31 December 2010

Only 1000 days behind

More than three years ago, I started this blog because I knew I wanted to break into knitting designing and teaching. I saw that most people who published had a blog or a website, so I thought I'd better start a blog.

In those 1000+ days, the blog has given me a chance to practice pattern writing. And it has given me a place to share new ideas. It has forced me to learn how to use certain types of software. And it has forced me to learn at least a little something about shooting digital pictures and video.

Today I finally sent a submission to Knitty. I'm only 1000 days behind schedule.

To all my knitting friends out there, thank you for being so supportive in my creative endeavors. I wish you all a happy, prosperous, and knitterly new year!

25 December 2010

Rare Week

It has been a rare week indeed. On Monday night, we had a lunar eclipse that coincided with the winter equinox. This happy coincidence occurred most recently more than 450 years ago.

This evening, it is snowing in Atlanta. My understanding is that the last white Christmas in Atlanta was in the 19th century. The photograph is a nearly current view out my studio windows.

On this sacred day, it pleases me to think happy thoughts of those I love. Some are past, some are present, some are future, and some never were.

The Cuddly Hubby reading a book or running a D&D game.
The Yarn Pimp spinning or knitting with a cat or two close by.
The Bard eating a gourmet meal somewhere in France.
Carole decking her halls.
Ginny hosting Thanksgiving.
Andy playing a game.
Elalyr & Tegyrius' wedding.
Dana & John's pirate wedding.
Vincent eating tuna.
Brûlée pouncing on the feather toy.
My grandmother sewing something beautiful.
My other grandmother cooking something wonderful.
My sister singing so beautifully it moves the audience to tears.
My brother and dad flying together.
My mother making a new discovery.
My brother-in-law cooking an Italian feast worthy of the Pope.
The Extrovert leading.
The Introvert playing Bakugan.
The Princess doing anything confidently.
The Thespian shooting a movie or discussing his artistic passions.
The Architect dah'ling hearing the "Ooos" and "Ahhhs."
The Dear Friend flying model airplanes with his dad.
Scenter knitting lace or deciphering the math of the universe.
Sophia devouring kitchen plunder.
Copernicus lording.

To all my dear readers out there, however you celebrate the waning days of the year, may they be sacred and special amongst those you love.

21 December 2010

Rescue

There are some days when you just can't put a value on the networking on Ravelry.

I've been knitting madly on a pink shawl during the last week. By about Friday, I could see that maybe I was going to be just a wee bit short on the yarn. When I cast off on Monday morning, I came up short. My usual approach is to go find other people who have finished a project with the same yarn. In this case not so much luck, as they are in Italy, France, and Finland. But I did find someone in Ohio who had started a project with it. And I am figuring she'll still be able to finish hers, as I'm only needing about half a gram of yarn out of the 100 grams she has.

And it is nice to be able to talk to knitters about this, as these are the sorts of people who understand. Thank goodness this particular shawl needs to be done before the new year but not necessarily before Christmas.

My rescuer has a very crafty and creative blog and an Etsy shop called Maiden Jane. Her blog is full of a variety of interesting crafting ideas, some of which you could use right now to knock out those last second Christmas gifts. In her shop, Maiden Jane makes and sells lovely project bags made from taffeta, so they are light and strong and pretty!

Here's a small stash bag, perfect for a small project.

But I also think her mitten bags are innovative, as you can store the damp mittens hanging up and they will dry out. And with both mittens together, you are more likely to find the pair during the next snowball fight opportunity. And the doorway clutter stays under control.

Many thanks, Jane! And happy holidays!

13 December 2010

Cold Day

Some places have snow days. Today isn't a snow day here, but it is a cold day. The temperature in Mableton right now is below freezing. This is in the middle of a sunny afternoon. A typical mid-winter day in Atlanta involves dipping just below freezing overnight but climbing into the mid-40s Fahrenheit during the day. I have no idea how much snow removal equipment is owned by Cobb County, but I've heard tell that the city of Atlanta has a -- yes, one single -- snow plow. I'm sure it is meant only for emergencies.

Cuddly Hubby advised me to stay indoors today, and I've taken his advice. The house needed a good cleaning, and all the moving about kept me warmer. I put five Christmas CDs in the player, lit some frankincense and myrrh incense, dug out the wrapping paper, and went to work on wrapping the gifts for the nephews and niece. And now I'm here, at the computer, with a nice cup of hot chocolate to keep me company. Even the cats are hiding someplace warm. (I think Brûlée is upstairs on the master bed. Not sure where Vincent is, as he is usually sprawled across the computer if I'm trying to type.)

I have been knitting. Last week I finished what is probably one of my most beautiful finished objects to date. I don't think I realized how beautiful it was until I thought about how many people admired it while it was a work in progress and since it has been finished. As this one is probably good enough for prime time, I'll regretfully keep it off the blog and off Ravelry for the present. However, if you would like to see the white scarf with double-knit cables, it is on display at The Whole Nine Yarns. Alas, since it is in the shop, I'm not currently curling up in its confection-light warmth. It took five skeins of Rowan Kid Silk Haze. The little 3g ball is all that's left. I will try to remember to bring the scarf to show and tell at both the December NGKG meeting this week and the January AKG meeting. If you would like to knit it yourself, I'll be teaching the class on Saturday the 29th of January. Knowing how to double knit is a pre-requisite, so I'll be teaching double knitting on the 15th of January.

22 November 2010

Planning for 2011

It's that time of the year. No, I'm not referring to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, the great triumvirate of cool-weather dark-day holidays. No, it's time to start signing up for all the great knitting offerings in 2011.

Registration has just opened this morning for STITCHES South 2011. Because of where Easter falls on the calendar, STITCHES South will be a week early on 14 through 17 April. Good for us, as the spring flowering trees should be in even better blossom than the previous two years. XRX will be setting up the party at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel & Cobb Galleria Centre, just off I-285 and I-75 on the north side of Atlanta. (Clicking the link at upper left will take you to the STITCHES main portal page. Clicking the link at the top of the sidebar will take you to the description of my class.)

Once again, it is my privilege to teach at STITCHES South. I'll be teaching "More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater." This is an overview of sweater construction, where we'll look at ten actual finished sweaters. Some have easy architectures, some are more complex. We'll discuss the pros and cons of each construction method. We'll also discuss some of the real-world problems I had to solve along the way. Here's a quote from one of the student evaluations last year, "Inspiring -- I'm going to go home and fix several UFOs. I learned practical applications for things I'd always heard about. Helped me not be afraid of "Out There" patterns!"

By the way, if you are trying to make decisions about classes using only the .pdf of the the brochure, the classes in the brochure are grouped by type, but in the online registration pages they are listed in order of appearance. Looking online can sometimes be easier if you are trying to see what your options might be for a certain day and time.

After much internal deliberation, I've registered for:
Thursday: Sharon Costello "Embed and Embellish: Felt, Stone, and Bead Jewelry"
Friday morning: Merike Saarniit "Fiendishly Difficult Stitches"
Saturday morning: Merike Saarniit "Spinning for Knitting"
Sunday all day: Gayle Roehm "Even More Challenging Stitches From Japanese Designs"

Sharon's class looks very interesting and unusual. Plus, Karin Skacel is supposed to reschedule with Atlanta Knitting Guild at some point. So it will be nice to up my felting skills between the two. And I do have some loose fiber lying around that I might not want to spin.

