Saturday, July 27, 2013

That about covers it.

As I'm not supposed to be knitting, I'm taking online classes and reading and studying all things knitting.  Today I was reading Knitting Pattern Essentials - Adapting and Drafting Knitting Patterns for Great Knitwear by Sally Melville.  In her "Preparing to Draft" chapter she discusses finding the ideal lengths for a long sweater design and writes: "Try on the pants you are likely to wear with it - slim pants or leggings.  Find a point on your leg where you like what is revealed and where everything you want covered is covered."  This made me laugh.  I immediately thought of Uncle Fester Addams long monk-like robe.  Yeah, that about covers where everything I want covered is covered.

I do highly recommend Knitting Pattern Essentials - Adapting and Drafting Knitting Patterns for Great Knitwear by Sally Melville.  The book is very detailed, has a wonderful step-by-step format and is structured for every knitter of every skill set. The is wonderful diagramming and photography throughout the book as well as an excellent focus in her "Preparing to Draft" chapter on measuring to make the garment fit your body properly and look best on you - tips that I'll carry over to my clothes shopping to find more flattering cuts and styles in my store bought clothing.

No, I wasn't paid or compensated in any way for telling you about this book.  I simply share what I love in hopes you'll love it too.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kind of like the dentist's chair...

Ever notice when you're in the dentist chair and they tell you to breathe through your nose so that you don't gag, you suddenly don't have a nose and you are completely incapable of doing anything but focusing on how hard you're breathing, gasping, gagging and panting through your mouth?

I broke my wrist.  Actually, it's a stress fracture in my right wrist - my dominate hand of course.  And so, I'm wearing a brace.  I'm grateful for that.  I'd really hate a cast, but not as much as I'm hating the other part of this: I'm supposed to refrain from using my wrist i.e. no knitting.  Typing might even be pushing it.

Because I'm not supposed to knit, it is ALL I CAN THINK OF.  It's making me nuts.  I'm experiencing the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Okay, no, not all five stages... yet.

I've experienced denial, in which I knit anyway and made it hurt incredibly worse.

Anger - oh yeah.  Mad at everyone reminding me not to knit, mad at the injury, mad at myself for knitting an making it worse, mad, mad mad!

Bargaining: just passing through there now on my way to depression.  I tried to convince my husband that I could knit a sock.  It would be much lighter than the sweater, smaller movements, less strain.  He shook his head and said "Honey, you really just need to let it rest and heal."  Damn.  Bring on the depression.  Please let it be brief.  I feel like acceptance will feel better.

Until then, I'll be staring at my WIPs longingly, printing off patterns in my queue, reading knitting books and taking Craftsy classes - basically doing everything knitting except, well, knitting.

What knitting books should I be adding to my library during my down time?

In which I jinx myself...

I don't knit myself "garments".  Sure, I knit myself hats, mitts, shawls, scarves and socks by the truckload, but fitted clothing, no.  I've knit myself exactly 2 sweaters, a shrug and a poncho.  

The poncho hangs in the hall closet begging to be unraveled or waiting until I find myself homeless and in need of a giant burnt orange wool tent.

The shrug is probably proudly adorning a girl about 8 inches shorter than me, or someone who likes 3/4 sleeves.  It was okay. I wore it a couple times, but it simply didn't fit me well as I made the sleeves too short, having measured my back with my arms straight, not bent.  It would have looked great had I worn it to say... my crucifixion. It got donated.

The first sweater... I don't remember very well. I knit it when I was 20 (half a lifetime ago!).  It was wool in a lovely charcoal/brown sort of color and it had a cable that ran up each sleeve with an otherwise stockinette body and high collar.  If I remember right, the armholes and upper arms were too tight and it was incredibly warm.

The last sweater I remember all too well: bright salmon colored cotton in a horizontal textural stripe that switched back and forth every 3 inches or so from stockinette to reverse stockinette all over, including the 3/4 length sleeves and deep hanging cowl neck.  What does stockinette do? It curls, in this case in and out creating rolls.  Pattern was modeled prettily in the magazine. I looked like the love child of a Circus Peanut and the Michelin Man in it.  Horrible.

And so, tired of expensive disappointments, I swore off garments.  I haven't knit a garment for myself in about 6 years.

If you asked me to classify myself as a knitter, I'd tell you I'm a "jump into the deep end of the pool" kind of knitter.  I generally love a challenge and don't fear any technique. 

