Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Changing Perspective

I take classes for lots of reasons, but I suppose the most important one is to learn new skills and hone existing ones. Boy, did I get honed this weekend.

But more importantly, this past weekend at Madrona, I gained a new perspective and I think that is a far more valuable lesson than learning a new cast-on. (Which is always handy, don't get me wrong.)

This knit-altering moment came in Sally Melville's First Choices class on Thursday morning. You've heard of Sally, haven't you? Of The Knit Stitch, The Purl Stitch and Color fame. If Sally comes to your corner of the world, get thee to her class. She is awesome. This class wasn't so much about picking the right yarn or needles, but more about how to ensure that the garment you've decided to knit is going to be well worth every stitch. Having recently shelved my Manos Cardi that just was, well, horrible, I learned exactly why it sucks--at least why it sucks for me.

What Sally did was take us through a hands on workshop on how to measure your body and adapt any pattern (at least one that will look good on this 45 year old wreck) to fit you. No more sleeves dragging around my ankles, no more shoulder seams that begin at my elbows. No more sweaters that go on, only to show the world just how big my hips are.

Sally's no-nonsense, common sense talk was liberating. Life altering, if you can excuse the pun.

Now I've read Zimmerman and know all the formulas, but to have someone walk me through them, even as I'm measuring myself and understanding how "fit" works and why and when it doesn't. All of a sudden the lights went on, and this time someone was home.

I'll never look at yarn and a sweater pattern the same.

The funny thing is, I've always sewn--done tailoring, clothes, the whole works. I used to alter patterns without even blinking, but I've always felt sort of intimidated to tamper with a knitting pattern. Foolish, really, but we all have our personal sort of bugaboos, and that was one of mine. Not anymore. Watch out sweaters, here I come.

I went home Thursday night and pulled out my Top Down Raglan Cardi from Cosmicpluto Knits! and started measuring. The sleeves will need some altering, but the rest is a sure hit. Here it is about 4 inches shy of finishing the body. I should have that done by tonight. (Hopefully there is a new episode of House on tonight.)

Oh, the confidence of a new perspective. I spent the rest of the weekend planning sweaters. A cardigan out of the Toots Le Blanc wool, the red sweater, and the other varigated sweater. And not to mention, my CPH. As I was contemplating all this knitting on my daily trips back and forth to Madrona, I realized I'd stalled out on my CPH because I was afraid of it turning into Manos 2: The Horror Continues. I don't think so. Not now.

Besides, if all else fails, I can always frog the darn thing and make something else. The Manos Cardi should be afraid. Very afraid.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Temptation that is Madrona

Too tired to really feel lyrical or witty or anything that requires too much thinking. So how about some vicarious stash enhancement? Stood in front of an entire wall of Socks that Rock yarn from Blue Moon Fiber Arts and let myself be dazzled by the colors. So I picked this one which is Thistle. Check out what it looks like wound into a cake. (Caution, drooling can short circuit a keyboard.)

So I cast on a sock this morning and this is what I've done so far:

Now before you continue scrolling if you love natural yarns and have a weak heart, or suffer from incurable jealousy, take whatever medication you need before you look at my Toots Le Blanc treasures:

50% Alpaca/50% Jacob Worsted. Pure heaven. And just in case you aren't convinced:

Finally, I'm a huge sucker for reds and this hand dye Mohair and Coopworth Lamb's Wool from RainShadow Farm has just the right red with hints of cranberry. The picture in no way does it justice, so you'll just have to believe me. If you don't hate me--because I bought every skein they had in this dye lot.

More next week about the classes and such. Because yes, I actually made it out of the marketplace and went to some wonderful classes.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Seattle Woman Saves Skeins . . . Hailed as Hero

SEATTLE (Rueters) An unnamed Seattle woman was hailed today as a hero when she saved these 10 abandoned skeins of Cascade 220 from certain death (well, maybe near death. Okay, serious complications. Oh, fine, they were really, really cold) when she discovered them in a box on her porch this afternoon. She immediately brought them inside, opened the container they'd been mercilessly stuffed into, and allowed them not only to breathe, but to warm up.
The skeins, after being checked by medics, were said to be recovering nicely.
"I can't even imagine what would have happened to them if I hadn't been at home," she was heard telling police who are investigating this incident of yarn abandonment, a Class C felony in Washington State.
"In the meantime, they have a home here. Why anyone wouldn't want to see them knit up into something pretty, like the Lucy in the Sky Cardigan, I will never understand."
A neighbor reported seeing a large brown truck in the area around the time of the alleged abandonment. While she didn't have her glasses on, she believed it was marked with these three letters, UPS. If anyone has seen a truck matching this description, they are urged to call authorities.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Countdown to Madrona