I couldn't take "Spinning for Knitting" last year because it was opposite my class. This year it is offered twice. Glee! And I noticed that "Exotic Estonian 'Patent' Stitches" (which I took in 2009) is offered on Friday afternoon rather than Sunday morning, so you won't be trying to learn it with a tired mind. Scenter took "Fiendishly Difficult Stitches" back in 2009, so I know from his review that it has some very interesting manipulations.

I'll end my weekend with Gayle Roehm. I took the first part of challenging stitches in 2009, so I'm very happy to see this nice long follow-up for Sunday. Between Gayle and Merike, I'm sure I leave with too many clever ideas about how to do strange things.

I have to admit I was keenly tempted to take Jean Frost's class "Lining a la Chanel." The homework is to knit a jacket but don't put it together so that in class you can put in a couture lining. While I like to think I can knock out a jacket between now and April, the reality is that I have a whole lot of other knitting that I ought to be doing. Still, I think it is a great class offering, as it is information that can't be found elsewhere. And if you already have a jacket in your UFO pile because it is waiting to be assembled, well then your procrastination has paid off!

Other good choice that I'm not taking:
Saturday morning: Sarah Peasley "Cut and Paste." This is the class to take if you are afraid of Kitchener grafting. Sarah not only shows you how to graft a variety of stitch patterns, she shows you how to do full-up replacement surgery on a sweater. I've done this sort of thing to sweater sleeves (both removing too much fabric and inserting more), and I can tell you this is a wonderful thing to be able to do. Being able to cut and graft gives you the freedom to make changes -- both aesthetic and functional -- to an otherwise finished garment. A lot of the really out there stunt knitting I do involves grafting. I highly recommend adding knitting grafting surgeon skills to your repertoire.

Saturday all day: Laura Bryant "Intentional Patterning with Hand-Dyed Yarns" I can't take this one because it is opposite mine. (Drat!) I have heard from other people that this is a very good class. Laura will show you techniques to make the most of those hand-dyed yarns that seduced their way into your stash. Maybe I'll get to take this one next year.

Saturday afternoon: Rebecca Ewing "In Loving Color" I've heard Rebecca speak at Atlanta Knitting Guild and I've taken her workshop offered through Southeastern Fiber Arts Alliance. If you feel uncertain about choosing colors, Rebecca can help you find the confidence to combine colors that will look fabulous.

Of course, I'll be doing some of the other fun things as well, such as shopping the market (but only for things I can't get locally), enjoying the fashion shows, attending the banquets, and partying at the pajama party. And I'll be sitting around knitting and admiring everyone else's work.

12 November 2010

Good Deals

North Georgia Knitting Guild has been hosting an annual auction as a way to raise funds. This year's auction was held during the October meeting. This is one of the advantages to being in a smaller guild. Atlanta Knitting Guild has too many members for something of this scale, although AKG is planning a yarn swap at the December meeting. I was being pretty tight with money this time, partly because I was in the midst of closing an old checking account and opening a new one. I didn't have the new checks yet, I didn't want to write any more checks on an account I was about to close, and my money was split between the two, so that kept me well-behaved. I spent between $20 and $30 for what you see in the photograph.

The three small booklets were all one lot. I find it interesting to browse even simple pamphlets. Sometimes you find something just a little interesting and out of the way. And you never know what will be lurking inside a stitch dictionary. I was pleased to find an old issue of In Knitters. I hope someday when the Southeastern Fiber Arts Alliance has a permanent building that AKG will have a permanent library space where we can have all the back issues of the best magazines -- In Knitters, Knitters, Interweave Knits, Vogue Knitting, Cast On and the like. The Leisure Arts brochure is "Sculptured Squares" -- blanket blocks that have a very three-dimensional pattern. I am intrigued.

There was plenty of yarn at the auction. I've put myself on a yarn diet because I have plenty of yarn. The evidence is even in the public domain on Ravelry. And yet, there's always another pretty skein or two. On the left is a skein of Artyarns Supermerino that looks like it is meant to be a raspberry beret. On the right is a skein of Yarn Place Vivace, 100% bamboo in a colorway that looks to me like an excuse to party. Packaged with it were the four long toggle buttons. Gro actually out bid me for it, but it came up fairly early in the auction. She was able to win some other items later, so she kindly let me purchase the skein from her for the amount bid. Thank you, Gro!

The last item is the reading glasses with case. These are 1.5 magnification. My regular optometrist-issued reading glass are .75. I bought these more because nobody was bidding on them and because they have little lights on the side! I suspect they will someday be a perfect accessory in a costume. They have a wonderfully nerdy quality!

A reminder to those of you in guilds elsewhere -- it really is true that one knitter's cast offs can be another knitter's new treasures.

05 November 2010

When Less is More

The Whole Nine Yarns has a sock guild. This is a sock club that meets once a month for social time and for education. Each month is a different, exclusive sock pattern and hand-dyed sock yarn to go with that pattern. It is a very cool idea and has proven to be a good way for sock knitters to try different techniques. Some socks are knit toe up, some top down, some lace, some texture, some cables. For January, JennaB the Yarn Pimp designed a sock with beautiful cabled Saxon Braid cuffs knit sideways. I'll get to that in a couple paragraphs. First, I want to draw your attention to the yarn.Yup, that's it. It really doesn't look like all that much, does it? It is mostly still the same undyed white. There is a little bit of pale grey at each end, and some pale rusty orange in the middle. When it first showed up in the shop, I noticed it for how quiet it is compared to some of the complicated sock guild yarns.

This is a yarn you have to knit up to understand. JennaB wanted it simple because she wanted the cables to show. A complex yarn would have hid the patterning rather than showing off the knitting skill. But the little bits of subtle color make this yarn look like white marble when worked in stockinette! So when you see a "simple" yarn in your local shop -- or if you dye your own yarn -- remember that sometimes less really is more. And when paired with the proper design and project, less can be fabulous!And speaking of fabulous --
I'm hoping to debut this new technique at the shop sometime in January. I've shown it around to a few savvy knitters, and none of them could recall seeing it in print. My guess is that it probably is in print somewhere, but that it is very obscure. This is a solution I worked out for myself. Already knowing double knitting will be a prerequisite. On this blog I usually tell what I did, but I'm going to keep this one to myself for a little while longer. I will give you a hint -- no purling was involved. The objects are sock cuffs, as I wanted to be able to turn the cuffs up or down. I'll be teaching toe up socks later this month, so I plan to work two socks at the same time until I'm nearly out of yarn. Then I'll graft the last row to the i-cord edging on the cuffs. This technique would be wonderful for band trims on a coat, hood, or blanket.

28 October 2010

More Lace in Spokane

The other shop we visited in Spokane was A Grand Yarn. This one is also a little tricky to find, as the shopping center sits perpendicular rather than parallel to the main road. You need to look for the dark brown buildings with the very slanted roofs. A Grand Yarn is just a few doors in from the road. The shop had lots of lovely samples and a fine selection of books as well as yarns. This is just the sort of good friendly local yarn shop every knitter ought to have close to her home. We chatted with both Mary, the outgoing owner, and Libby and Nancy, the incoming owners. All these ladies are clearly devoted to their knitting customers.