If you ask me about clothing, I'll tell you, in all honesty, I don't have a good understanding of my body type and I change sizes seemingly twice in a day.  I have a general idea what shapes look good on me.  I don't completely understand how to look at a pattern size and understand how "ease" will affect the fit. And although I don't have any problem resizing and altering stitch patterns or resizing a shawl or other accessory, I'm terrified of modifying a garment pattern.  

Phew!  That was awful.  I hate confessing I don't understand how to make clothes fit me.  But I don't think I'm alone.  Yeah, there is a gifted population out there that innately understands shaping and either knits or sews clothing gorgeously.  There is a distinct other population out there that have the ideal body type and look good in everything, regardless of size, cut, shape, or time of the month.  I don't fit into either of these categories.  But I'm aiming to understand shaping.  

I would love to knit a sweater that not only features a gorgeous new design but that fits me and looks great on me.  And so, I embark on taking some classes, knitting a pile of swatches and "jumping into the deep end" - mostly.  Okay, no, not so much.  I'm actually dipping a toe in first. Whilst I'm taking said classes, I'm knitting myself a sweater.  Shhhh!  Don't tell the knitting gods.  They will jinx me faster than I can say "tink!"  I'm working on a simple sweater that is actually meant to replace a store bought sweater that I adored, loved, wore constantly and managed to shrink in an accidental machine washing.  It has very little shaping and is meant to be oversized.  It should be a no fail project, but we will see.  It could turn out to be a wool bathrobe for Hagrid.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Knitting for Weight Loss

Okay, it might be one of the weirdest weight loss plans ever, but it worked for me... knitting.

I'm a t.v. snacker.  There was no better time to stuff my face full of empty calories than when my fanny is parked on the sofa watching television.  Popcorn, Mike & Ikes, pretzels, chips, dips, cheese, chocolate, even fruit all go wonderfully with whatever is on.  I was a heavy t.v. snacker - literally and figuratively.

Knitting helped me stop snacking.  How?  Expensive yarn and busy hands.

Funny thing about knitting; it takes two hands.  If both hands are busy, the only way to snack is to either stop and put down your work, or contort yourself into wild yoga poses and plant your face directly into the snack bowl or bag.  (Yes, you can grab the chip bag in your teeth and tip it up till the contents slide into your mouth - I know, I've tried, mostly successfully... but... well, then your face gets all greasy... but I digress.)  If you stop and snack, you then need a napkin (or full on hand washing) to remove your snack from your hands before returning to your knitting.  Nothing like Cheetos and angora to drive that lesson home.

I applied these realities to my television habit.  Instead of grabbing a snack when I sat down to watch my favorite shows, I grabbed a project.  Interestingly enough, I got smaller, my completed projects pile got bigger, and my yarn budget had more flex when projects required a skein or two less to fit me.

I find now that my cravings have changed.  I actually crave certain projects for certain types of shows.  What used to be a bowl of ice cream for a sad film is now a hat or some similarly in the round project.  Horror movies and zombies (my husbands favorites) are no longer bags of chips or popcorn, but lace shawls and complex projects that keep my eyes off the gore.  And there is nothing like a good sock pattern for a series.

What has knitting replaced in your life?  Snacking, grief, homicide...?  Do tell.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Progressive Knitting

My son is visiting.  When he's here, he knits with me.  He's got a scarf he's working on that he started last year and got about 18 inches into.  This year when he started working on it, I could hear the tones of defeatism as he spoke about it.  He didn't feel like he was making any progress.  It's a garter stitch scarf on US Size 10 needles with a bulky yarn.  I assured him every row was making progress and managed not to give in to the temptation to whine about my own lack of progress on my lace weight shawl being knit on US Size 4 needles that was increasing 6 stitches every row.  Then it hit me - make his progress tangible.  I grabbed a locking stitch marker and stuck it in the row he'd just finished.  Here we are now, 18 inches past the stitch marker and he's saying things like "It's really coming along now."  Apparently the stitch marker made him faster too.  Now I'm trying to convince him to try knitting a matching hat once this project is done.  We'll see...  I'm thinking about adding a "progress marker" to my project too.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

There are a lot of great novelty yarns out there.  Really cool ones.  Ribbons and beaded yarns.  Yarns with hair and built in fringe.  Sparkly, fuzzy fancy bits twisted into stunning swirls of color.  Like moths to flames, we are sucked in and we buy these things.  Admit it.  You have at least one completely nonsensical yarn in your stash.  I have twelve.

