her.

This beret features the "owl cable" which is very popular due to its cuteness and high recognition.  It may be some time yet before I make it available - perhaps in the fall.  I'm just not motivated to make hats now while the weather has grown so warm.  If you are interested in the pattern, let me know - It may motivate me!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Inspiration Image: Lime-Ade Socks

Not only is this an inspiration image, its also a FREE pattern on Ravelry: Lime-Ade Socks by Tina Keenan
No, I wasn't asked to endorse this, nor was I paid.
I simply link to things I love so that you may love them too!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Inspiration Image: Zombie the Podcaster

Not only is this an inspiration image, 
it's also a FREE pattern available on Ravelry:  Zombie the Podcaster by Amy Spinler
No, I wasn't asked to endorse this, nor was I paid.
I simply link to things I love so that you may love them too!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Inspiration Image: Sparrow Grass

Not only is this an inspiration image,
it's also a FREE pattern on Ravelry: Sparrow Grass by Miranda Jollie
No, I wasn't asked to endorse this, nor was I paid.
I simply link to things I love so that you may love them too!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Inspiration Image: Sack Hat Cowl

Not only is this an inspiration image,
but it's also a FREE pattern on Ravelry: Sack Hat/Cowl by Elizabeth Rowen
No, no one asked me to endorse this, nor was I paid - I just link to things I love so you can love them too!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dyer Moments: Sarah Rohn

When I design knit patterns, my inspiration usually begins with a color. I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with. If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape. But where do those beautifully colored yarns originate? I'm particularly fond of the work of indie-dyers, and so I've created this interview process - Dyer Moments - to expose the people that make the colorways that inspire new design.

Join me today in getting to know Sarah Rohn!


Describe the first time you dyed.
~I had just moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone. I ended up meeting a girl through Ravelry who was into everything crafty. She introduced me to spinning and I bought her old fiberglass spinning wheel off of her. After I got better spinning store-bought fibers, I decided to branch out into dying my own. We spent half the day in her kitchen experimenting with colors. We mixed them up in those plastic ketchup bottles and squirted them out in stripes onto the fiber. It smelled like steamy vinegar and wet wool and our hands were colorful for days. I was definitely hooked.

How did you begin your business?
~I loved dying fiber but I was a novice spinner and I couldn’t spin fast enough to keep up. I couldn’t justify spending all the money to buy fiber only to have it sit in beautiful piles around my house. My crafty friend who taught me to spin and dye also introduced me to Etsy. She had her own shop and made it seem super easy for me to have one, too.


What inspired the name of your company?
~The name took a million years to think up. I wanted something clever that would easily lend itself to a cute logo. I’m visual by nature so I started drawing pictures of fiber related things and thinking up names around that. I got stuck on the idea of a sheep and roving. I started to think about the different meanings of the word roving and suddenly loved the idea of a sheep “roving” about the land looking for yarn.

What inspires your colorways and how do you name them?
~I love color! I keep notes on color combinations that I see and fall in love with. Right now I’m a big fan of mustard and turquoise. When it comes time to dye I’ll sometimes think of that list, but mostly I become a mad scientist, mixing up whatever colors strike my fancy. I name them when they’re done and dry. The color will usually remind me of something- an object or a time or a feeling. I just name them around that. One of them – Autumn in New York- is full of oranges and yellows. It reminded me of a Fall month I spent at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen taking care of chickens rescued from Hurricane Katrina.
It was the best month of my life.

Do you also knit? Crochet?
~I started knitting in high school. It was a scarf that started out being about eight inches wide and ended up being more like twenty inches. Thank you inadvertent yarn overs! Needless to say, that scarf never got finished. I took up knitting again on my birthday after I graduated college. I like to learn something new on my birthday every year as a gift to myself. The next year I taught myself to crochet. My mom had showed me how to make a chain when I was a little girl, probably about six or seven years old. But I just made chains that went on for miles and nothing else. I love them both for different reasons. Knit socks and crocheted granny squares will always have a place in my heart.

What is your favorite color and do you have a favorite pattern for showing off your yarn?
~I love every color and my favorites change all the time. Right now it’s mustard, which seems weird since yellows were always on the backburner in my mind. But now I can’t get enough of it. I want everything I knit to be mustard. My favorite patterns are ones with intricate cables or colorwork. I mostly like solid or semi-solid yarns so the stitchery can really shine.

What is your favorite fiber/yarn to dye?
~I haven’t dyed too many. I mostly use superwash merino but BFL takes color in such an amazing way. I just wish it was a little softer. I’m so biased towards soft yarn. I’d like to branch out into more plant fibers. I’m a (sort of) vegan and tried to avoid wool for a while but couldn’t do it. It’s just the best to knit with. Most of the fiber I buy I get some a little shop in Marengo, Illinois called The Fold.
It’s the most amazing place and there are often the animal’s names hanging next to their fiber. So I like the idea that they are coming from small family farms around the area.

Describe your background / education. Does it have any influence on your company?
~I have an art degree with an emphasis on painting. I think it has helped with mixing colors and deciding what colors look good together.
It’s especially useful when I have a particular color in mind. I can usually get something pretty close to what I imagined. Also, I’m learning more about computer art and photography so I’m hoping to revamp the shop in the near future.

What advise would you give others looking to dye?
~Don’t be afraid! It’s sometimes intimidating to see blank white fiber staring at you, but there is plenty more where that came from. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. Sometimes when I don’t know what colors I want, I just jump right in and see where it takes me.

Most importantly, what’s the best way to purchase your yarns? Are you in retail stores or do you have a shop online? Do you offer a yarn club?
~I have an online shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheRovingEwe. Right now it’s only spinning fiber but I have a bunch of sock weight yarn waiting for dye as we speak. I’m hoping to have that up sometime in the next few months.

To get a better idea of the people behind the product…I ask our dying interviewees these insightful questions developed by Bernard Pivot.

What is your favorite word?
~Yay!!!

What is your least favorite word?
~Cumberland. Just something about it. Cummerbund is perfectly fine though. Go figure.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
~Nature and other peoples’ creativity. Whenever I’m feeling stagnant creatively I’ll go for a hike or to a museum. Nothing recharges your batteries like seeing beautiful things.

What turns you off?
~Gloomy weather

What is your favorite curse word?
~Poops!

What sound or noise do you love?
~The clicking of high heels on marble, the crunching of boots in the woods and the cooing of a chicken in your lap.

What sound or noise do you hate?
~Motorcycles, music with too much bass, the sound of my cat scratching the couch

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
~Right now I have a pretty good Government job in downtown Chicago.
It’s not creative but it pays the bills and lets me create without worrying about making a living from it. If I could be a full time artist, I would but I tried that and it was just too stressful. I like the balance that I have now. Although when I retire I want to move to the country, raise sheep and alpacas and open a little fiber/yarn shop out of my house.

Be sure to visit Sarah's online shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheRovingEwe.
Her part life/part crafting blog can be found at http://fellow-earthling.blogspot.com.
Sarah's Etsy shop also has a blog at http://therovingewe.blogspot.com
Enjoy them ALL!

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