I purchased a few spare stitch holders and a copy of Myra Wood's Crazy Lace. The beautiful color and cleverly-styled photographs will lure you into adding this book to your shelf. This is definitely a book for the free-spirited knitter. If you are somebody who doesn't like lace because it involves too much following of rules, then you will like Myra's approach. In the first part of the book, she talks about the basics of lace such as how the increases and decreases compensate for each other and how the choice of yarn or needle can affect the work. I like page 39 where she shows the sizes of a plain stockinette swatch, a knitted lace swatch (patterning on right-side rows only), and a lace knitting swatch (patterning on both right-side and wrong-side rows). She also includes a good explanation of how to do a crochet cast-on and a crochet bind-off. The second part of the book gives a nice series of basic recipes for knitting geometric shapes. The third part covers a variety of ways to work edges, including how to add ruffles or ruching.

The book doesn't really have any patterns for making lace shawls, although there are plenty of photographs to inspire. Myra does show the advantages to using charts, including how to tweak a chart to make a lace pattern a slightly different stitch multiple. And her charts are in a large easy-on-the-eyes size. She does include several charts of lace patterns of various widths at the end of the book, but doesn't show them knitted up. You'd need to work a sampler yourself. Then again, perhaps getting you to get out your own needles and try things yourself is the point. If you were a novice trying to learn lace, I think I'd start with a different book or a simple follow-the-directions pattern just to get used to the concept. And if you got seriously into this approach, I think you'd want a lace stitch dictionary to supplement what Myra gives you at the back. Her approach is very freeing and I think will help those who are afraid of lace to see that it isn't all that difficult. It should provide a good starting point for someone who wants to design her own lace project. Also, I suspect that this book is probably a very helpful companion to her workshops.

27 October 2010

Beginning Lyra

During the summer, I decided to take Elizabeth Zimmermann's advice about travel knitting. She suggested a nice shawl, as it is light, easy to transport, and gives hours upon hours of knitting pleasure. For our trip out west, Lyra seemed like the perfect choice. I had purchased the yarn and pattern from the Yarn Place during a moment of unexplained weakness on the last day of STITCHES South 2010.

Now one of the things I really need to learn -- and by learn I mean totally take to heart -- is the idea that you ought to cast on such projects before you leave home. I've made this mistake the last two years in a row for Dragon*Con as well, spending four days of sitting and listening sans knitting. (I believe one year I got my Dragon*Con project cast on too early. I liked it too much and finished the whole thing in a week.) Because the trip west involved flying, I was greatly limited in what I could pack. Part of why I'll schlep the day and a half drive to Pennsylvania to see my family is that, if I drive, I can have my car full of my stuff. How did Auntie Mame ever limit herself to only 18 steamer trunks? After all, how can I be expected to enjoy myself without the large knitting bag with the full sets of needles, two more project bags stuffed full, the most recent issues of the major knitting and spinning magazines, the spinning wheel and the lazy kate? For flying, I was forced to pack lightly: the pattern, the ball of yarn, minimal needles and notions.

I'm a big fan of magic loop. I'm a big fan of circular needles. I'm a big fan of metal needles. But for some reason, I could not get that tight little center of Lyra to cast on nicely. And I hadn't brought my Blue Sky alpacas wooden needles in their pretty little metal boxes. Hissy fit. Was I going to be able to last a week of visiting my in-laws without any knitting? How badly do I love my Cuddly Hubby? Fortunately the drive back from Glacier National Park took us through Spokane. This is fortunate indeed because Kathleen Cubley had a nice article in the summer issue of Spin Off magazine about fiber shopping in the Spokane - Coeur d'Alene area. I opened up the magazine, pulled out my navigating device (Thanks, Mom!) and entered some addresses.

Our first stop was Paradise Fibers. Kathleen is correct that the easiest way to find the place is to look for the adult bookstore. When you find it, follow the parking lot along the right side of the building, as you face it. You'll find as you head back that the parking opens up and there is the front entrance to Paradise.


You definitely cannot judge a yarn store by the neighborhood or the outside of the building. Inside there were lots and lots of knitting and spinning goodies to be had. Travis and Sarah are super nice people. They even recognized me from STITCHES South. I guess they have a very good memory for faces or maybe for really dreadful blond "Alice" wigs. There was an entire wall of knitting needles of assorted types and brands. I resisted the yarns, mostly because I'm trying to de-stash at least a little bit. And there was a whole room of roving and batts. I had to think mighty hard to resist a beautiful green striated roving. They also had sparkly blending fibers in a wide assortment of colors. I may have to make a trip to Paradise Fibers a future requirement for any sojourns to visit my husband's family.

I may have resisted the roving. I did not, however, resist the Kollage square double-pointed needles or the Lantern Moon silk box or the needle tubes. After all, I was specifically looking for something to help me with Lyra. And I didn't want to duplicate what I already had at home. Plus, Mark & Susie at Kollage are the life of the party, so I'm happy to support them.

I did manage to get Lyra started. I think I had two or three false starts. I'd cast on, knit a few rows, scowl at the misshapen center, pull it apart and try again. But I did eventually get it going. And it provided me with a divine focus when needed. KateyJ said something to me about knitters who knit simple things to check out versus knitters who knit complex things to check in. Lyra definitely falls into the complex category. And yet, in some ways I find myself checking out because it is so complicated. I've tried yoga once or twice -- thank goodness there is no video evidence. I am so bad at yoga that I have to concentrate completely on what I am doing. I can't be thinking about a messy house with a dozen things to mend or a long list of errands or what stupid social blunder I made an hour ago or how far behind I am on my knitting and blogging and writing. Attempting to do yoga requires all my concentration. And knitting Lyra does, in fact, require my undivided attention. I think for very bright people, sometimes that's what you need. You need to check in completely to something in order to check out of your daily bothers. I wonder if this was part of the appeal to Scenter, who worked several very beautiful and very complicated lace projects.

I'll finish here with a quick review of the needles. They rock! Kollage generally markets them as easier on your hands. Carson Demers did pass a set around in his "Ergonomics for Knitters" class, but he said that the beneficial effect would be mostly in the larger not smaller sizes. For the record, I'm knitting a pleasantly springy thread-like yarn on size 2.25 mm needles. What I've noticed is that the square shape prevents the stitch from clinging to the entire surface of the needle. My initial reaction at about 36 rounds into Lyra is that the square shape makes it easier to work all those k2tog, ssk, and centered double decrease manipulations. And I am pleased that Kollage makes these in the metric sizes. I find that the 0.25 mm difference in size is significant on very small needles. I liked the needles so much, that I decided to buy the firm cable circular needles so that I could finish Lyra without changing to my usual needles. If you are a lace knitter, I encourage you to try these and see what you think.