And what in the hell are you going to knit with it?

Along comes the knitting magazine to solve our problems.  Yes Vogue, show me how this yarn dazzled the runway!

Here's where I'm going to be your friend.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.  That cute cardi with the ruffled trim is NOT a good idea.  That ribbon yarn ruffle trim looks like a freakin' ruffled diaper cover on the model's backside.  REALLY look at those pictures.  And she's a size... what? Two?  That cardi is taped in place and she is posed in the most ridiculous, unlikely, unnatural posture.  Really try to imagine the worst case scenario, because I know if I knit it, it wouldn't even come close to fitting me the way they have it staged and taped to that model.  I slouch.  My chest is under-endowed.  I'm short waisted.  I've got some math to do before I even cast that baby on.  Either way, that sweater, knit to fit my size (cough, 12, ahem, cough) would make me look like a hippo in a tutu. And no matter how fantastic that yarn is, how skilled my shaping skills, it isn't going to wipe that wide-eyed-oh-my-god!-what-has-she-knit-herself-this-time look off your smiling frozen polite face.

Put down the needles.  Reconsider your project.  Knit a plushy or trade that crazy bling off to some other daring/unsuspecting knitter.

Smooches!  I just saved us both from a yarnmare.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How I Became a Pattern Designer

Several people have asked me recently about how long I've been knitting and how I became a designer, so here it is.

I've been actively knitting now for only about 7 years.  I had knit sporadically in the years before, but in 2006 I owned no yarn and had one pair of size 10 straights buried in boxes that had survived multiple moves and probably 12 years untouched.  I was bored and decided I needed a project I could do while hanging out in the garage with my husband while he did motorcycle maintenance.  I went to Michael's and bought a yarn I liked the look of that happened to have a pattern on the wrapper for a stockinette shrug knit cuff-to-cuff.  I bought the recommended needles, went home and fumbled my way through some shadowy memories of the backward loop cast on and the basic knit and purl stitches.  I was proud I could remember how to do it, and began to dream of where I would wear my shrug.

Very quickly (less than a sleeve later) I remembered why I stopped knitting.  Stockinette.  I hated knitting stockinette.  My straight needles could barely hold all the stitches and were heavy.  The back and forth, all knit, all purl, all knit, all purl would have put me to sleep had it not been for the weight lifting exercises the needles suffered me.  Voices in my head rallied me on... "methodical, relaxing, rhythmic, meditative" and I soldiered on looking for the inner serenity.


And then there was a pile of shame.

Okay, not a pile.  One project a pile does not make.  More a lump of shame.

I was frustrated.  I'd spent money and time on this.  I'd dreamt of wearing this beautiful thing I was creating.  But no matter how brilliant the dream or how much I loved that yarn, I hated the project.  Hated.

And so it sat.

Then it occurred to me that maybe, if I did a little project that was entirely different from this project, I would benefit from the break and find joy in the shrug again.  I dove through my craft supplies and found the only pattern I had ever purchased, still in its page protector.  Little baby hat.  Quick, easy, cute.  Didn't matter that there wasn't any baby in my life to knit this for. I bought a circular needle and more yarn.

More lessons were learned.

I learned that when I knit in the round I get addicted and I can't stop, because it just keeps going around and around and around until its done.  I discovered the portability of knitting and started taking projects everywhere I went.  I learned that stiff cables on circular needles SUCK, as do straight needles in general,  and that I preferred to work small projects in the round on double pointed needles (bought some of those too).  I learned about different fibers and how expensive a stash can be.  And I learned that some patterns can be changed and improved on, much like a recipe in cooking.

Hey, now there was something.  I cook.  I went to cooking school.  I understand that cooking really boils down to simple formulas.  Follow the ratios and you'll get a different flavored end product.  I could apply this theory and similar math to my knitting and get different results.

More buying... yarn, needles, a stitch dictionary, and notebooks.  I played with hat and sock patterns.  I knit simple projects to gain an understanding of their structure and construction.  I learned some shaping techniques.  I squealed and jumped around every time I turned a heel or finished a new hat.  I began writing patterns for my designs.  I sought out local knitting groups.  I discovered Ravelry.  And then one day, I posted my first pattern for sale, with much encouragement from my new found knitting friends, and someone bought it!  I was in love and the romance continues.  I design, I teach, I knit and I dream.