I am lucky enough to get to go indulge myself for four days at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival, starting this Thursday. I can't believe I get to go. It was sort of a wrangle and a trade-off moment with the DH and kids, but I managed to make it work. I've signed up for the following classes:

  • First Choices with Sally Melville
  • Morphing Cables with Fiona Ellis
  • Intro to Fair Isle Design and Colorwork with Janine Bajus
  • Using Your Stash with Ginger Luters

  • So I am pulling together what I need for each class and getting ready to be dazzled by everyone else's projects. It's funny how I've knit nearly all my life, but I've always been sort of a knit and purl sort of gal, not really stretching myself beyond basic knitting. Up until a few years ago, I'd never knit in the round or made socks. Colorwork? Forget about it. But as knitting has slowly edged out my other hobbies, I've had this burning desire to grow beyond the basic skills I learned from my grandmothers. So off to Madrona I go. If anyone else is going--please post a comment so we can meet!

    In the meantime, I've been putting the finishing touches on the auction purses, which are nearly ready for felting. Those are my daylight projects, the ones I grab when I take a break from writing or have a chance to watch All My Children (another habit that dates back to my childhood). In the evening, when I have an hour or two to devote to something, I work on my bigger projects.

    As I've waited for my replacement needles to arrive for my CPH (which they did last Friday--big shout out to Annette at Lantern Moon), I've cast on this Top Down Raglan Cardi from Cosmicpluto Knits! I've become completely addicted to knitting it, since there will be no seaming of any sort.

    Oh, yeah, I knew I'd get your attention with that notion.

    The yarn is a lot from Bamboo Needle Girl, an eBay seller. I'd been eyeing this 100% Australian wool for a while, watching the lots come and go. When this color combination came up, I couldn't resist--besides, the price--100 grams for $18.95--made it less risky. I'd try it and if I didn't like it, I'd felt it.

    Then when it arrived, I got a little nervous. The label read, 100% wool, Made in China. Chinese yarn? Okay. I didn't know the Chinese were big knitters, but I'm game. And it didn't seem very tightly spun. Another strike. I was starting to kiss my $20 bucks goodbye, but the swatch I knit turned really soft when I blocked it, and lo and behold the yarn is easy to knit with. It does have a bit of fuzzy haze to it, so I have some concerns about piling, but again, I love the colors.

    I'm using a Seed Stitch for the ribbing, and am only about 14 rows from putting it on waste yarn and trying it on to see if I can divide off the sleeves and join the body. This pattern is well written and easy to use or adapt from. The only change I've made is in making the buttonholes. The pattern says to: Knit to last 3 stitches, ssk, yo, k1. I hated the way it looked and ended up frogging back about an inch or so of knitting, and made a new buttonhole, with yo, k2tog, k1. I must give Tiennie credit for this change of course, because before I probably would have lived with the problem, but after reading her Huntington Pullover post, who was I to kvetch about a little reverse knitting. The only other trick has been making sure that when one skein ends or I come to a knot (which there has only been one so far) is to find a corresponding spot in the color sequence in another skein.

    I have become so enamoured with the way the sweater is turning out, I have to 'fess. I bought two more lots in this red/grey/black sequence to do another top down sweater. Maybe the pattern should be called Top Down Addiction.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    Oh, I should never have started . . .

    This is what happens when I start felting. I can't stop. I start looking around for just anything to knit up and throw in the washing machine.

    Worse yet--I had to go to LYS to pick up yarn to finish the two charity purses I started. (Here's the pink tote getting closer and closer to its hot water reckoning.) Sure, I was just going to pick up skeins to finish a project. And I had convinced myself that by taking the Little Hero, aka The Child Yarn Shops Fear, with me, that I would be so busy hanging onto him, grabbing the right two skeins and flinging cash at the relieved shop owner, so as to get out of there in under 60 seconds, I would be assured of not being tempted to stray from the Vow. But I had forgotten that The Yarn Stash in Burien has a little corner set aside for kids and he was immediately charmed into playing quietly. My child. Behaving. In a yarn shop. Finally I was being repaid for being snowbound for six days.

    But oh, the damage one can reap when they have been snowbound with kids and are in a felting frenzy. "Knit from your stash. Knit from your stash," this guilt ridden voice cried out from my conscience. "Remember the vow."

    Stuff the vow. I've been home for six days with kids. And really the little guy was having such a great time playing in the corner, that only a bad mother would have disrupted him.