08 October 2010

Devil in the Details


I haven't gotten nearly as much knitting done lately as I would like. I did, however, finally manage to finish this swatch for an upcoming class. I've been surprised when I teach by how many knitters only know one or two ways to increase. There are so very many, and they each have their own best application. So I've created this swatch which demonstrates 42 different mirrored double-increases in stockinette. I did not include any examples here of hiding the increase behind a cable or traveling stitch, as that would open up another whole area of exploration. I also haven't included on this swatch increasing by knitting with more than one strand at a time, such as using the tail or using the other yarn when doing double knitting or Fair Isle stranded knitting. And I didn't include casting on in the middle of a row, such as with an e-loop, crochet cast-on, knitted-on cast-on, or cable cast-on.

Some of these are quite decorative. I've used yarn overs, knitting directly into the stitch below, knitting into the purl bump of the stitch below, making a new stitch with the running thread between two stitches, and working multiple stitches into the same stitch by knitting & purling, knitting & yarn overs, or twisting stitches. This line of exploration is getting into the technical minutiae of knitting. It can be quite fascinating to see how something does or doesn't behave as you expect.

At some point, I really ought to do the same swatch in garter stitch to see how these change with the stitch pattern.

08 September 2010

Cropped Linen Stitch Jacket

I wanted to have something a little special to show in my "More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater" class back in April. This plain cropped jacket has an unusual construction method which I call "origami" because it can be represented by a rectangle that is cut and folded.

You'll recall this jacket is worked in linen stitch. I only had the one large skein, so I weighed it. This allowed for me to make calculations as I knit. How much fabric did I have? How much yarn had I used? How long could the sleeves be without running out of yarn? These questions can be answered with some confidence if you weigh the skein before beginning and at intervals as you knit.

I crochet cast-on at the bottom edge and treated the bottom part of the jacket as a rectangle. I planned and used about 35-40% of the skein. When I got to the underarms, I folded the rectangle as if it were the bottom of a cardigan -- right front, back, left front. I was at the beginning of a right-side row, which meant I was on the right front edge. I then knit one-quarter of the way across my rectangle and provisionally cast-on what was needed for the sleeve. I then knit the upper right portion of the sweater up to the shoulder, leaving the stitches live. At this point, I had to break the yarn, provisionally cast-on what I needed for the left sleeve, and knit across the quarter of the rectangle that was forming the left front. Once again, I knit up through the shoulder and left the stitches live. I had to break the yarn again, but I left a yard or two for a future shoulder seam. Now I flipped my garment over and picked up in the provisional bottom of the right sleeve, across the back (the middle half of the rectangle), and across the provisional bottom of the left sleeve. From there, I knit to the top of the shoulders. Once again, I left the stitches live.

At this point, the shape I had was very similar to a baby surprise jacket! I guess that shouldn't be surprising, as both methods yield a garment with seams across the shoulder. I used a very tidy three needle bind-off to join my live stitches from cuff edge towards the back of the neck. When I ran out of stitches for a three-needle bind-off, I continued to bind off the back of neck stitches to the center. So both yarns met at the back of the neck, where I secured them neatly and wove them in.

I did a little bit of shaping on this project. Because it is a reversible fabric, I could have knit straight to the neck with no shaping and turned back the fabric to create lapels. But I was a little nervous about my yarn consumption. I worked the upper part of the jacket only an inch or two before I began decreasing on every row at the collar edge. (The decrease is every row because of linen stitch. It would be every-other in stockinette.) When the opening became wide enough, I stopped shaping. I also worked a few short rows for shoulder shaping. I configured the short rows by taping paper to the wall, standing against it, and having my husband trace the outline. I used that shape as the template for the short rows.

I also worked a twisted slipped stitch at all edges -- slip 1 knitwise with yarn in front at the end of a row, knit the first stitch of the new row through the back of the loop. Because I used the crochet cast-on, all the raw edges on this garment have a chain edging. I do have about 10% of the skein remaining. The plain cropped jacket is very much in style now, so I have been wearing it with a closure from Purdy Thangz. But if I later decide that I want a band or edging, that can be easily added all around by picking up in the chain stitch. And if I use the remaining Rainbow Mills Crayons Lite, I should be able to get it to pool or flash in a way that contrasts with the garment.

Because of both the linen stitch and the cotton, the fabric for this garment very much resembles a woven fabric. (For close up views, see this post from March 2010.) It also behaves more like a weave, both with less stretch because of the content and also because of the stitch pattern. If you worked this in wool or a more elastic fiber, you might be able to eliminate the short-row shoulder shaping.

(Photo at top left is "right side" of linen stitch jacket, photo at bottom right is "wrong side." Both are good!)

31 August 2010

The Northern Lights

I've been enjoying spinning the Louet Northern Lights roving I bought at The Mannings during Christmas. This is a standard roving, color 28 Violets. It actually has a fair amount of blue and green, including a nice shock of hot kiwi and a little punch of almost plain white or very pale blue. There were two hanks in the shop and I bought both, figuring that eight ounces would give me enough yardage to produce a substantial project. One of the problems for me with spinning is going to be projects. I don't need or wear a lot of hats or gloves. Most of the things I make for myself are shawls or sweaters which require a significant amount of yarn. So my hope for this roving was that I'd have enough yardage at the end to really make something.

As per my typical practice, I pre-drafted the roving. Because I'm still a novice, I used the second-lowest ratio on my wheel. Sometimes I attend the Monday spin nights at The Whole Nine Yarns. It is a nice group, smaller and therefore a little more intimate than on Tuesday knit night. As I'm not spinning for speed, it took me most of January to spin up all eight ounces. You can see from the bobbin at right that the spinning part went well enough.

After the roving was spun, I had more artistic decisions to make. It definitely had too much twist to be a single. (Somebody remind me to take a class on how to spin a good single.) I could chain ply it, but that would loose two-thirds of the length. I thought about plying it with a blue roving I had bought at Uncommon Threads. Instead of making an irreversible artistic decision, I worked on the blue roving.

Now, the blue roving took much longer than I expected. For one thing, I bought blue sparkles at The Mannings. But I don't have a drum carder. So I had to hand card blue sparkles into eight ounces of blue roving. This took a great deal of time. And then I spun up about four ounces of the blue roving, which took more time. At that point, I had three full bobbins (2 Louet Northern Lights, 1 blue with sparkles). I was able to finger ply the Louet to the blue and also the Louet on itself. Once I could do a side by side comparison, I decided to keep the Louet to itself.

So, I started to ply. And at some late moment, I realized I was not going to be able to get eight ounces onto a bobbin. I didn't want to cut my yarn. And in any case, I didn't have any empty bobbins, as I had two ounces of Louet on each of two bobbins, four ounces of plied Louet on a bobbin, and four ounces of blue with sparkles on a bobbin. I was thinking about ordering a spare bobbin. Then I looked on the Majacraft website and discovered the plying kit. For about $125 (depending on the exchange rate) and a couple weeks wait, my friendly local yarn shop was able to get the kit. It includes one oversized bobbin and one oversized flyer.

By this time, we were into the summer travel season. It was July, and I was headed back up to Pennsylvania. Fortunately I was driving rather than flying, because I pack like Auntie Mame with her eighteen steamer trunks. I got to my mother's house midway through the day. I let myself in. No pets. No children. No distracting adults. I was able to unwind the bobbin, with the resulting pile of yarn spread across the hardwood floor. And while I watched the evening news, I rewound the yarn onto the new bobbin. And I did all this while being careful to thread the yarn out of the old flyer and into the new flyer. It was worth the evening's labors. I was able to ply both four-ounce rovings together into one over 500-yard skein of worsted weight delight!