Along the way, the lump of shame did become a pile.  There was a Christmas tree hat design that didn't go quite as planned, and a hat that looked like a snowman.  There was a cowl neck sweater that, although lovely on the model in the magazine, made me look like the Michelin Man in peach.  Not my best work.  I dropped them into the pile for later review.  The shrug mocked me.  Nagged me.  Eventually the pile started to bother me.  Mind you, it took a couple years for its voice to gain that kind of volume, but once it did, it had to be addressed.  I got rid of projects I didn't like.  I donated items that just didn't fit right.  And finally, I tore back the shrug.  It was a bittersweet event, tearing out stitches and winding the yarn into balls.  It wouldn't have fit - I'd lost a lot of weight - and the yarn could be reused, but I hadn't fulfilled that dream of wearing it.  There was a mourning period of about year before I could face those balls of yarn.  I made them into socks for my son.  He loved them.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Knitted Cavemen!

I'm pretty sure this awesomeness is the result of knitters having too much time and technology readily available.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sneak Peek: Swift River Cowl

This will be my first published cowl pattern.  I'm writing this up in both fingering weight (as shown) and worsted weight.  The pattern will be written and charted and is VERY flexible.  If you want a long double wrapping cowl - you'll cast on more and if you want a neck snug turtleneck style cowl, you'll cast on less.  Height is all about repeats - make it right for you!
Shown: 24" around x 12" tall unblocked, used 373.5 yards

This was knit in Shalimar Yarns Zoe Sock (colorway: Sapote) 100% Superwash Merino Wool - 450 yds/4oz - Totally delightful and highly recommended yarn!!

Bad Yarn or Bad Buyer?

If you've been within 30 feet of me at home or in public anytime in the past month, you've heard me complaining about the yarn I'm using.  Interestingly enough, it hasn't been just one yarn irritating me.  I seem to have a stash full of monsters.

I just finished using a yarn (sorry folks, I won't tell you what it is... only my husband, lys owners and knit group know the name) that turned my fingers Smurf blue as I knit.  Not only that, but the yardage I used (less than one skein) had three slubs, and the yarn ply changed direction between two of them.  If the yarn wasn't splitty, it was over-energized.  Oh, and did I mention the weird color shift that makes my project look like I used two different dye lots?  All these traits in one same skein.  In short, miserable.  Now I might have told everyone within screaming distance to never buy this yarn.  I may have told stores not to stock it.  I truly had a bad yarn experience.

Then, I look to my right and see a friend in the knit group with not only the same yarn, but in the same color. I told her my experience.  Funny, her yarn wasn't turning her hands blue.  Okay, so I got a skein that had some excess.  I did observe her skein was exhibiting the over-energized traits, but she reported not slubs.  I guess I'm just lucky and should lay off bad mouthing it.

So I grab a lovely yellow yarn and cast on another project.  I can soothe away the memories of the blue yarnmare.  Totally different fiber, maker, source.  This yarn should have NOTHING in common with that last disaster... right?  Well, honestly, it doesn't.  Nope.  This one is riddled with sticks, hay, a FEATHER (I'm at a loss there), and has tiny knots (plural!), but the knots aren't across the entire ply, they are worked within individual plys, and it isn't even a handspun!!!  This yarn sheds worse than my dogs (they're getting jealous of the funny smelling yellow dog I seem to have been cheating on them with), but it does contain 30% mohair, so some shed is expected, I'm told.

Whenever I have a problem, I analyse it and try to figure out how to avoid the problem in the future.  This probably explains why I'm good at correcting knitting errors and reading my knitting.

So, define the problem: I own some yarns of lesser quality than I expect.