    The first grab was this Kureyon. I've been eyeing this for months, ever since I saw this Booga Bag. Did I mention it is felted? I've actually been picking up this color combination at yarn stores all over Seattle for months and then putting them back down because I wanted to knit from my stash. But there they were, and you can already see I was in no mood to be good.

    So then I was bad. Very bad.

    I've also had my eye on some Touch Me. That I wanted to felt with. Yes, you read that correctly. I want to take some Touch Me and felt it. And as I made my way to the cash register with my Kureyon clutched in my guilt-free little grasp, there in the 40% off basket sat the very three skeins I need to make the scarf I've been coveting at Acorn Yarn Shop. Acorn always has the coolest samples on view, and the Touch Me felted scarf is one of them. 40% off? Pinch me. No make that Touch Me!

    So now I have two more felted projects in the queue. And conveniently at the library today was the copy of Nicky Epstein's Knitted Flowers. This should give me some great ideas for flowers to decorate the pink purse with. And I promise--I'll use yarn from my stash for the flowers. I'll be good.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Snow is a Four Letter Word

    I thought we were in the clear yesterday--having survived all these snow days stuck home with kids. I got so cocky yesterday, that I drove up to see my mom, who still had my birthday present. And take a look at what she made for me:

    Don't you love it? I do. It will be perfect for dragging all my class materials down to the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival next week. More on that later.

    Right now my life is consumed by that four letter word posted above and my weatherman obsession. You see, I thought I was going to be back on speaking terms with the dude on Channel Five until he started predicting more snow for today.

    "Not going to happen," I said, shaking my fist defiantly at Monday's clear blue sky. I went to bed full of conviction that he was going to wrong. Dead wrong. Please God, let that overpaid, over educated cloud jockey be wrong.

    Do you remember waking up extra early as a kid and going to look out the window and praying the entire way there that there would enough snow to make it a snow day? Now I know verbatim the prayer my dear sainted mother was muttering under her breath as we made our trek to the window.

    I kind of did the reverse thing last night. I got up at midnight. No snow. Smile, go back to bed. Wake up at 4 am. Go check. Still no snow. Oh, yes. I go back to bed, drifting off to sleep with visions of doing a quiet hour of yoga in the morning. Writing. Some knitting while I indulge myself and watch All My Children. In. The. Peace. And. Quiet. Then the alarm went off at five. And my husband comes back with the bad news.

    It snowed.

    Oh, and the news got even worse, when about a half an hour later, my snow-snob "I'm from the Midwest and I know how to drive in this stuff" husband comes home with his head hanging. The car is in the ditch. Again. So I got all three of them here. Again. All day.

    Even the LYS failed me. They've been closed since I ran out of yarn, due to the weather. (Hey, if could I make it there on Sunday, they should have the courtesy of an honor system or key under the mat for knitters in need, or something like that when I braved snow and ice to get another skein of Cascade 220 in Amber. But no, just a locked door, a little sad sign, and lonely skeins inside crying out to be liberated.)

    So I've been working on the pink purse, which I swore I had enough yarn for, but ran out this afternoon as I was doing the I-cord bind off. Twenty stitches short of finishing.

    I really do need to do some yoga and get my knitting karma back in alignment.

    As the day progressed though, my hold on my sanity started to nose dive. When this happens, you just need to start stash diving--looking for that little thrill of finding some treasure long forgotten and hugging it in your chest muttering, "They'll go back to school soon. Really they will."

    I started sifting around in the big closet, and found this sock I started last year in Mountain Colors Bearfoot. Really soft and nice to work with. I really adore hand knit socks. Love them to death. But I have this thing about finishing socks. I get one partly done and it languishes, and then the other one takes forever. For a moment I envision myself finishing this pair, my feet are warm and snug, and then . . .

    I spot this trio in my stash and thought they might make a fun pair of short socks for spring. But I would have to put my Bearfoot socks on waste yarn to snag the needles. And speaking of needles, my replacement needle from Lantern Moon still hasn't arrived. I'm trying to be charitable, but I'm really itching to get back knitting my CPH. Especially since I just got the first discs for Season 2 of 24 from Netflix.

    You know, I could cast on the fronts and knit the ribbing up since I do have those needles. Hmm. Then I'd be a bit ahead. Well sort of.

    And the weatherman? He says we should be warming up. Bless him. Maybe I'll send him a pair of socks as a thank you.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    Bring out your felting

    Fishing around in the unfinished finds, I settled on finalizing my other Fuzzy Foot, so that I could say I actually had Fuzzy Feet. Whew! Try to say that five times fast. Besides, with five inches of snow outside, warm woolly slippers sounded heavenly. Onto the needles the last slipper went and it was knit up in about two evenings.