I hadn't brought my Strauch standing umbrella swift, so I had to wait until I got back home to Georgia to skein the yarn, steam set it, and determine the yardage. I'm still not sure what it will be when I knit it up. And I might combine it in a project with the blue sparkles, which aren't done yet. For the moment, I'm just going to enjoy it. And if you like this skein, remember that the roving is a standard roving that your local yarn shop should be able to get, rather than a specialty hand-dye that existed once five years ago. I am a beginning spinner. Even if you are also fairly inexperienced, you should be able to reproduce this yarn if it strikes your fancy.

04 August 2010

Conquered

(Photo: Cuddy Hubby and I looking into a late afternoon sun with
Flathead Lake, Montana behind us.)

After two years and three previous blog posts (18 July 2008, 4 June 2010, 5 June 2010), I am elated to report that I have completed the Puzzlemaker Jacket by Kerry Ferguson. I completed it while on vacation in Washington State in late June. The knitting had been completed in Atlanta, but there was the matter of weaving in ends and devising a closure.

What I learned:
Even if you live in the South, cotton is not your friend if your project involves a lot of ends. I got the best results for weaving in mercerized cotton by splitting the plies and running them in different directions, then weaving the yarn back on itself and splitting it with a chenille needle. This is similar to the technique used in a Russian join or for weaving in ends on needlepoint canvaswork. There are triangles which took as much time to weave in ends as they did to knit. Changing the pattern from two colors to three only intensified this issue.

The trick of changing gauge to change size did seem to work on this garment. My gauge is around 5.5 stitches per inch. I believe the original pattern is written at 4.5 stitches per inch. I ended up with a garment that fits me, a 32-inch chest, rather than the 44-inch chest for which the pattern is written.

While part of my initial attraction to the pattern was the idea of picking up along the end of the previous triangle as you go, I think this project might be better worked as individual triangles later seamed together. For one thing, the combination of garter and stockinette tends to pucker, so it really needs to be blocked flat. I think it is easier to block individual triangles flat rather than a completed jacket.

Secondly, I am not certain that all the math on this garment is correct. I ended up cutting ten stitches off the right-hand edge of Triangle L, which forms the long diagonal right front of the garment. As that was the next to last triangle, I could tell from my well-established gauge that the edge of Triangle K was simply not long enough to pick up all the bottom of Triangle L. So I worked Triangle L as written, except that I pretended the last ten stitches on the right didn't exist. That adjustment did make Triangle L a little shorter as well as a little narrower, but that worked out just fine. There are a couple places where this garment sort of fits together, particularly at the shoulders and sleeves. If each triangle were worked separately, you could go back and make changes as you put it together if you discover it does not fit quite as you would like. But if you join as you go, it is much more difficult to make adjustments to fit. And I do have to say that the back fit together pretty well.

And speaking of fit and seams, I did make a couple short seams at the shoulders. The neck opening turned out to be a very wide boatneck. The seams I sewed are about the width of the blue border, so they fit in very nicely and make sense with the overall design of the garment. Without them, the sleeves would tend to drop off my shoulders to produce the retro Flashdance look. And if I were to make this garment again, I would not try to sew the bottom seam of the sleeves, but would just leave them to flutter.

I've made a closure using hooks and eyes. In the pictures I have two sets, but I might add a third or I might just seam the whole front closed. I don't know that I'd ever wear this jacket hanging open. I did paint the hooks and eyes to match the bright blue so they blend. And I sewed them on using a single ply split off from a leftover length of the bright blue cotton.

I should add that Abbi Barden at Martingale & Company was very kindly able to provide me with a correction for the "blob" problem on the Triangle I graph. I point this out because even if you don't wish to work the whole Puzzlemaker garment, I believe the individual motifs are worth consideration. Kerry Ferguson has a wonderful and rare sense of texture as well as color in her designs. I think some of the Puzzlemaker motifs would work fabulously on accessories such as mittens, scarves, or bags. I was able to get some wonderful pooling and flashing effects from the Schaefer yarn because the triangles are all smallish units. While I'm not 100% happy with the front of the garment, I love the bold graphic look of the back. Anybody who gets stuck behind me in a long line should be able to stay amused simply by contemplating the back of this jacket.

And just to add a little humor to this already long post, a few observations about Montana.

1. Cuddly Hubby and I both agreed, the sky really is bluer in Glacier National Park.
2. I now understand why Ted Turner wants to buy the state.
3. A place where people live "off the grid" in the middle of majestic nowhere and can be snowed in for several weeks at a time produces a population of self-sufficient, practical individualists who do not see a reason to waste highway funds on guard rails.
4. "Speed Limit 75 MPH." This is the only place the Cuddly Hubby has driven where he wasn't completely comfortable driving the posted limit.
5. Fishing is a basic human need. Other states have signs indicating where restrooms, food, fuel, and lodging can be found. Montana has signs indicating where access to fishing is available. There is an exit off Interstate 90 that doesn't go anywhere, it just provides access to a stream running along the expressway. After driving for two or three hours, don't you really need a quick fishing break to rejuvenate and regain focus?

Can we find a state to provide similar signage -- "Yarn Next Exit" -- for knitting?

16 July 2010

A New Knitter

My six-year-old niece learned to knit on Tuesday. I was up in Pennsylvania visiting family in June, and the Little Princess asked if I would teach her to knit. I wasn't sure she was really, truly serious. But I did go visit the friendly local yarn shop, Uncommon Threads, and buy a skein of heathered pink Cascade 220 and size 4.5mm/US 7 bamboo Clover circular knitting needles.

When I returned to Pennsylvania in July, she was still talking about wanting to knit. She had discovered some bright, multicolored craft yarn in her mother's stash. I cast on thirty stitches and worked the first couple rows. Then I let the Little Princess manipulate the needles. She made the sticks move, and I wrapped the yarn. It was a little awkward, but it also gave her the chance to learn the dexterity of moving the needles without also tensioning the yarn. By the late evening, she was venturing into working the needles and the yarn by herself, and our tandem team knitting was unnecessary.

In the photograph, her tension is still a little loose. And like so many knitters, myself included, she really has tension issues at the selvage as she turns a row. Sometimes I work the first two stitches on a new row, just to get her started. But she is off and running and very excited. So am I.

21 June 2010

Silliness

I've been updating my Ravelry files with some older projects. I realized I needed to add the Jester Tentacles Bag from Cat Bordhi's Second Treasury of Magical Knitting when someone wanted to trade for the four skeins of heathered Cascade 220 in my stash. Ummm, well, I don't really have four skeins of it anymore.

I must admit that I initially passed on the whole mobius knitting thing. The First Treasury of Magical Knitting is nice, but it is mostly scarves. Granted, what I didn't understand on a quick glance is that some lace patterns do very interesting things when you put them in a mobius. But when the sequel came out with its felted bowls and this crazy bag, I jumped in and bought both.