  • Are these quality names and fibers? Yes
  • Did I purchase them from reputable shops?  I believe so, but I didn't run a background check on the owners or sift through their project bags.
  • Do other people have similar issues with these yarns?  Well, excess energy, splitting and excess dye happens, but I haven't heard a collective scream of dissension from the knitting community about these in particular.
  • Are my storage techniques subpar - could I have polluted the yarn with sticks, hay, feathers?  Plastic drawers and not trips to the farm - so I'm calling this a no.
  • Am I being oversensitive and snotty about minor issues? NOPE.  Everyone I've shown these to agrees or makes disparaging comments before I even have a chance to express my angst.
  • Could I have avoided these issues?  Ahhhhh, here's where the therapist makes her money and proves her worth.  Yes.  Yes, I could have looked more closely at the fiber, spent more time rubbing it through my fingers and looking at its behavior rather than dashing to the register and throwing my wallet. 
When I look back at these purchases (damn hindsight!) I see flaws.  I'm smarter and more mature than this.  I have better self control than this.  I bought these yarns because I liked the color (ohhhh pretty!) and one of the skeins was bought on vacation, whilst in a rush (store was closing), and I was attracted to the origin of the yarn, in addition to the color.  (Note to self, you don't wear this shade of yellow and what were you thinking ... mohair?  You're allergic to it Silly!)

Will changes in my pre-purchase screening methods assure me exquisite yarns?  It'll help, but some yarn traits don't come to light until they are on the needles and temptation is one of my greatest weaknesses.  But I will make an effort.  I may even wear this scratchy, stick and hay ridden yellow nightmare to remind me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sorting Out Yarns via Renew, Reuse, Recycle

I promised to re-post this for my knit group girls.  My apologies - I do not know who the clever crafty mastermind is that came up with this or who drew it.  It's not mine.

Here's a clever way to recycle waterbottles into yarn ball sorters for your multi-colored projects.

A friend suggested I mount these to a frame backpack so I could knit whilst hiking.  Joke was on him.  I don't hike.

I think this would also work well for those ribbon balls come holiday gift wrapping season.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Let's play a game called... Sonya Says!

Sonya is my friend.  Sonya is one of those talented knitters who, when you call her a talented knitter, immediately scoffs and claims she isn't, yet she has knit, and continues to knit, things I won't attempt, which in turn, gives me the right to call her a talented knitter.  It's my logic and I sticking to it.

Sonya says I don't blog enough.  Okay Sonya.  You are right.  I don't.  And the reason for this is... I simply don't know what to blog about.  This blog is dedicated to my knitting. I write posts about upcoming designs and classes, techniques, sales on patterns and the like, but that really doesn't offer me a steady stream of content.  Sonya told me I should write whatever comes to mind.   Therefore, tonight's topic is exactly that - what is on my mind - which is thinking about what Sonya said.

If I write more blogs about my more obscure thoughts on knitting and my design experiences, will it detract from my blog?  Will my handful of readers give up on me?  Will Sonya regret her suggestion?

I turned 40 this year.  (Bear with me... this digression will make sense in a moment.)  This being a milestone year, I've set some goals and I'm making some changes.  In this spirit, I'm actively working to shrug off my debilitating self criticisms and work beyond my fears - i.e. stop operating in response to irrational fears.

This having been said, I'm going to actively push aside my fear of losing readers, assume that new, fresh, entertaining content will actually interest and engage more readers, and write more blog posts. I shall boldly blog as I've never blogged before.

(Here's where you comment with encouraging messages.)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Greenhouse 3 - Individual Pattern Release

Greenhouse 3 has just been released as an individual pattern!  You can now purchase this pattern separately or as part of the Fancy Foot Bags collection via Ravelry.

Where do they think all those ingredients come from – the apothecary? No.  All day – tending, toiling and teaching; soil, students and snares.  The Potions Master knows.  He gave me these for my toes. 

Finished Measurement:
The directions are given for a woman’s sock.  Foot and leg lengths are adjustable.  Leg and foot circumferences (stretched): 8 (11) inches. 

Yarn Requirements:
 (416 yards/100grams, 65% superwash wool, 20% nylon, 15% silk, color: 511 - Sage). Necessary yardage will vary with foot and leg length. 
Approximately 310 - 340 yards were required for 10” foot and 6” leg lengths in testing over several different yarns. Shown in Knit One, Crochet Too Crock-o-Dye

Recommended Needles:
Directions are given using 5 DPNs, with one DPN reserved and used only during heel construction. Pattern can easily be worked with two circulars or via Magic Loop Method.
Size 2 (2.75mm) Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) or size required to get gauge.  Size C crochet hook for cast on.

Tapestry needle for weaving in ends.  Stitch markers may be helpful.

Approximately 8 sts / 12 rows = 1” (10 cm) in stockinette stitch in the round.

Greenhouse 3 via Ravelry - $3.50
Fancy Foot Bags Collection - $15.00