    Now I love felting. Mostly because it is usually done on big needles, two strands of yarn and goes really quick. Besides, there is something about taking a big ugly mess of knitting, tossing it into a pillow protector, torturing it with hot water and the agitator set on "Destroy," and then pulling it out and discovering you've come up with something all pretty. Mistakes are shrunk away, and you have a one of kind piece that makes even the snobbiest Fashionista get all slobbery with envy.

    So here are my big Fuzzy Feet on their way to the washing machine. I have felted so many pieces that I now have a drawer set aside just for felting. Contents: 4 pillow protectors, a pair of jeans that were past patching, and a couple of old towels, along with a box of Shout Color Catchers. Each Fuzzy got its own protector and into the washing machine it went. I always put in a little squirt of detergent. Not a lot, just enough to give it a little suds. Toss in a Color Catcher sheet, the jeans, the towels, and let the washing machine go wild.

    But here is where I went wrong. I chose to felt when I had four boys running wild in the house. About the time I was supposed to be checking the status, I was refereeing who got to shoot Lightening MacQueen down the stairs next. Well, no one, considering on the last shot nearly took my eye out as I came unwittingly around the corner. After redirecting the little hoodlums, er darlings, to find a game that did not involve impaling me with small metal cars or the need for new drywall, I remembered my felting.

    I pulled out my slippers just in time. Well, nearly in time. They were already heading toward a size 6, and let me say, my feet are no size 6. So after a lot of silent cursing, (well, there were 4 kids in the house) and a lot of pulling, I got them tugged into shape. Now all I have to do is wait for them to dry. Still, I couldn't resist trying them on just once, damp or not.

    In the meantime, I cast on the Pursenalities Small Zipper Bag. Again, quick knitting, but here is where I broke my own felting rule.

    The first rule of making a felted purse is to make the handles first.

    Did I do that? Uh, no.

    And I should have, because I was completely guessing on the yarn, since the version in the book is striped in multiple colors and I wanted to do mine with only two colors. Look at how much of the turquoise I had left. That should have been my first clue. But no, I went into finishing mode, down the home stretch, feeling pretty smug that I made it with the blue. Until I started to make the handles. This where my knitting karma got run over by the dogma of yardage.

    Yes, as you can see, I am two little i-cords short of finishing. Mutter. Mutter. Mutter. Now, repeat after me. Make the handles first. You'll thank me for it later.

    Now if I had only to finish out this handle, I'd rip these two out and fudge it a bit to get enough yarn to finish. But I still need to do the crochet trim in the brown, so darn it--I have to run up to the yarn shop and get another skein. I actually am getting excited to see how it will turn out. I'll finish it up tonight, and felt it tomorrow.

    Best laid plans and all.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Snowbound . . . With kids, and the DH

    When you wake up and the day looks like this, and those four words all mother's dread are emblazoned across the school's website. You know the ones. School is Closed Today. Then you might as well make snowman pancakes and have an impromptu holiday.

    Now the kids home all day I can take. But the DH? Oy! But we live at the bottom of a wickedly steep hill and when it snows, there's only one way out--and only if you have chains AND 4-wheel drive. Now my feeling is, that if it's a snow day, for goodness sakes, let's enjoy it. But the DH is a manager at heart and was ready to manage three people who take to managing like a herd of cats.

    I managed to slip free from his net for awhile and worked on sewing up my Manos Cardi. But as I've set the sleeves and started to get it closer and closer to being assembled, I have the sinking feeling it isn't going to fit. I'm almost dreading finishing it if I can't wear it. The sleeves are way too long--but those I can take back and add cuffs. I think. Not a project to be working on when the other half thinks I should be outside rearranging the snow. (My Seattle term for shoveling snow.) He's from the Midwest, so apparently when it snows everyone goes out to move it around. We Seattle natives tend to wait it out. Because in 24 hours, more likely than not, it will melt.

    Luckily for me, I'd gone to the LYS yesterday to pick up yarn for my auction knitting. Last year I knit a trio of small purses for the FEAT auction and they went for over $100. So I thought to knock off three more felted purses for this year's auction before my new needles for the CPH arrive.

    Unfortunately the kids weren't as enthusiastic about winding yarn as the last time (but then again there was no power the last time, so watching the swift go round and round doesn't hold the same appeal when one can watch SpongeBob). So after getting the five skeins of Cascade 220 I nabbed wound like pretty cakes, I started this purse (the Small Zipper Bag from Pursenalities by Eva Wiechmann--this book is a must have if you love making felted bags) and will use the brown for the bottom and trim and the body in the turquoise.