I had felted Cascade 220 before. This was a good thing, because I had written down the before and after numbers, so I could do the math to figure out how big to knit before felting. In the pattern, Cat Bordhi has the straps as separate long tentacles that are tied together after felting. This, of course, is so that you can adjust the strap to the length you like regardless of what happens in the washing machine. I had to be difficult and want one long unbroken strap. And I also wanted it to be the right length, between my waist and hip. My notes indicate that the strap was about 49 inches long before felting. It is now about 38 inches after felting. You can see how long it hung on the mannequin before felting. It was a big loose mess. This is also something to keep in mind when you are doing felting projects. Generally, you want to knit loosely. So not only is your object large, because you know it is going to get smaller, but it is also sloppy and floppy. And if it has tentacles on it, then it is that much more so. And I've discovered that when you dunk Cascade 220 in warm water, it grows first before it begins to felt. The whole project can seem really crazy and unwieldy until the felting magic happens.

The tentacles, by the way, took as much time or more to knit than the bag itself. For this project I incorporated bits of waste yarn randomly as I went. When the bag part was finished, I went back, opened up the waste yarn holes, and picked up and knit tentacles. You could also just snip and unravel and add tentacles wherever you like. And the fact that this bag is felted, even if you don't pick up smoothly, it will all look fine in the end.

This is a particularly fun project to use. I carried this bag around at a Mensa Annual Gathering. Strangers -- including men -- would come up to me and ask me about it. By the end of the convention, I think a few people knew me just because I was carrying such a unique handbag. It definitely starts conversations.

11 June 2010

Tigers & Bears, Oh my!

Today was the opening day for the new Trader's Alley exhibit area at ZooAtlanta. Although there are other things I ought to be doing, and it was a wicked sticky hot day, I scooted down for a quick peak. The zoo was pretty full by the time I left at 11 AM.

As a bear fan, I am super excited about Xander and Sabah, the new Malayan sun bears. This pair does have a breeding recommendation, although Dr. Snyder stated during the press conference that they can be tricky to breed in captivity. Bless Dr. Snyder -- she's becoming a love expert on unromantic bears. She and her team have managed with Lun Lun and Yang Yang, so we'll hope that Sabah and Xander are easy compared to giant pandas. Sun bears are active and will require lots of enrichment. Of course, today all I got was a distant view of a shy Xander. There is a small black blob in the center of the photo at right. At least you can see what a nice space it is and where the overlook is located. Once the bears are accustomed to their new residence, I am sure they will venture about and treat us all to lots of playful bear behavior.

Also back in the zoo are Moby the elusive clouded leopard, and Chelsea and Kavi the Sumatran tigers. Chelsea was a little uncertain about how much her home has been changed while she was away. I'm sure she didn't sign up for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Eventually she was willing to come out, pad about on the fresh sod, and get close to the glass.
The new exhibit solves a problem the old one had -- viewing. The tigers used to go to a back corner of the exhibit and more or less hide from view. Moby will still be able to do some of that in his exhibit -- bonus points on your zoo bingo card if you see Moby. But the tigers and bears will have a harder time being shy. You'll notice the old viewing area, which has been cleaned up but is still familiar. But as you head up the trail connecting giant pandas with otters, you'll discover a "bamboo thicket" viewing area for tigers, a glass viewing area for both tigers and bears, and another "bamboo thicket" for viewing bears. If you go all the way up the hill, there is an enclosed overlook. It provides shade and fan air to visitors who can look down into both the bear and tiger exhibits. No matter where the animals want to be, you should be able to find a viewpoint that works.

Charismatic megafauna tend to get the headlines at the zoo, but the reptile and bird keepers are not afraid to be creative with their charges. ZooAtlanta has only 40 acres, and I think herpetology and birds will discover a way to fill every leftover crevice! As you go up to sun bears, be sure to look at the other side of the walk to see endangered tortoises. Some of these have surprisingly beautiful geometric patterns! And the ever clever bird keepers have inserted a bird habitat next to sun bears. Betelgeus and Zelda, a breeding pair of wreathed hornbills, have lived behind the scenes for years. Now they are out where you can enjoy their impressive size and bright colors.

For more information, you can read the zoo's own press release here.

05 June 2010

Saving Triangle I

Long before I met Rick Mondragon in person, I learned his name from an old Threads magazine article. If you have the February 1995 issue, or the reprint in Great Knits (Newton CT: Taunton Press 1995, pp. 58-61), you can read his article "Knit in Blocks of Color -- without Bobbins." Rick's technique allows you to knit individual blocks and then connect as you go. In that regard it is similar to modular knitting, except you really are ending up with the yarn in exactly the same place it would be if you had lined up a long row of little balls or bobbins and knit not-so-merrily across in intarsia. And if you are a Kaffe Fassett fan, this technique could open up a whole new world!

One way to learn this is to knit two plain intarsia blocks and then unpick only one of them. (The white dots are the tops of the pin heads. I've pinned this swatch flat to a pillow.) I've unpicked the top eight rows of knitting on the blue half of this swatch. Do you see the paired yarns? (The yarn all by itself at top is the working yarn connected to the skein.) Each of those four pairs is a long loop. Each loop comprised two rows of knitting, one out (the right side row) and one back (the wrong side row). The genius in Rick's idea is the realization that you could pull yarn through the turning threads on the back and create proper intarsia interlocks after the fact.

In this view of the wrong side, you can see each loop of blue interlocking with white.

Rick does teach this technique from time to time. I, however, have not had the good fortune to take his workshop. (Lois Mitchell, the AKG librarian and NGKG past treasurer, has taken the workshop and given it a fine review.) So I gave myself I little extra help. Lucy Neatby uses waste yarn a fair bit to aid in visualizing grafting. I decided to use waste yarn to aid in finding those turning threads and pulling the loops of yarn through in the proper direction. I worked across, then I used a little waste yarn to work two waste stitches beyond the current section. I worked those waste stitches as I would for normal intarsia. When I went back to add the next section with the precious Schaefer Laurel, I unpicked the pink waste yarn each row as needed and used the loop as a guide.

The photograph above shows the front of the work. Since this piece is worked to follow a graphed pattern, the stitch marker corresponds to a division on the graph paper. The photograph below shows the same piece folded down to reveal the back. Can you see how the pink waste stitches are forming perfectly normal intarsia interlocks? (That pink dashed line is the key.)

Although I am sure this gets easier with practice, I would characterize it as a more advanced technique; and I probably wouldn't use it if good old regular intarsia would work fine. But in this case, it helped me get the Schaefer Laurel to pool in a way that I liked and without forcing me to waste a lot of yarn.

There are limitations. Rick's technique works for square, rectangular, or tapered shapes. But it does not work so well for overhanging cliff shapes, because you would have to cast-on the overhanging stitches rather than work them into established stitches. You do have to plan your shapes carefully if you want to work this way. Also, how you attach loops is slightly different depending on whether you are adding to the left or the right side of a section. If you are interested in further exploring this technique, you might want to knit a sample swatch with three sections and unpick both sides but not the middle.

On the positive side, Rick's technique can be used to do some really amazing things. If you are working a gridded multi-color fabric in the style of Kaffe Fassett, you have more freedom to add on colors and rip back. And this technique permits true intarsia in the round. Seamless argyle socks are not impossible!

04 June 2010

Still Knitting on Faith

I've been knitting on some older projects that just need to get off the needles. In particular, I've come back to Puzzlemaker. You may recall that I started this project in 2008. I was moving along rather nicely that summer, and got a lot done during the Beijing Summer Olympic Games. This is when things went bad. I believe the Egregious Error was made sometime during one of the beach vollyball finals. The Americans were playing rather well at beach volleyball, and I got hooked on it. With the twelve-hour time difference, the finals that started at 1 PM Beijing time were at 1 AM Atlanta time. I couldn't resist staying up to watch the finals LIVE. And I knit along merrily.

Do you recall in Gremlins how you aren't supposed to feed the cute little creatures after midnight? I believe there may be a similar rule for knitting. If it requires the least bit of thought, do not attempt after your normal bedtime. Just don't risk it. Well, not only did I make a mistake, but I made a mistake and didn't catch it until after I had finished the following triangle. Ugh!

I finally ripped back and fixed the error in the spring of 2009. But I just couldn't gain traction on the project. Now I'm back to it again. And this time, I think I just may be moving in the right direction. The picture at top is the back of the jacket, sans right sleeve. It is much more complicated, but also I think more interesting and beautiful, than the triangles on the left sleeve. There is both intarsia and stranded knitting (Fair Isle) in this project, as well as modular construction. Trust me, you do not want to rip back intarsia and try to keep all those carefully cut strands organized.

I believe Triangle G (upper right with the zig-zags) was where I made the Egregious Error. But I also knit through Triangle H, the large triangle below it. I had fixed those two last year and recently started again with Triangle I, the large triangle in the lower left. You've no doubt noticed the cute Kokopelli figures in that triangle? In the picture in the book, they are obviously Kokopelli. But they are blobs in the graphs for the sweater. So I e-mailed the publisher, who was very nice but not able to help me on a book that is so old. And truthfully, how many people have made this sweater in the last decade? On Ravelry, I am one of two people with this project. (Kudos to fionamacardle for her black & white attempt.) So it wasn't as if the nice people at Martingale Company were going to have a .pdf file ready to send. In the end, I looked at the slightly too small picture in the book and gave it a good guess. Here's my result:
If you have the book, you can substitute my section of graph for the corresponding section of Triangle I. The figures are upside down because this section is knit top down. The wide lines correspond to the wide lines on the graph in the book.

(If you would like to copy the graph in a larger, easy on the eye size, follow this link.)

Once I got through that issue, I discovered another. The Schaefer Laurel yarn is lovely. However, it has small dabs of color that change every few inches. In the stockinette intarsia sections, I prefer a little pooling. Up until this point, most of those sections were relatively narrow, and so produced pleasing color transitions. (Again, return to those zig-zags in Triangle G.) In those sections, I didn't mind knitting up and doing the calculations for how much yarn to cut. But Triangle I has larger sections. So, it was time to learn a new technique.

Tomorrow: The Technique that Saved Triangle I

23 May 2010

Alpaca Farm

On Saturday, North Georgia Knitting Guild took a day trip to Seven Gables Farm in Milton, Georgia. In addition to the guild, many thanks are also due to Knit Witch and Only Ewe and Cotton Too for organizing the outing. We had a lovely time both watching the animals and enjoying our outdoor picnic. There was also a lot of socializing and a lot of knitting. We were lucky, too, because the day was overcast in the morning. As it got sunnier around two or three o'clock, it got hot and less comfortable outdoors.

The alpacas share a pasture with two burros and many goats. One of the goats was clearly a male, who strode about like an emperor overseeing his peasants. When we first arrived and a few of us walked over towards that pasture, this goat came over but not too close. He was checking us out and making sure we understood that this place is his domain. (See photo at right.)


After lunch, I spent a fair amount of time out in the pasture. Most of the animals only let me get within about 8-10 feet. Then they would just quietly shift to a different patch of clover. It was a lot of fun to get even a little close to them. There were five alpacas -- one white, one grey, one brown, and a black female with a cria. I was surprised by how large the cria was. Apparently alpaca are never all that small. The alpacas had been sheared recently, so their shaggy coats are not in the pictures. But you do get a sense of how long their necks are! There is something delightful and wonderful in that alpacas are cute animals with mostly reasonable temperaments, and yet they also give awesome fiber. Enjoy the pictures of happy animals!

Mother and Child

Just let me eat in peace. (A beautiful, rich brown coat.)

Who are you? (Love the Dr. Seuss hairstyle.)

Let me just stand here and blend.

19 May 2010

Greetings from Finland

Just wanted to share two photographs Leena sent. Her book and cards arrived safely on the 18th, which was ten days after I sent them and less than the two weeks the mail clerk anticipated. I am impressed by what a talented photographer and gardener Leena must be.

This first photograph is peeking down inside the mail envelope. I never would have thought of putting the purple flower in the corner of the image.

This second photo is the congratulatory cards. I love the flowers and the play of sunlight.

:-)

13 May 2010

One Stash to Rule Them All?

The post starts:
It began with the forging of the Great Stashes. Three were given to the cats, immortal, wisest, and fairest of all beings, because, you know, it's good for hunting and batting with your little paws. Seven to the Crochet Ladies, great hookers and craftswomen of the church halls.
Follow this link to read the rest.

(Thank you, Elalyr!)

11 May 2010

Doublefun

You may recall more than a year ago that I entered a pair of socks in the Think Outside the Sox contest. I didn't win any prizes, and my socks weren't chosen for publication in the book. But I did make a friend thousands of miles away.

Leena Siikaniemi e-mailed me last year after seeing my post. We exchanged e-mails about the contest and about knitting. Because the socks came to STITCHES South, I was able to see and touch Leena's socks. And she shared with me a secret -- her socks, which appear to be circular intarsia, are actually double knitting! If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you've probably figured out that I am a fan of double knitting. I might have thought of it for a sock cuff, but not for the whole sock. The idea is true genius! So I am very excited that the Think Outside the Sox book is now out and available. You can follow the pattern to make Doublefun socks for yourself, beginning on page 120. Leena also created the very first socks in the book, the Forgettable Socks that begin on page 4.

After STITCHES South this year, I e-mailed Leena to congratulate her. She had been following the festivities online. Someone had sent a picture -- were her socks really on the back cover? Yes they were. Did she have a copy of the book? No, she hadn't gotten one yet. Not a problem -- I could easily get a copy and send it to her. So I went to the May Atlanta Knitting Guild meeting with a congratulations card for guild members to sign. Thank you to Bill from Only Ewe and Cotton Too, who was kind enough to bring a book for me to buy, thus saving me the trip over to Crabapple.

At one point in the meeting, Whit Robbins was talking to the group about STITCHES South. She talked about all we accomplished and how much fun we all had. And then she asked me to come up to the podium. Huh? She pulled out a package . . . from Leena in Finland! This was totally unexpected. I opened it in front of the group. Leena had made Doublefun socks for me! They are just wonderful! And they are in my colors too. How did she know? I believe the socks got passed around at least part of the room, as many people were curious about their construction. Leena also sent me a couple Finnish postcards depicting children knitting. I wouldn't know where to find knitting-themed stationery in Atlanta. What a delightful surprise!On Saturday morning I put a thank-you card, a congratulations card, and a copy of Think Outside the Sox into the mail. I've never sent anything to Finland before. It was only about $15, which I think is very reasonable. I am eager to hear from my internet pen pal when she finally has the book in her hands.