    I'll make a little bucket purse in this pink like the apple green one up above, with some similar felted flowers. But even as I planned the purse, I realized I was already in love with this color, and spent part of my Snow Day thumbing through old magazines and knitting books looking for the right sweater pattern, if say, 9 or 10 skeins of it happened to fall from the sky in front of my mini-van and I had to rush out on the highway to save them before some quilter, not realizing their wonderfulness ran over them.

    Well, it could happen.

    But even with all the time wasted going through the magazines, I kept drifting back online to CosmicPluto Knits and her Lucy in the Sky sweater. She says it makes a great Fall sweater, but really in pink--I think it would brighten up my Spring.

    That is if the sky starts dropping Cascade 220 in color 7805 instead of that boring white stuff.

    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    Christmas in January

    I've done two things in the last few days--given out the last of my Christmas knitting and started my Christmas knitting for next year. (Adding to the Stash Counter over at the side!) Here is my walking and writing buddy, Darcy with her pair of Fetching wrist warmers. She complained that her hands get cold while she is writing so I knew these would make the perfect gift for her.

    We all got together to have lunch with my friend, Diane, who is in the Foreign Service. She's home on Christmas leave and then it is back to the Hague for the rest of her current assignment. Her next posting is Pakistan and we were all complaining that she needed someplace we wanted to visit. She's been nearly all around the world in the last 15 years, and has her sights set on finishing her career having served on every continent (save Antartica). I thought this black scarf would be a good addition to her wardrobe, since Diane lives with a rather limited amount of belongings.

    I know I said I was only going to knit for myself, but I realized if I knit one dish cloth a month, then I would have 12 done by next December--plenty to give as small gifts. Bundled with a bar of homemade soap, it will make a nice mini-spa treat. And in the bargain, it will be a fun way to try out new stitch patterns on a small scale. This one is from Maggie's Rags, and is a Chinese Waves Dish Cloth. I'm using size 6 needles, instead of 7s and like the way it is knitting up--tight as the pattern says and both sides are pretty. The way I see it, it will be a great way to use up this small stash of Sugar & Cream and Lion Cotton.

    Anyone else have a favorite dish cloth pattern they want to share?

    Friday, January 05, 2007


    I have three people I want to say "Way to go!!!" If you were here, I'd make you a nice latte like this one.

    First, Tiennie at Tiennie Knits. Because these Anemoi mittens are out of this world. She deserves a huge round of applause for her fine knitting.

    Second, Annette at Lantern Moon. I bought new Lantern Moon needles to knit my CPH, but after I started knitting, I discovered a hairline fracture in one of the tips. You would never know it was there until you start to knit and the yarn began snagging. My LYS wouldn't exchange them because I didn't have the sales slip, (Note to self: start hanging onto these things!) but Annette at Lantern Moon customer service responded to my email in a matter of hours and is sending me a new needle. How nice is that! Always wonderful to see a company not only stand by their product but do it so quickly and easily.

    Finally, a big hug and lots of love to my DH who bought me these lovely flowers yesterday. For my birthday. And because he is a wonderful, dear man.

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Pulling out the UFOS . . . One at a time

    Nothing like a really wretched Seattle winter storm to get one going on their New Year's goals. Tuesday the weather was horrible--wind and sideways rain--and the kids were still home one Christmas break. (Come on, schools, we moms don't necessarily call it a break!) Here you can see what it was like outside, so the little Heroes and I weren't going anywhere.

    So I broke out the Manos Cardi. Can't recall which book this pattern comes from as I got it from the library and my photocopies don't show the title credits. I started this earlier in 2006 and really love it--especially because it is made with Manos Del Uruguay. I've got all the pieces knit, but not put together. Why? Because when I did the right front I forgot to put in the buttonholes. Duh. So I've been waffling between ripping out the right front and reknitting it or doing buttonbands.

    Now the pattern just as the cuffs, neck edge and bottom edge all just done in a rolled stockinette. But as I contemplated my mistake, I thought that maybe this a was fortuitous one. I recently picked up a copy of Nicky Epstein's Knitting Beyond the Edge. Inspired by her cool designs, I think I am going to add some really cool bands, as well as a different collar. But first things first. I needed to get it blocked, so here it is in the washing machine getting a nice warm bath. The color stayed true, and after I spun the water out, I hauled my wet mess into the guest room.

    Blocking out a sweater is about my least favorite part of knitting, but Manos is really wonderful once it is blocked. I knit the Four Seasons Afghan with it and I was stunned at how soft and wonderful it was after it took that bath--so I knew it would make a great sweater. Little did I know it would take nearly every pin I own to get it blocked.

    Now all that is left is to sew it up and give it a little more thought as to which edging to use and how to do it. Has anyone else done this??