Thank you, Leena, for sharing a truly brilliant knitting idea with the world! Big warm alpaca hugs! :-D

09 May 2010

For Mom

My mother taught me to do cross stitch when I was four years old. That means I learned to handle a needle and thread before I learned to write my own name. My paternal grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was about ten. And between these two wonderful women, summers with my maternal grandmother, and classes with the White Rose Embroiderers' Guild of America chapter, I learned many, many needlework techniques. My mother especially enjoyed cross stitch, crewel, and eventually canvas work. Needlecraft was a hobby we shared together, a point where we could connect regardless of our differences.

But my mother does not knit.

About a decade ago I discovered knitting. Oh, there are still cross stitch kits and other needle arts tucked away in the cedar chest in my guest bedroom. But I went off and discovered a new territory where my mother had never been. I love the way I can think in three dimensions with knitting. I love how knitting can be functional. And I love how knitting can be out in the world where others will see it, unlike my cross stitch triumphs that are viewed only in my home.

In all this time I have been knitting, my mother had never asked me to knit her anything. I don't think she enjoys clothes. Like many (most American?) women, she has spent much of her lifetime fighting her weight. (The skinny genes I so enjoy came from my dad. The tall genes came from both of my parents.) It is hard to enjoy clothes when they remind you of what you don't like about your body rather than celebrating what you do like. Not only has she never asked for a sweater, but she has also not asked for socks, or mittens, or gloves, or a hat, or even a fabulous felted bag.

You may recall my after Christmas post in which I mentioned how my mother arranged possibly the best gift I have ever gotten from her -- a trip to The Mannings. This was wonderful on a number of levels. My sister, grandmother, and Cuddly Hubby came along, so it was a social outing. And I appreciate that they all were willing to step into my knitting world for just a little while to see a glimpse of why I love the knitting community and what this art has to offer. But one of the loveliest things about the trip was that my mother asked me to knit something for her.


The pattern is from Oat Couture, the "Curlicue Blanket." The full blanket has fifteen different sections, all shaped with short rows. The shawl at The Mannings was worked over sections 1-10. My mother is a tall, broad-shouldered woman; and the sample didn't quite fit her through the shoulders. Consequently, I've worked sections 1-13 for her shawl. The yarn is Crystal Palace Mini Mochi in color 107 Autumn Rainbow. I used US 7 (4.5mm) needles and less than five balls of the yarn. The only refinement I made is that I worked a slipped-stitch edge to keep the selvage neat. The sawtooth border worked great for blocking with wires. After threading the wires, I stretched the shawl out on the guest bed, pinned the wires, and spritzed the shawl. I let it dry overnight. I don't often knit other people's patterns, but this one was worth it on more than one level.

Since I finished the shawl just before STITCHES South, I wore it to the Thursday night Ravelry meet-up. The picture at top right is me wearing the shawl to "The Magic Flute" opera at Cobb Energy Center the following week. The wall behind me in the photo is backlit alabaster. I showed the shawl off at The Whole Nine Yarns knit night and knit lit, and also at the May meeting of the Atlanta Knitting Guild. Many, many people came up to get a look at it at the guild meeting. One lady said, "Oh, there's still plenty of time to buy your mother a different gift." Another, who tried on the shawl, said, "Do you want to be my daughter?" I hope somebody in town has the pattern in stock! I think the picture was up on Ravelry less than three hours before someone favorited it. I finally put the shawl in the mail on Friday morning. I hope it will please her.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

25 April 2010

Day 4 of STITCHES South 2010

In spite of the teaching being done, I still didn't sleep all that well on Saturday night. The convention is just so much fun, and my head is racing with ideas that all need to be worked out now, dang it!

For Sunday morning I took Carson Demers "Ergonomics for Knitters" class. I believe I had asked for a class like this on last year's feedback form. Alas, I don't recall the name of the knitter, but I sat next to someone who was wearing a beautiful blue, purple, and green Ann Feitelson Fair Isle cardigan. Hmmm, maybe it really is a good idea for the air conditioning to be turned up. Seeing a sweater like that in person makes you want to throw everything else aside and give Fair Isle a try.

Carson's class was exactly what you would expect. He did a wonderful job explaining what ergonomics is and what risk factors to watch. I got a little lost with some of the anatomy lesson, but it was fascinating none the less. And he had several videos of people knitting. It was amazing to see how many ways different people do this. There was one lady who knit super fast English style. There was another whose movements were so restful and soothing and thoroughly zen. I also felt very fortunate as most of the people in the class were there because they already had a problem with their hands or arms. Whit Robbins was in the class and she was one of the few who was there just to be sure she didn't develop issues. I was there because I need to be able to knit 40 hours a week if I want to accomplish my career goals. And I need to be sure I don't ruin my hands. So this class was definitely worth it.

At lunch time I went over to the market just to hang out. I saw local Gale Evans of Gale's Art whose work is always a colorful pleasure to spin. I finally met Jen Hagan of Figheadh Designs in person. She is such a delight! She comes to the Atlanta area about once a year to see family, so I hope one of the guilds will be able to snag her for a program sometime. I went over to the Trendsetter booth to thank Barry Klein for the student banquet goodies. On my way to find his booth, I passed Windy Valley Musk Ox and a fabulous sample sweater with very interesting cables and tucks. I failed my will save against that very interesting pattern. Like much of the crowd, I eventually ended up over near the stage to await the drawing of the grand prize. This is the part where XRX gives out money. While waiting, I bumped into Gro, Amy, and Dana. It was so good to see Dana, who is a new bride only a month! I had put a card with a gift card in my purse for the weekend just in case I ran into her. So that worked out perfectly. The winning names weren't people I knew, but all that standing near the Yarn Place booth caused me to fail my will save against Herbert Niebling's Lyra pattern. I bought the kit with a dark violet lace yarn. Ahhhh.

My last class for the convention was "3-2-1: Three 2-color patterns, one color at a time" with Merike Saarniit. I took her Estonian Patent stitch class last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. There were several familiar faces in this class again. I got to sit between local amazing knitter Pam Cornutt and somebunnyslove. People take classes with Merike again and again. The Estonian knitting tradition is so rich and so interesting. The manipulations that have been invented are clever and fascinating. We started with an interesting double-stranded cast-on that produced a firm and decorative edge. Merike showed us a faux entrelac that is very stretchy and swirly. It could be used to make basic swirl socks, which somehow don't require heel turns because of the swirl construction. And that pattern made the cast-on edge scallop just a bit. She also showed us an embraced stitch and two patent stitch patterns. A number of people left early because they needed to catch flights home. And many, many people asked Merike about her book. It is going to be lovely when it comes out. And I'm not pestering her about the timing because I know it all takes much longer than it ought.

After class, I went over to the AKG booth which was already mostly broken down. Thank you to everyone who helped with that! I basically just took the balloons away. I do not know how a dozen mylar balloons and all my STITCHES stuff fit in the back of the Zippy Sippy, but somehow it all did. I still had blankets and shawls, so I was able to weight down the balloons so I could see out the rear view mirror. I was home by about 5:15 PM. It will take me the week to put everything away. Once again, a truly awesome weekend!